Explore the History of Germany, New and Old
Germany’s legendary capital, Berlin, was once the center of political tension…but now it is a vibrant, artistic city and all of its history remains intact. Famous for its beer and its Riesling wine from the magnificent Rhine valley, Germany has great culture, warm, English-speaking locals, and world-class transport and health care…not to mention affordable prices.
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- Population: 81,147,265
- Capital City: Berlin
- Climate: Maritime and temperate, wet summers and winters
- Time Zone: GMT+1
- Language: German (official)
- Country Code: 49
- Coastline: 2,389km
- Location: Central Europe, bordering Netherlands, Poland and France
As a 14-year-old schoolgirl, I didn’t know life would turn me into a travel writer and a wine enthusiast. So I didn’t appreciate Bad Dürkheim as much as I should have. When you’re treated to a meal inside the world’s largest wine barrel, you should at least remember what you ate and drank.
Douz, in south Tunisia, hosts the International Festival of the Sahara on October 1. Taking place at the gateway to the great desert, the event was founded as a camelracing festival in 1910. But you can expect horse races, poetry contests, and Bedouin weddings, as well.
A mid all the traditional German sausage stands in a small food market on the edge of the Black Forest, American Geoff de Forest, 43, decided to open a taco truck. He believed there was a need for really good Mexican food in his locale…and he was right. The business is now making good money. Last year he started the Holy Taco Shack, a food truck that sells tacos, quesadillas, and burritos at markets and special events in the Freiburg area, which is in the extreme southwest of the country near the border with France and Switzerland.
Like so many from the U.S., when I daydream about traveling through Europe, I always imagine myself on a train: speeding quietly through the countryside, over the mountain passes, past charming, ancient towns, or along the shores of a massive glacial lake. Other forms of transportation—with their two-hour pre-flight check-ins, their bumpy, uncomfortable buses, and their too-close-for-comfort seating arrangements—always feel like a hassle.
For decades the Iron Curtain divided Europe in two. Folks in the U.S. and Western Europe were afforded only glimpses of life in the Eastern Bloc. The political situation severely restricted travel. And half of Europe became an uncharted and unknown land. Then the Berlin Wall fell and a dozen or so nations opened up, embracing new freedoms. Visitors were welcomed and discovered a history going back thousands of years, regions of untouched natural beauty, and a seriously low cost of living.
On Saturday mornings I wake up with the sun in the small town of Kleinheubach, Germany and spring out of bed to get my cakes and pastries in the oven for my blog, Baking My Way Through Germany.
It’s called the “Old World” for a reason, and despite two world wars and decades of development, history is evident in the architecture of Europe. You can stroll cobbled streets where lords and ladies once rushed to galas, climb castle steps in the footsteps of armored knights, and explore villages preserved for 500 years or more.
From 1993 to 1999, I traveled and lived all over the world. And during that time, I got to experience wonderful places like the white-sand beaches of the British Virgin Islands…the cafes of Aix-en-Provence, France…the wild summer parties of Corfu, Greece…the exotic culture of Bali, Indonesia…and more.
Who doesn’t dream about traveling to exotic places, far away from the humdrum of their everyday life? It’s a great escape. I spent 22 years working in retail, dreaming about the places I wanted to go. Instead I was stuck inside a mall, often working double shifts from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Something kept telling me there had to be a way I could enrich the quality of my life.
The Santa Catalina arch is one of the most famous landmarks of Antigua, Guatemala. And for a compact town of 40,000 people, there are a lot of them. Antigua was once the capital of Spanish Central America, and its cobbled streets are lined with the grand mansions and ornate churches of the colonial golden age.
John Sklute, a retired English professor from California, has lived just about everywhere—from sunny Spain to spacious Sweden. So when he says that Berlin has a special something, you know he’s done the legwork. John’s love for Berlin started when he spent a summer there in 1994 and fell in love with a local. The relationship didn’t work out, but John’s passion for Berlin never waned.
In the U.S., there’s a simple reason why our medical bills are high: Going to the doctor costs more. Perceptive, I know. But it’s the truth. If we dump the unions, the politics, Medicare, government and any other hot button from our discussion, we’re left with the simple yet disturbing fact that Americans pay more for services than patients elsewhere around the world—even in similar “first world” economies. Lots more.
