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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in germany
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Germany (Deutschland in German) is a country in Central Europe and a founding member of the European Union. It is bordered to the north by Denmark, to the east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland, and to the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Germany is a federal republic consisting of 16 states (so-called "Bundeslander" or short "Lander"). Grouped roughly by geography, these are:
Germany has numerous cities of interest to tourists; these are the top five travel destinations.
Other popular tourist destinations in Germany from north to south:
While relatively small by world standards, Germany's attractions tend to be bigger than in the surrounding European neighbour countries, which is no surprise as Germany is the biggest country in Central Europe, runs Europe?s biggest economy, and has the largest population on the continent (excluding Russia).
The country's financial capital (Frankfurt) features an unusual skyline for Europe with its many high-rise buildings, including the continent's tallest office tower.
The world's most famous beer culture is centered around Southern Germany's leading city (Munich), where beer is traditionally served in 1 liter mugs; Munich is also the site of the annual Oktoberfest, Europe's most visited festival.
German cars such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen (VW) are famous internationally for their quality. This quality is matched by Germany's excellent network of roadways including the famous Autobahn network, which has many sections without speed limits and lots of speed hungry drivers on it. Germany also features an extensive network of high speed trains - the InterCityExpress (ICE).
The roots of German history and culture date back to the Germanic tribes and posterior to the Holy Roman Empire. Indeed, Germany as a single state has existed only since 1871, when a large number of previously independent German kingdoms united under Prussian leadership to form the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich). The empire ended in 1918 when Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate after Germany's defeat in World War I (1914-1918). The Empire was followed by the short-lived Weimar republic, which tried to establish a liberal, democratic regime. However, the young republic was plagued with massive economic problems, strong antidemocratic forces and inherent organizational problems of the Weimar constitution.
1933 witnessed the final rise to power of the nationalistic and racist National Socialist German Workers' (Nazi) Party and its charismatic leader (Führer), Adolf Hitler, to power. Under the Nazi dictatorship, democratic institutions were dismantled and a police state installed. Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped people, socialists, communists and other groups not fitting into the Nazi ideology faced persecution, and ultimately murder in concentration camps. Hitler's militaristic ambitions to create a new German Empire in central and eastern Europe led to war, successively, with Poland, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States - despite initial dazzling successes, Germany was unable to withstand the combined attacks of the Allies.
After devastating defeat in World War II (1939-1945), Berlin was divided into four sectors, controlled by the French, British, US and Soviet forces. With the beginning of the Cold War, the entire country was divided into an eastern part under Soviet control, and a western part which was controlled by the Western Allies. The western part was transformed into the Federal Republic of Germany, with Bonn as the capital. The Soviet-controlled zone became the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR). Berlin had a special status, with the eastern part featuring as the capital of the GDR. The western sectors of Berlin were de facto an enclave of the Federal Republic. On August 13, 1961 the Berlin Wall was erected, and hundreds of Germans trying to escape from the communist regime were killed here in the following years.
In the late 1960s a desire to confront the Nazi past came into being. Mass protests beginning in 1968 successfully clamoured for a new Germany. Democracy, human rights and anti-fascism became fundamental values of The Federal Republic of Germany. Post-war education had helped put Germany among countries in Europe with the least number of people subscribing to Nazi ideas. Willy Brandt became chancellor in 1969. He made an important contribution towards reconciliation between Germany and the communist states
Germany was reunited in 1990 after the fall of the GDR's communist regime in 1989. The reestablished eastern states joined the Federal Republic on the 3rd of October, a day which is since celebrated as the German National Holiday (Tag der Deutschen Einheit). Together with the reunification the last post-war limitations to Germany's sovereignty were removed.
Germany is a federal republic, consisting of 16 states ('Bundesländer'). The federal parliament ('Bundestag') is elected every four years in a fairly complicated system, involving direct and proportional representation. A party will be represented in Parliament if it can gather at least 5% of all votes or at least 3 directly won seats. The parliament elects the Chancellor ('Bundeskanzler' - Angela Merkel) on its first session, which will serve as the head of government.
Formal head of state is the President ('Bundespräsident' - Horst Kohler), who has only ceremonial and representative duties. Nevertheless every decision made by the paliament has to be signed by the president. He can also suspend the parliament (Bundestag). But all executive power lies with the chancellor.
The 'Bundesländer' are represented at the federal level through the Federal Council ('Bundesrat'). Many federal laws have to be approved by the council. This can lead to a situation where Council and Parliament are blocking each other if they are dominated by different parties.
