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Country Profile: Germany

To many, Germany is considered the center of Europe: geographically, politically and economically. Culturally, its influence is so enduring that hints of its cuisine, language and heritage permeate its porous borders with Austria, Switzerland and France. Walking tours in Germany bring into sharp focus the fine details of a nation clinging to Alpine traditions, from its castle-strewn landscapes to its charming mountainside villages.

Bavarian Germany is a stunningly beautiful place where Old World villages spread across the greenest of valleys, elegant domed churches stand against Alpine backdrops, and life is lived a little more slowly than in the central and northern reaches of the country. Here, centuries-old folk music shares the mountain air with the trilling of bagpipes, an echo of ancient Celtic and Germanic tradition. Men don their ceremonial lederhosen and women drape themselves in pretty dirndls for special occasions. And children in springtime might be seen dancing around the maibaum, or maypole, introduced in this region centuries ago to mark the season of awakening.

Indeed, the human connection to nature and spirituality is everywhere in the Bavarian Alps. Master woodcarvers sculpt out a living in Oberammergau when they’re not preparing for the once-a-decade performance of the renowned Passion Play in their town. The 18th-century Lüftlmalerei wall paintings, rich and lush frescoes depicting biblical themes, adorn homes and public spaces. And a passion of another sort plays out in Mittenwald, one of the world’s foremost centers of violin-making.

Alpine Bavaria is, for many, the perfect slice of Germany. Idyllic, pastoral and pristine, it raises the pastiche of European culture to new heights.

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Country Highlights
  • Hike past stunning castles and follow a scenic trail into the Zauberwald, or Magic Forest.
  • Admire the wood carvings of Oberammergau’s master craftsmen.
  • Sample homemade German dumplings or trout caught fresh from mountain streams.
  • Marvel at the breathtaking beauty of emerald-green lakes and cascading waterfalls nestled amidst soaring peaks.
  • Hear the echo of the famous alpine flugelhorn in a serene mountain setting.

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Country Facts

About Germany:

Germany boasts a wide range of natural beauty, from the sweeping shores of the Baltic Sea in the north to the snow-capped peaks of the Bavarian Alps in the south. Three of Europe’s major rivers flow through the country, long making it a thoroughfare for trade: the Rhine, Danube and Elbe. The state of Bavaria, comprising the nation’s southeast region, has a culture and a breathtaking setting all its own. Its capital, Munich, sits at the foot of the Alps, which rise to the Austrian border. Hulking mountains pierce the sky here, overlooking green, flower-filled meadows and pristine forests.

The most populous country in the European Union, Germany plays a central role in the continent’s economy. It is a parliamentary, democratic republic and its capital is Berlin.

German is Germany’s official language. While knowledge of the local language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges. See BBC Languages for helpful hints.

Life in Germany

Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or 6:30 p.m, and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. On the first Saturday of the month, stores are open until 4:00 p.m., and stores are closed on Sunday. Banks are open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday to Friday and to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. In restaurants and cafés, lunch is served from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and dinner is usually served from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Tipping: If service is not included at a restaurant or café, it is customary to leave 10 to 15 percent of the total. If service is included (you will know this from the word “Bedienung” on your bill or your menu) it is proper to round up to the nearest euro. For taxi drivers you can also round up. For luggage assistance, one euro per bag is typical.

German public holidays: To assist in travel planning, it may be helpful to be aware of Germany public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events. Here’s a site with a list of public holidays, and here’s a site with further cultural information.

German food is wholesome and varied, and while it can live up to its reputation for heartiness, it is based on seasonal produce and ingredients and has extensive regional variation. Germans are meat eaters, with emphasis on cooked sausages, sauerbraten (pot roast), game such as venison and fowl, and breaded veal or pork cutlets—wienerschnitzel. But both fresh- and salt-water fish can also be found on many menus. Soups, either creamy vegetable purees or broths with noodles and dumplings, are also common. Salads may consist of a variety of vegetables, often with a thick creamy dressing, and you’ll also find sautéed vegetables, potatoes, and of course cabbage in the form of sauerkraut.

Germany bakeries and markets are a good source for tempting baked goods: a large variety of breads and rolls, whole meal or white, are ubiquitous. Delicious cakes may contain a variety of fruits and berries, such as the decadent schwarzwälder kirschtorte (cherry, chocolate, and cream Black Forest Cake).

Germany is best known for its high-quality beer, predominantly pilsner. Weiss beer, or wheat beer, and other regional brews are also available. Germany also produces wine in the upper and middle Rhine River region and in the Moselle Valley. Well-known whites are Riesling or Silvaner, and reds are Spätburgunder and Dornfelder.

Germany has a temperate climate with some regional variation, mainly based on elevation, with few extreme fluctuations in temperature. Rain can fall year-round, although precipitation is heavier in the fall and winter. Summer temperatures can range from the mid-60s to low 70s, with warmer or cooler periods. Temperatures in the mountains are cooler, especially at higher elevations and especially in the morning and evening.

For up-to-date forecasts, see qwikcast.com. For historical average temperatures and rainfall, see weatherbase.com.

U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least three months beyond the dates of travel. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days. For more information, see travel.state.gov.

Germany uses the euro (EUR). The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1 EUR. Exchange rates can vary greatly month to month, so we recommend you visit oanda.com for the latest.