When Melissa Adams stepped out of the airport and into Amsterdam for the first time, it felt like coming home. “The minute my feet hit Damrak—the street leading from Central Station to Dam Square—I said ‘I’m moving here.’ Everything—from the city’s physical beauty to its tolerant vibe and rich history— entranced me.” But while Melissa’s experience of Amsterdam was love at first sight, she also wanted to be practical and make sure her passion had some staying power.
Twice a year, Lucy Fayette flies from her home in Switzerland to Hungary to visit family— for a round-trip fare of just €50 (about $65). That’s right, Lucy’s airfare, which takes her across 800 miles in less than two hours, costs the same amount as a nice dinner or a fancy bottle of wine…and all because of Europe’s budget airlines.
Can a person make money out of bits of old paper, or are they simply too “ephemeral?” The word ephemera means “something of no lasting significance.” In collecting, however, ephemera is the buzzword for all things interesting made of paper. And for collectors, ephemera have lasting significance, indeed.
As a travel writer, I am constantly seeking to discover hidden gems, places the majority of travelers don’t know about and unique adventures. My recent trip to eastern Germany was no exception. Everyone knows about German beer, but did you know Germany’s State of Saxony has an 850-year-old wine-making history?
“Follies are the only things that one never regrets,” said Oscar Wilde. Agreed. But travel writers needn’t look far to find excuses for their follies. After all, writers have a reputation for eccentricity. Whatever bizarre situation you find yourself in—and if any awkward questions arise—you can always blame it on the job. Why were you buying contraband from gypsies in the Czech woods? (“It’s my job.”) How come you spent half the night in a Berlin anarchist squat? (“It’s my job.”)
We’ve all seen the phrase “new and improved” countless times. It’s on everything from cereal boxes to cosmetics. No doubt someone in a lab somewhere tweaked the latest wrinkle cream and declared it new and improved. I think I should have a “new and improved” tag on my life—it has certainly had some tweaking in the last few years!
This has been quite a year. It started in January with a weekend in West Virginia riding all-terrain vehicles on the Hatfield & McCoy Trails…hand-feeding black bears…and dancing to bluegrass music. In February I drove a reindeer sleigh through a winter wonderland in Roros, Norway. I kept myself warm by sampling aquavit along the newly developed Aquavit Trail around Trondheim.
Each October, the German town of Munich celebrates its beer festival. The Germans dress up in traditional costume and there is fun on the streets every evening. When we arrived it was like a giant party with large beer tents lining the streets. A huge Ferris wheel dominated the middle of the town and the people were out to party. Munich is a place of old brick architecture and paved stone streets. The older buildings have intricate stone and brick work which is perfect for photography. And that is what I had come to Germany for—to take pictures.
If you’re looking for a laidback lifestyle in a tropical paradise then Roatan, the largest of the Honduran Bay Islands, fits the bill. Just a two-hour direct flight from Houston or Miami it’s the kind of place where dressing up means wearing flip flops.
Years ago I decided that before I ever settled down I wanted to live in five new cities around the world. But when I originally imagined this “jet-setter” lifestyle I believed I would need to sell a company or save hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it a reality.
The light is dim, the temperature sweltering. This outdoor sauna already has an occupant on its topmost wooden bench. Sprawled on a large towel in all his unclothed glory, he mutters a polite “Guten Tag” (Good day).
Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II was unimpressed by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler’s new contraptions. “I do believe in the horse,’’ he said in 1886.
In the Black Forest, the darkest tales often seem linked to the loveliest places. So it’s no surprise that Staufen’s historic center of cobblestones, courtyards and fountains is straight from central casting’s Enchanted Germany file.
Of all the ultra-cool things about the German capital, Berlin, here’s what I think is coolest: You don’t actually have to be cool to partake of the hip scene. Sure, like anywhere, failing to have neon-blue hair or a withering stare may bar you from certain places. But generally, to experience some of the trendiest restaurants, bars, and clubs, you need only know how to find them…literally.