The two most important parties are the Christian Democrats ('Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU)') and the Social Democrats ('Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD)'). Due to the proportional voting system, smaller parties can also be represented in parliament. The only "smaller" parties of any importance are the Liberals ('Freiheitlich-Demokratische Partei (FDP)'), the Green party ('Bündnis 90/Die Grünen') and the 'PDS', successor of the GDR's communist party, which still has a strong backing in the east. There have been some attempts by right-wing parties to get into parliaments, but they have failed at the 5% requirement.
Unlike the citizens of virtually all surrounding countries, most Germans are insecure and uneasy about their cultural heritage. They feel that German culture has been deeply compromised, even tainted by the Nazis who abused it to demonstrate German superiority. As a result, in Germany it´s frequent to find people - especially young people - openly declaring that they´d rather be not German and that there are many foreign places they´d prefer to live in. Part of this attitude comes from the German self perception as being fiercely individualistic. Identifying oneself as part of a group, an idea or a religion is often seen as uncool.
This said, Germans have a strong sense of German culture and civilization as such. There´s a couple of names that you will come across over and over again: Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Wagner, Nietzsche, Kant, Mann, Brecht, Klee and many more are authors, composers and philosophers of the 19th and 20th century who are profoundly admired, though only a minority will actually be familiar with their works. Germans like to think that in the 19th century, Germany was the one "Land der Dichter und Denker" - the land of poets and thinkers - in the world. And to an extent there´s truth to that. Obviously, there have been significant German artists for many centuries - just think of Albrecht Dürer in the 15th and the towering figure of Johann Sebastian Bach in the 17th century. But most notably in the short timespan between the foundation of the German Empire in 1871 and its end in 1918, prolonged until 1933, Germany experienced something like a cultural outburst. It created a treasure of modern philosophy and science, understanding of the world, artistical expression in painting, sculpturing and music, literature and architecture, world-conquering products and Nobel prize-winning innovations that had no rival in its time.
While you will find that a large part of German museum buildings and its contents come from that period - an era when politicians sought to symbolically create a culturally united Germany by commissioning monumental "temples" of culture -, it´s this ideal that Germans hold the present against. And obviously, the present doesn´t fare too well with that. When asked for their favourite authors or artists, a majority of Germans will put forward names from the past, while contemporary authors and artists are often perceived as lightweight and insignificant by comparison. Not only in this respect Germans are deeply nostalgic.
Another reason for many Germans perceiving that culturally the good times are long gone might be the love/hate relationship with post-war US-American anglicized culture. You will notice how many billboards, shop windows and media spaces carry English phrases and expressions though they´re clearly not directed at foreigners. In public communications, advertising and media, English many times is preferred from German. Profoundly German companies like mobile network operator T-Mobile, part of telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom, carry English claims (currently "For a better world for you"). Until recently, virtually all German pop musicians sang in English which is felt to be more modern and precise - only recently there has been a revival of German pop and rock music.
Generally, many Germans feel touched by these subjects, and addressing them will make for a lot of interesting conversation. The existence of world-class opera, theater, concert halls, museums and galleries even in smaller cities is important even to those who never attend them. Entrance to these places is often heavily subsidized and thus cheap to students, unemployed and retired persons, underlining that access to high culture is a German national concern. When meeting Germans abroad, particularly in rather tropical countries or the USA, there´s two things most of them will admit to miss, no matter if they identify with being German or not. One is the bread (see further below), and two is the ubiquitousness of refined culture.
While you´re in Germany, do become part of it. Talk to people, hear their opinions, and make up your mind for yourself!
Germany is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Agreement. European visa policy will be covered in the article about the EU. In brief, a visa to any other signatory state of the Schengen Agreement is valid in Germany too. No visa is required for citizens of other EU member states, and those of some selected nations with whom the European Union or Germany have special treaties. Inquire at your travel agent or call the local consulate or embassy of Germany.
As of May 2004 only the citizens of the following countries do not need a visa for entry into Germany. Note that citizens of these countries (except EU nationals) must not stay longer than three months in half a year and must not work in Germany: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela
There are a number of ways to get into Germany. From neighboring European countries, a drive with the car or a train ride are feasible; visitors from further away will probably be using air travel.
Low-cost airlines mostly use smaller, out of the way airports, like Hahn, Baden-Baden, Dortmund, Paderborn or Lübeck. The airport of Cologne has grown to the biggest hub for discount airlines like German Wings, Hapag Lloyd Express, EasyJet or Deutsche BA. Connections to the nearest cities is more cumbersome than for larger, more established airports - but the details vary greatly with the location, of course.
