There are so many reasons to visit Germany in the summer, or anytime of the year really, it hasn't only been a battlefield since the Romans swept into the area and brought with them asparagus, chestnut trees, amphitheaters and baths. A country with an amazing legacy from nature and history, against this backdrop over the last 2,000 years it has also been a playground filled with tradition, festivals and events.
One of the best ways to explore Germany, even more especially for either the first time traveler or an enthusiast with a specific interest, is to take one, or more, of the over 150 theme routes, which crisscross the country, each featuring a different aspect of its regions, history, and scenery.
Always a scenic drive, routes range from those covering Germany's Mountains, Wine, Cuckoo Clocks, Industrial Heritage, which includes the golden age of steam, Cheese, Asparagus, Half Timbered "Fachwerk" Houses, Castles, and the gems of the German Renaissance, to a trail featuring 17th century Baroque monasteries, castles and other buildings, and the European Celtic Route with its 2,500 year old history of druids, princes and warriors.
All pass through ancient towns and past stunning scenery, with something for everyone and every interest.
During the summer, regardless of the absence or otherwise of actual sun, on any one of these German theme routes you are sure to come across one of the thousands of summer festivals that begin to take place from the first sign of spring.
Coming in all shapes and sizes they are as varied as the Mining and Rose Festival in Saxony-Anhalt, its evening concert surrounded with the scent of 8,300 different varieties of rose, a jump back in time with the many medieval markets accompanied by court musicians, knights, jesters and blacksmiths.
Or Bremerhaven Festival Week, filled by shows, fireworks, music and ships, ships and more ships, while in Baden-Wuerttemberg there is the Esslingen Onion Festival, Esslinger Zwiebelfest. This isn't only about "Zweibel", but also a host of regional specialties, including local wines and spaetzel noodles...that are delicious with onions.
On the nearby Lake Constance island of Reichenau a lakeside Wine and Fish Festival, where superb food and fine wines are accompanied by the music from a host of bands, once again proves the rumor that German cuisine stops at sauerkraut and sausage is just that: a rumor.
For anyone making a winter visit, although the season will have changed the routes remain the same and are just as accessible, although the weather makes the advisability of cycling or walking the routes not impossible but definitely debatable.
However for some weeks they offer quite different perspective, thousands of different Weihnachtsmarkte, Christmas markets, ranging from huge and crowded to rural and "gemuetlich", which begin in November, remain throughout Advent, are often covered by snow and are a delight for all the senses.
Germany has 38 of the 962 features listed by UNESCO World Heritage as the greatest legacies of mankind and nature.
Historical buildings, cathedrals like Cologne Cathedral, natural sites such as fossil hunting at The Messel Pit in Hesse, which dates back 47 million years, and the remnants of five ancient beech forests, as well as industrial sites. For example the 19th century Zollverein Coal Mine in Essen with its outstanding architecture.
Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse have the Middle Rhine Valley's castles, historic towns and vineyards, and Bavaria has an entire medieval and renaissance town, the old town of Bamberg with its ancient center lying between the Main-Danube Canal and both arms of the Regnitz river, as well as Wuerzburg Residence Palace.
Known as the Baroque "Palace of Palaces", Wuerzburg Residenz is the first, or last, highlight along the Romantic Road, depending upon which direction you take.
Linking nature with cultural highlights, and providing a great "jumping off point" for exploring other aspects of the country and its traditions, theme routes are surrounded by the history and culture of Europe, a world of castles, medieval towns, cities, monasteries and cathedrals, and largely unspoilt naturally beautiful landscapes. Following a German tourist route is an inspiring way to travel.
Illustrations: The Half-Timbered Buildings Route, Schloss Beichlingen, Thueringen, photographer Varus111 via de.Wikipedia - Wuerzburg Residenz, Southern Imperial Apartments – courtesy Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schloesser, Gaerten und Seen
This is the latest edition of my favorite German travel guide - DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Germany - beautifully illustrated with stunning photographs, maps, 3D cutaways and floor-plans. Comprehensive and completely up to date it doesn't miss out anything, and is ideal for anyone who would like to explore Germany, either in person or from an armchair.
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