Many businesses in Europe will no longer accept credit cards without PIN numbers (chip and pin cards). Contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and card use when travelling, and to inform them of your travel destination and dates so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges appear from a foreign country.

We recommend having a variety of payment options readily available to help you start your trip: ATM card(s), credit card(s), some U.S. dollars to exchange, and some euros in small denominations.

No immunizations are required to enter Germany. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity: Alternating current of 230V and 50Hz is used in Germany. Plugs have either two round pins and a hole, or just two round pins. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org. If you are bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.

Phone:
Germany’s country code is “+49.” Cell phone coverage throughout Germany is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.

Internet: Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.

Germany is in the Central European Time Zone, Eastern Standard Time plus 6 hours. For more information on worldwide time zones, see: worldtimezone.com.

A wealth of travel information is available at germany.travel/en/.

Airports

The majority of international flights arrive at Frankfurt’s international airport (frankfurt-airport.com) or Munich’s international airport (www.munich-airport.de/en/consumer/index.jsp), with short connecting flights to most other cities in Germany on an extensive domestic air network.

  • International Airports in Germany
  • Baden-Baden/Karlsruhe – Baden Airpark
  • Berlin – Berlin Tegel Airport
  • Berlin – Berlin Schönefeld Airport
  • Bremen Airport
  • Cologne/Bonn Airport
  • Dortmund Airport
  • Düsseldorf Airport
  • Frankfurt Airport
  • Frankfurt-Hahn Airport
  • Friedrichshafen Airport
  • Hamburg Airport
  • Hanover – Langenhagen Airport
  • Leipzig – Leipzig/Halle Airport
  • Lübeck Airport
  • Memmingen Airport
  • Munich Airport
  • Nuremberg Airport
  • Stuttgart Airport
  • Weeze Airport

Trains

Germany’s national train company is Deutsche Bahn. You may book your train travel directly with them. The rail network often conveniently connects with airports and, depending on your airline, you may be able to check your luggage to your final railway destination. Check with your travel agent, airline, or DB Rail for more information (bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml).

Or, if you plan to travel for longer periods, consider Rail Europe, a U.S.-based company that provides schedules, reservations, and ticketing for all European train networks. Their multi-day, -week or -month passes in one country or combinations of countries may be a more economical and convenient choice. For more information, go to raileurope.com or call 800.622.8600.

Other local transportation

In addition to rail and airlines, Germany also has an extensive bus network that, for some towns and cities, may be more convenient and affordable than rail, see eurolines.de/en/.
Most major car rental agencies are available at airports and train stations. Taxis are available at all major airports, train stations, and in smaller towns, and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance). For more information contact Country Walkers, or go to germany.travel/en/travel-information/along-the-way/along-the-way.html.

For additional hints and guidance about travel to Germany, visit the German tourist board’s website at germany.travel/en/.

Photos

German Beer

Berlin, Deutschland, Berliner Kindl, Bier, Pils

German Beer

Each year Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, takes over the Theresienwiese fairgrounds in the Bavarian capital of Munich. Almost 8 million litres of brew are served to over 6 million people from around the world during its 16-day period from late September to mid-October. More than a drinking party, it might remind Americans of the travelling carnivals that land in small towns each summer, with amusement rides, barker games and food stalls emitting the irresistible aromas of weißwurst (white sausage), brezen (freshly baked pretzels) and Sauerkraut.

Oktoberfest has its origins in a royal wedding: Prince Ludwig (later King) invited all of Munich to witness his marriage to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Since then, an annual celebration has been held in Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”), evolving over time to today’s festivities, a yearly reminder that Germans take their beer very seriously.

Just how seriously is revealed by a glance back at a 500-year-old brewery law, the Reinheitsgebot, or Bavarian Purity Law, one of the world’s earliest consumer protection acts. It strictly stated that only three ingredients could go into Bavaria’s beers: water, hops and barley. This not only guaranteed purity and public health (novice brewers had been known to add stinging nettles and soot to their concoctions); it also put a stamp on a distinctly Bavarian product, fostering regional pride. The law is no longer on the books, but purist brewers still abide by it out of principle, brewing Munich’s finest regional beers such as weissbier (also spelled weizenbier—wheat beer), golden-colored helles, and the dark dunkles.

Germany - 1 Tour Available

Guided Walking
Europe

Austria & Germany: Bavaria & the Tyrol

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

4-8 Miles Daily

Flight + Tour

11 days, 10 nights

From $5,848 USD

per person

Tour Only

8 days, 7 nights

From $4,498 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Connect with local artisans during visits to a woodcarver’s studio in Oberammergau and a glassblowing workshop in Rattenburg.
  • Glide through Königsee, the “King’s Lake,” in the heart of Berchtesgaden National Park aboard an electric boat, stopping by the world-famous “echo wall” to listen to flügelhorn players perform.
  • Raise a glass and savor a platter of hearty German fare during a Heimatabend—a traditional Bavarian evening of music and dancing at a local pub that’s brewed its own beer since the 17th century.

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Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2017

  • Jun 16
  • Jun 30
  • Aug 25
  • Sep 8
Tour Only

2017

  • Jun 18
  • Jul 2
  • Aug 27
  • Sep 10
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