Regular train services connect Germany with neighboring countries. The downside with train travel is that due to incompatible systems, you will not be able to use any of the European high speed trains to cross into or get out of Germany; you have to use the more conventional "intercity" trains. There are exceptions, however. The Thalys brings you from Cologne (Koln) to Paris in approximately four hours. (See http://www.thalys.de/) Or you could take the ICE to Amsterdam from Frankfurt (3h 15), Cologne (2h 30) or Düsseldorf (2h 15). The train journey from Frankfurt to Paris using the ICE will take about six hours; going from Hamburg to Paris can take eight and a half hours.
Germany has a world-famous network of excellent roads and highways (Autobahn), but gasoline prices are kept high by taxation; in 2005 prices float around 1,25 ? per litre. At gas stations you'll have the choice between Diesel, "Benzin" (unleaded gasoline), Super and SuperPlus (high octane). Here and there you might find "Erdgas", too, this is compressed natural gas, not gasoline. In Germany, you may first fill up your tank and pay afterwards.
Car rentals are available in most cities. When renting a car, be aware that most cars in Germany have manual gearbox (stick-shift), so you might want to ask for a car with an automatic gearbox if you're used to.
The police will show blinking signs reading "Polizei Halt" (police, stop) if they want to stop you.
Using the Autobahn
German drivers tend to drive faster and more aggressively than you might be used to, especially on the parts of the highway system without speed limit, which is taken to be literally.
Always have a look over your shoulder when changing lanes. Especially motorbikes at 200 km/h (125 mph) and more may seem to appear out of nowhere within a second.
Use the right side if it's free, even if everybody seems to like the middle (if exist) and the left track. But be careful if you overtake another car left to you, it is allowed only within cities, in traffic jams or at low speed.
Never ever reverse on a highway when you missed an exit. Go to next exit and make a U-turn.
Autobahnen have an emergency lane where you're allowed to stop only in case of a breakdown; for everything else, always use the frequent service areas. Note that it is dangerous to stay in the car on the emergency lane, especially trucks may run off their line and crash into your car's back or side. Arrows on the small posts along the Autobahn guide you to the next orange emergency phone. These will automatically connect you free of charge with an emergency call center which will help you get the police, an ambulance or just a mechanic. These phones should be the preferred choice over using your mobile since they transmit your exact location.
In some areas emergency tracks are used as extra lanes in times of heavy traffic. But this is always announced by electronic light signs.
In case of a breakdown you may also call the ADAC, by members the world's largest automobile club. The number is +49 180 2222222 from fixed lines and 22 22 22 from mobile phones regardless of network. On the Autobahn, the ADAC must come to you free of charge. In other situations, there may be costs involved if you're not a member. If you're a member of a foreign AA or automobile club, you may want to check if the ADAC honours your membership.
Germany has a dense railway system, which reaches almost every part of the country. Unless you travel by car, the train will be your major mode of transportation. Crossing Germany from Munich in the south to Hamburg in the north will take only 6 hours at best.
The majority of the trains are operated by Deutsche Bahn ("German Rail"), the formerly state-owned railway company privatized a few years ago. The trains are usually reliable, and a comfortable and safe way of travel. If not otherwise indicated, the information in this section is about DB-run trains.
There are some independent railway companies which run regional trains or aim at specific target markets, like business travellers.
All major cities are linked by ICE (InterCity Express) and regular InterCity trains. The ICE are high speed trains, reaching top speeds of 300km/h; and even though they rarely cruise at such high speeds travel is faster than by car and quite comfortable. Be sure to get a reservation - it's not mandatory, but you may end up standing or sitting on the floor without one.
The high speed ICE is the most expensive option, of course. On the major lines, an ICE or IC train will run each hour or so during the day. There are also EuroCity (EC) trains, which connect the larger European cities. For inner-Germany travel, these are virtually identical to the regular ICs.
German Rail Passes provide unlimited transportation on all German Bahn trains and are easy to use for foreign visitors. In the off season reservations even on ICE trains are ususually not necessary, particularly in first class. This allows travelers to simply show up at the train station and take the next train.
Apart from the long-distance trains, there is a vast network of regional trains ("Regionalbahn"). The service will take you almost everywhere the intercity trains won't go or stop. Trains include 40 year old cars as well as brand-new carriages. Many are used by commuters - if you wish to have a relaxed travel, avoid the early mornings or later afternoons. Don't hesitate to inquire at the ticket counter at what times the trains are usually packed. On most trains, the cars may be marked with numbers one or two. This refers to the class of the rail car, "one" is first class, "two" is second class, etc. Do not board a first-class car if you do not have a first-class ticket. If you are unsure what type of ticket you have, it's probably second class.
Online information and bookings
All information and an online timetable for the Deutsche Bahn (as well as for a large number of other public transport providers incl. buses) are available from the Deutsche Bahn homepage. The page is in German, but timetable inquiries can be made in English http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/e . You may also book your tickets online with a cr card. The most comfortable option is to take an "online ticket", which you can print out at home. Note that these tickets are non-transferable and that you'll be required to show your BahnCard or cr card as an ID. (Note that you do have to print them on paper - a PDF export or something similar is invalid.)
