Germany is a Western European country with a landscape of forests, rivers, mountain ranges and North Sea beaches. It has over 2 millennia of history. Berlin, its capital, is home to art and nightlife scenes, the Brandenburg Gate and many sites relating to WWII. Munich is known for its Oktoberfest and beer halls, including the 16th-century Hofbräuhaus. Frankfurt, with its skyscrapers, houses the European Central Bank.
The pleasures of a visit to Germany are not only intellectual. The excellence of its beer derives from the sixteenth-century Reinheitsgebot, the world’s oldest food purity law. Germany’s food culture is traditionally characterized by wholesome but hearty dishes, a vast array of sausages and excellent but calorific cakes. Yet the impact of immigration, travel and increasing culinary ambition has been powerful, and most towns nowadays offer a wide selection of international options, usually including Balkan, Greek, Italian and Turkish.
Though the dangers of over-indulgence are ever present, so too is the antidote. The tradition of the Kur or spa visit has endured to a far greater extent in Germany than elsewhere, and if you want to unwind in saline or hot springs there are innumerable spa towns up and down the country. In summer, the nation’s endless forests and mountains play host to hikers and cyclistswhile the Alps tempt international visitors with an excellent array of downhill ski runs in winter.
One unsung pleasure of a visit to Germany is the opportunity to meet its people. The officious neighbour who complains if you don’t hang your socks out to dry in alphabetical order may not be entirely fictional, but you’re far more likely to be struck by the warmth and open-mindedness of Germany’s people – and particularly its young people. You can have fun testing how liberal a place is by observing how the locals react to the red Ampelmann when crossing the street: the bigger and more laidback the city, the more likely they are to ignore the no-jaywalking rule. In contrast, the sight of upright citizens waiting patiently for the green light despite an absence of traffic as far as the eye can see is still one of the more comic pleasures of small-town Germany.