On April 1 only a fool would miss the feast on offer at Le Pince d’Or Crab Festival in Martinique, an island in the eastern Caribbean. In the capital of Fort-de-France, riverfront restaurants each set up a stall to sell matoutou (a spicy crab stew), as chefs compete to make the best bowl.
Cheery waitresses in dirndl frocks. Wooden chairs with carved-out hearts. Walls of glassy-eyed hunting trophies, a stuffed bear included. If seeking a traditional Black-Forest restaurant, seek no farther. But now I almost regret finding the Jägerstüble, a wood-panelled inn under the Marktplatz arcades in Freudenstadt—home to Germany’s largest market square and a werewolf legend.
As the day begins and the sun turns the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to gold, my husband Dave and I take a leisurely stroll. With our little dog Magic, we walk along the lake front to our favorite café, where for $4 we enjoy steaming cappuccinos and fresh buttery croissants. Our dog is welcome everywhere here, in cafés and restaurants, on buses, ferries, and trains.
Take to the streets in Santiago, Chile, from January 3 to 20 for the Santiago a Mil international theater festival. You’ll find large-scale spectacles like “the noise of colors” extravaganza, a forest of paper giraffes, and outdoor performances of Romeo and Juliet.
Begin your holiday season in earnest in Mexico City with a huge Christmas Market running throughout December. In amongst the stalls, piñatas and ice rinks you’ll find the world’s tallest Christmas tree. In Europe, Christmas markets large and small brim with handicrafts, mulled wine and seasonal fare, but Germany is king of them all.
Experience the Day of the Dead in Mexico on November 1 when people gather to honor their departed love ones with big parties across the country. If you’re in India the ﬁrst two weeks of November, then head to the capital, Delhi, where you’ll ﬁnd music, theater, dance, ﬁlm, and poetry in 50 venues across the city for the Delhi International Arts Festival.
Venice is one of the world’s most romantic cities, a place where graceful vessels glide along 700-year-old canals in the shade of historic mansions. Lots of people come to visit, but not many get to stay. You could, however, by taking advantage of one of the many opportunities that exist for funding a life overseas. In fact, there are more of these opportunities than ever these days, opportunities that often don’t reveal themselves until you are on the ground.
The renowned Malaysia International Gourmet Festival in Kuala Lumpur runs the whole month of October. Expect a “Theatre of Cuisines” and a “Gourmet Village.” The wonderfully-named Madajazzcar, Madagascar’s leading jazz festival, takes place from October 3 to 15 with performances around the island.
Parades, dancing, and the election of a Sara Ñusta (Queen of Maize) mark the Fiesta del Yamor in Imbabura, Ecuador, the ﬁrst week of September. Join in and offer thanks to the sun god for a bountiful harvest. Street traders take over the French city of Lille for the Grande Braderie on September 1 and 2.
The Spanish Soccer team aside, the doom and gloom in Europe runs deep. But there is a story not being told…one of opportunity borne of this crisis. A story of places where you could own your own piece of the Old World…for less than half the price of a budget family sedan.
Boredom is the only thing you won’t ﬁnd in Berlin. Despite being small for a capital city—only three million people—it’s Europe’s happening hub. Packed into its districts—each its own urban adventure—you’ll ﬁnd more than 200 museums, large tracts of parkland, countless restaurants, bars and clubs to suit every taste, elegant old buildings, and ultra-modern architecture. You can boat on the canals, cycle, stroll, or just sit in a deck chair at an outdoor café and watch the world go by.
Loaded barges cruise upstream on their way to any of the half-dozen countries the Rhine passes through. This is one of Europe’s mightiest rivers, and I’m on its banks in search of breweries and the annual carnival. But I’ve found much more. A collection of Medici art, over 100 galleries, 26 museums, and an opera […]
Europe’s buzzing boho center, Berlin, bursts into life this month with the Carnival of Cultures. Thousands of performers will take to the streets and stages of the German capital to entertain over a million revelers. The party starts May 25.
Getting paid to drink beer in Berlin, Germany—it’s so much fun being a travel writer! The first beer of the night, a sparkling wheat beer called Kristall Weizen, cost a very reasonable €2.10 ($2.79). Around 30 minutes later, I ordered a second. This time, it cost $2.52. Snigger if you must, but it was thrilling to get the timing right and save 27 cents.