There are some special promotions and prices the rail company offers at various times. Your best course of action is to check their website, or to ask at a train station or their telephone hotline for current details. However, some general points to keep in mind are:
Informations for railway freaks
There are several railways of special interests in Germany. These are e.g.
Airlines like Deutsche Lufthansa connect major cities in Germany to each other and foreign destinations. Due to the comparatively short distances and relatively high hassle of air travel - especially when you travel with luggage - domestic air travel is used mostly for business purposes. Recently (2003-2004) many airlines have been offering very low prices due to the high competition in the industry, so it makes sense to compare the prices for plane tickets to those of the railway tickets if you want to go to some major cities. Make sure though, that you get where you want to! Low-cost airlines are known for naming small airports in the middle of nowhere by cities 200 km away (e.g. Frankfurt-Hahn is not Germany's major international airport Frankfurt/Main).
By recreational vehicle and campervans
Recreational Vehicle (RV) is a broad term used to describe a large enclosed piece of equipment with wheels designed to be moved from place to place for people to temporarily live in and be protected from the elements while away from their permanent domicile. Campervans are vans that have been fitted out for use as accommodation. They are considered as an alternative to the purpose-built recreational vehicle or motorhome because they are smaller and handle like most vans.
Many RVers in Germany stay at RV parks, most of which feature electrical, water and sewer service (full hookups). If you are interested in a list of RV parks in Germany try Camper-Tour ( http://www.camper-tour.de/ ) or Michael's Reisemobil Seite ( http://www.reisemobil.online.cx/ ). Some nice RV parks are listed with fotos in http://www.womo4u.de/womo_stellplaetze.htm. Promobil is Europe's biggest print-magazine for RV's and also provides a list of RV parks in Germany online ( http://www.promobil.de/ ).
RVers need supply and disposal units to get fresh water and dispose sewage water. If you are looking for a complete list of supply and disposal units in Germany check http://www.womo4u.de/womo_vunde.htm.
Hitching a ride
It is possible to hitchhike in Germany and most Germans speak (broken) English, so talk slowly. Drivers rarely expect you to give them any money for the ride. However, it is usually a good idea to stand near a gas station close to an 'Autobahn' connection and ask drivers politely where they're going and if they have a free seat, rather than write your destination on a sign and stand next to a slip road (motorway access, "Autobahnauffahrt" in German) since most cars drive fast and it takes a long time until someone stops. The usual hitchhiking guidelines apply (stand where cars tend to drive relatively slow and so on).
It is also quite common to arrange a ride in a private vehicle in advance through the Internet. You are required to contribute towards fuel costs, and sometimes an agency fee as well. It is still much cheaper than travelling by other means (example fare: Frankfurt to Berlin €25). It is a good idea to reconfirm with the driver the day before travel. Mitfahrzentrale (http://www.mitfahrzentrale.de) also has offices in major cities and charges a small commision. You need to ring the agency to obtain the driver's number and you can rate the driver after you travel.Mitfahrgelegenheit (http://www.mitfahrgelegenheit.de) is a more private-run affair. You can contact the driver directly by email, phone or sms, and the user interface on the site is a bit more user friendly.
The official language of Germany is German. The standard form of German is called "Hochdeutsch" (High German). This is accent-free German, the "official" form of the language. It is understood by all and spoken by many Germans. However, most regions have their own dialects, which might pose a challenge to those who speak even good German - and sometimes to native speakers as well.
Most Germans learn English at school, so you should be able to get by with English in most places. Many people in the tourist industry also speak French or Spanish, but if you can't speak German, English remains your best bet. Even if one member of the staff doesn't speak English, you are likely to find someone who does and is more than willing to help you.
If you are speaking English with Germans, you should be aware of the following points:
Learn at least a few common German phrases like greetings, how much something costs and so on. The most important question is probably "Entschuldigung, sprechen Sie Englisch?" ("Excuse me, do you speak English?"). Never ever start a conversation in English! Like other Europeans, most Germans tend to be picky about foreigners expecting them to speak the foreigner's language, but on the other hand will happily try to squeeze out even the most broken English if you first ask them to in the local language, i.e. German.
Germans less fluent in the English language often say "become" instead of "get" because the German word "bekommen" ("get") is phonetically so close to "become". Since it's polite to reply "Bitte" if someone thanks you, Germans may literally translate this with "please" instead of "here you are" or "you're welcome". Another source of confusion is that Germans call mobile phones "Handy" and regard this as an English word.
While Germany uses the 24 hour format for times, people often use 12 hour times in conversations. There is no real suffix like "AM/PM", though you can add "vormittags" (before noon) and "nachmittags" (after noon) when it's not clear from the context.
Expressing "fractional hours" differs slightly among various regions of Germany. The "normal" way of doing it is:
In addition, Germans say two-digit numbers "backwards": instead of "twenty-two" they say "two and twenty". Numbers below 20 are said the same way as in English. This becomes especially important when you inquire for prices, although most who speak English with you should use the correct form.
For more German, consult the German phrasebook.
Germany is part of the European Union and the Eurozone; as such it replaced German marks with the euro (symbol: €) in the year 2002.
Since it has been only a few years since the introduction of euro cash, a few people will still use the old national currency names. For example, it is entirely possible that a German would still refer to "Mark" and "Pfennig". They mean euros and cents, so just mentally substitute the two.
Do not expect anybody to accept other types of currency, or to be willing to exchange currency. An exception are shops and restaurants at airports and also - more rarely - fast-food restaurants at major train stations. These will generally accept at least US dollars at a slightly worse exchange rate. If you wish to exchange money, you can do so at any bank, where you can also cash in your traveller's cheques. Currency exchanges, once a common sight, have all but disappeared since the introduction of the euro. Again, international airports are an exception to this rule.
Do not accept German marks from anybody. While you can still exchange them for euros at central bank offices in bigger cities, this will mean a lot of hassle for you.
German banks have agreed on a standard debit card called "EC card" this is far more accepted as plastic payment methods than cr cards from American Express, VISA and others. Nevertheless, cr cards are often accepted, but to a lower extent than in other European countries or the United States. If you want to pay by cr card, it is best to check in advance if your card will be accepted. Most ATMs will allow you to withdraw money with your cr card, but you'll need to know your card's PIN for that.
It's common in Germany to round up the bill in restaurants or pubs. Since the introduction of the Euro, a tip of about 10% is customary if you were satisfied with the service. Of course you can tip more, if the service was really good.
However, there is no obligation to tip, especially if the service was bad. Unlike in some other countries, service staff is always paid by the hour (albeit not always that well). A tip is a matter of politeness, and shows your appreciation.
German food sticks pretty much to its roots and a typical dish will consist of meat with some form of potatoes and gravy, accompanied by vegetables or salad. However, the modern German cuisine has been influenced by other European countries such as Italy and France and gets a bit lighter. Dishes show a great local diversity and it might be interesting to discover those. Since most bigger employers have a canteen for their employees, you will find fewer sandwich shops and takeaways than in the Anglo American world and therefore the eating out culture in Germany is dominated by the Gasthaus/Gasthof and Restaurants to have proper food. Putting places to eat in 6 categories gives you a hint about the budget/taste. Starting from the lower end, these are:
'Schnellimbiss' means quick snack, and is what you will see on the sign of German stalls and small shops that sell primarily sausage (Wurst) and fries (Pommes Frites). Sausages will include Bratwurst, which is fried and usually a boiled pork sausage. A very German variant is Currywurst: sausage chopped up and covered in spiced ketchup, dusted with curry powder. Beer and often harder liquor are available in most. 'Doner Kebab' is Turkish lamb or chicken stuffed into bread, similar to Greek Gyros and Arab Schawarma. The American junk food giants like McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza Hut are in most towns. Nordsee is a German seafood chain, they offer 'Rollmops' - pickled herrings - and many other fish and seafood snacks.
Bakeries and butchers
Germans have no tradition for sandwich shops, but you will find that bakeries / butchers sell quite nice take away food and are serious competition for the fast food chains. Even the smallest bakeries will sell many sorts of bread or rolls, most of them darker (for example, using more rye flour) than the white bread popular around the world and definitely worth a try.
Here you will get the obvious drink and in Bavaria you can bring your own food. Most places will cater simple meals.
Microbreweries sell their products straight to the customer and you will find some nice food there as well.
Probably 50% of all eating out places falls into this group. They are mainly family run businesses and are often owned since generations. You can go there to have a drink only, but if you want you can eat German food often with a local taste.
Place to have dinner in many flavours (German, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Turkish ?). Do not wait to be seated, simply choose a free table.
Rinderroulade mit Rotkraut und Knodeln: this dish is quite unique to Germany. Very thin sliced beef rolled around a "pickled gherkin" until it looks like a mini barrel (5cm diameter) flavoured with tiny pieces of onion, German mustard, ground black pepper and salt. The meat is quick-fried and is then left to cook slowly for an hour, meanwhile red cabbage and potato dumplings are prepared and then the meat is removed from the frying pan and gravy is prepared in the frying pan. Knodel, Rotkraut and Rouladen are served together with the gravy in one dish.
Schnitzel mit Pommes frites: there are probably as many different variations of Schnitzel as there are restaurants in Germany. They have in common a thin slice of pork often covered in egg and bread crumbs that is fried for a short period of time and it is often served with fries (that's the Pommes frites part). Variations of this are usually served with different types of gravy: such as Zigeunerschnitzel, Zwiebelschnitzel, Holzfaller Schnitzel and Wiener Schnitzel. In the south you can often get Spatzle (pasta that Swabia is famous for) instead of fries with it. Spatzle are egg noodles typical of south Germany ? most restaurants make them fresh. It is very common to find Schnitzel on the menu of a German restaurant, it might even be the most common dish in German restaurants.
Rehrücken mit Spatzle: Germany has maintained huge forests such as the famous Black Forest, Bayrischer Wald and Odenwald. In and around these areas you can enjoy the best game in Germany. Rehrücken means venison tenderloin and it is often served with freshly made noodles such as Spatzle and a very nice gravy based on a dry red wine.
Bratwurst ?fried sausage?: there is no country in the world with a greater variety of sausages than Germany and it would take a while to mention them all. Here is the shortlist version: ?Rote? beef sausage, ?Frankfurter Bratwurst? pork sausage made in the Frankfurt style, ?Pfalzer Bratwurst? sausage made in palatinum style , ?Nürnberger Bratwurst? Nuremberg sausage ? the smallest of all of them, but a serious contender for the best tasting German sausage, ?grobe Bratwurst?, Feldjager, Thüringer Bratwurst, Currywurst, Weißwurst??.. this could go on till tomorrow. If you spot a sausage on a menu this is often a good choice. Often served with mashed potato, fries or potato salad.
Pfalzer Saumagen: known for a long time in Palatinate, but difficult to find outside of this area. The dish became well known to the general public in Germany as then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl?s favorite dish, especially when this was enjoyed by him and the Russian president Mikhail Gorbatchev on a State visit in Germany in Deidesheim. Pictures of the feast are shown in the restaurant ? Deidesheimer Hof? in Deidesheim. Literally this is pig stomach filled with a mash of potato and meat, cooked for 2-3 hours and then cut in thick slices often served with sauerkraut.
Starting from the north of Germany going south you will find a tremendous variety of food and each region sticks to it origins. The coastal regions are fond of seafood and famous dishes include ?Finkenwerder Scholle?, going south to the region of Cologne you will find Sauerbraten (a roast marinated in vinegar). Labskaus is a dish from the north and the opinions about this dish are divided, some love it, others hate it. It is a mash of potato and meat decorated with rollmops and a fried egg and gurken on top.
The Pfalzer area has Saumagen (stuffed pork's stomach), Swabia is famous for Spatzle (a kind of noodle), "Maultaschen" (noodles stuffed with spinach and mince meat, but lots of variations, even veggie ones, exist) and at the coast there's a variety of fish dishes.
In Bavaria this may be Schweinshaxe mit Knodeln (pork's leg with knodel, a form of potato dumplings), "Fleischkase mit Kartoffelsalat" (kind of meat pie and potato salad), "Nürnberger Bratwurst" (probably smallest sausage in Germany), Weißwurst (white sausages).
The south is also famous for its nice tarts such as the "Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte" (tart with lots of cream and spirit made from cherries).
A delicacy in Saxony is Eierschecke, a slices with a covering of eggs and cream.
White ?Spargel? (asparagus) floods the restaurants in April/June all over Germany and it is delicious especially in and around Baden-Baden and the small town of Schwetzingen ("The Spargel Capital"), near Heidelberg, as well as in the area southwest of Berlin, especially in the town Beelitz. Many vegetables can be found all around the year and the are often imported from far away. Whereas asparagus can be found only for 2 months from mid April to mid June and is best enjoyed freshly after harvest it stays nice for a couple of hours or till next day. The asparagus is treated very carefully and it is harvested before it ever is exposed to daylight and only then it remains white. When exposed to daylight it changes its color to blue and it might taste bitter. Therefore, white asparagus is considered to be better by most Germans.
The standard Spargel meal is the spargel stalks, hollandaise sauce, boiled potatoes, and some form of meat. The most common meat is ham, smoked prefered; however you will find it teamed with schnitzel (fried breaded pork), turkey, beef, or whatever is available in the kitchen.
White asparagus soup: one of the hundreds of different recipes that can be found with white asparagus is soup. Often it is made with cream and has some of the thiner asparagus peaces.
Lebkuchen: Germany has many nice Christmas biscuits and gingerbread. The best known are produced in and around Nuremberg.
Germans are very fond of their bread, which they make in many variations. This is the food that Germans tend to miss most when away from home. Most people like their bread relatively dark and dense and scorn the soft loaves sold in other countries. Bakeries will rarely provide less than twenty different sorts of bread and it's worth trying a few of them. In fact, many Germans buy their lunch or small snacks in bakeries instead of takeaways or the like. Prices for a loaf of bread will range from 0.50 ? to 4 ?, depending on the size (real specialities might cost more).
Vegetarian cooking hasn't caught on in Germany, but in general you will be respected and get some food. Most restaurants have one or two vegetarian dishes, or will prepare something without meat; but there aren't many places which are particularly aimed at vegetarian or vegan customers. Sometimes, restaurant owners will make fun of your food preferences and attempt to give you something you asked them to leave out. There are a number of pure vegetarian and even some vegan restaurants- to find them consult for example http://www.vegan.de/guide/restaurants/ (german) or www.fleischlos-geniessen.de (VEBU restaurant list, the restaurants are not necessarily vegetarian in general. However, there are usually organic food shops ("Bioladen" or "Naturkostladen") in every city, providing veg(etari)an bread, breadspreads, cheese, icecream, vegan cream topping, tofu and saitan. The diversity and quality of the products is great and you will find shop assistants that can answer special nutritional questions profoundly.
Legal drinking age is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for anything stronger.
Germans consider their beer to be the best in the world. And although other nations may disagree, the brew is usually very good and far superior to the bland stuff from the "international" brands. For centuries, beer-making was governed by the Reinheitsgebot (purity law), which states that German beer may only be made from certain ingredients. The Reinheitsgebot has come down with the European integration, but traditional breweries continue to stick with it. Specialities include Weizenbier, a refreshing wheat beer which is popular in the south, Alt, a kind of dark ale and Kolsch, another kind of beer from the city of Cologne. There are also seasonal beers, which are only made at different times of the year. Beer is usually served in 200 or 300ml glasses (in the northern part) or 500ml in the South. In Bavaria, 500ml is a small beer and a litre is a large one. Except for Irish pubs, Pints are unusual. For Germans, lots of foam is a sign of freshness, thus, beer is always served with a lot of head. Additionally, Germans are not afraid to mix their pure beer with other drinks. Beer is commonly mixed with Sprite and called Radler; "Cocktails" of pils/Altbier and soft drinks like Fanta, Coke and so on are also very common but seem to have a different name in every town.
Pubs are open in Germany until 2 in the morning or later. Food is generally available until midnight. Germans typically go out after 8pm. Note also, that in Germany the legal drinking age is different than in most other countries. Beverage containing natural concentration of alcohol, wine and beer for example, may be drunk in public by children from the age of 14 if they're with their parents, if not from the age of 16. Spirits are allowed from the age of 18.
Undisputed capital of "Apfelwein" cider in Germany is Frankfurt. Locals love their cider and it is very popular around here. It is often served in a special jug called "Bembel". The taste is slightly different from Ciders in other countries and it tends to be quiet refreshing. In autumn when apples are turned into cider you might find "Frischer Most" or "Süßer" signposted at some places. That means this is first product in the chain of "Apfelwein" production and one glass of it is nice. Two or three glasses and you will have a problem. In Trier "Apfelwein" is called "Viez" and very sour.
Germans drink coffee. Lots of it. Coffee is always freshly made from ground coffee or beans - no instant. However, persons coming from countries with a great coffee tradition (like Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Greece or Austria) might find the coffee that is served in normal restaurants a bit boring.
Visiting Germany in December? Then go and see one of the famous Christmas markets (the most famous taking place in Nuremberg, Dresden and Aachen) and this is the place where you find Glühwein (English: Mulled Wine), a spiced wine served very hot. Just to comfort you in the cold winter.
?Kirschwasser? literally means cherry water, it certainly tastes of cherry but on the other hand it is not regular drinking water. There is a long lasting tradition in making spirits in Baden and ?Kirschwasser? is probably the flagship product and it might encourage you to taste other specialities such as Himbeergeist, Schlehenfeuer, Williamchrist and Apfelkorn.
?Enzian? Bavarians like their beer as well their Enzian. A spirit high in alcohol that is best as a digestive after a hefty meal .
Tea is also very popular, and a large choice is readily available. Especially the region of East Frisia has a long tea tradition.
In the same that German think that their beer is the best in the world they are passionate about their wines. The similarities don't stop here, both products are often produced by small companies and the best wines are consumed locally and only the remaining ones are exported. The production of wine has a 2000 year old history in Germany as learned from the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, but of course this was a roman settlement at this time. Sunshine is the limiting factor for the production of wines in Germany and therefore the wine production is limited to the south. White wine plays a main role in the wine production, but some areas produce red wines (Ahr, Baden Württemberg). White wines are produced from Riesling, Kerner and Müller-Thurgau grapes (there are a lot more, but to name them all would be too much), and produce generally fresh and fruity wines. German wines can be rich in acid and are quit refreshing. It is generally accepted that Riesling grapes produce the best German wines, but they demand a lot of sunshine and they grow best in very exposed areas such the Mosel, Rheingau, Bergstrasse, Kaiserstuhl and Pfalz.
The best way to learn about wines is go to the place where they are grown and taste them on the spot. This is called "Weinprobe" and is generally free of charge though in touristic areas you have to pay a small fee. Good wines usually go together with good food and therefore it is well worth it to visit some of those places.
Wine producing areas are:
Franken: don't think Bavarians make only beer. In the northern part of Bavaria you can find a very nice wine. Some wines produced in Franken are sold in a special bottle called "Bocksbeutel".
Hessische Bergstrasse: located on the slopes of the Rhine valley it is a quiet small wine producing area and wines are usually consumed within the area in and around Heppenheim.
Rheinpfalz: biggest wine producing area in Germany. Has some excellent wines to taste and a lot of nice villages embedded in vineyards. Tasting wine in Deidesheim is a good idea and several prime producer of German wine are all located on the main road. Want to see the biggest wine barrel in the world then go to Bad Dürkheim.
Württemberg As it was mentioned before, here the rule, that the wine production is consumed by the locals, strictly applies. The wine consumption is twice as high as in the rest of Germany, regardless of whether it's red or the white wine. The specialty of the region is the red wine called Trollinger and it can be quite nice by German standards.
Saale-Unstrut: located in the state Saxonia-Anhalt at the banks of the rivers Saale and Unstrut it is most northern wine area in Europe.
Germany provides a lot of options for accommodation, including hotels, B&B's, hostels, and camping. You might also consider staying with members of a hospitality exchange network.
Many hotel chains have franchises in the major German cities, and a variety of local hotels exist.
Be wary of absurdly expensive broadband connections. For example, the Hilton Berlin (http://www.hilton.com/en/hi/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=BERHITW) uses the awful EUROSPOT service, which is 30 EUROs a day, and limits bandwidth use. Ask before you book, and be careful about their definitions. "Broadband" sometimes means dialup.
B&B's ("Pensionen" or "Fremdenzimmer") provide less comfort than hotels for cheaper prices.
Hostels provide simple, budget accommodation primarily in shared rooms. They are good places to get to know other travellers. In Germany, as in many countries, two flavors exist: international youth hostels and independent hostels.
International Youth Hostels ("Jugendherbergen") are owned and run by the association "Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk" (DJH), which is part of the Hostelling International (HI) network. Their more than 600 hostels are spread all over Germany in big and small cities as well as in the country side. Not only individual travellers are guests, but also by school classes and other youth groups. To sleep there, you have to be or become a member in a youth hostel organisation belonging the HI network (http://www.hihostels.com). Detailed information about this and each of their hostels can be found on the DJH's Website (http://www.jugendherberge.de/international/).
Privately run independent hostels are an attractive alternative for a similar price. More than 60 already exist in Germany, getting more and more every year. They are located in bigger cities, especially in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, and Hamburg. Only few are in the country side. Sometimes run by former travellers, hostels refrain from having strict rules. Especially small ones are frequently places where you can feel at home. There is no need to be a member in some organisation to sleep there. About half of the hostels have organized themselves in a "Backpacker Network" (http://www.backpacker-network.de/), which provides a list of their members hostels. A more complete list is Marcus's hostel list (http://www.hostel-list.de/). If you are interested in other traveller's opinions about hostels try www.hotelz.com (http://www.hostelz.com/). If you looking for a Free Fast and Easy way to find a hostel check www.hostelineurope.com.
There are many campsites in Germany.
Some travellers just put up their tents somewhere in the country side. In Germany this is illegal, unless you have the landowner's permission.
German universities can compete with the best universities in the whole world. Since the vast majority of the universities are state-owned, studying in Germany is usually very cheap (50-500 Euros/semester).
While unemployment in Germany is at a rate of more than 10 % at the moment, there are jobs for those with the right qualifications or connections. Non-EU foreigners wishing to work in Germany should make sure they secure the proper permits. Since this can mean extended acts of bureaucracy for non-EU citizens, it is likely not a good method to help your travelling budget.
If you want to stay in Germany for an extended period of time, but do not speak German, your best bets are large multinational companies in the banking, tourism or high tech industries. Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich and of course Berlin are likely the best places to start looking. A good knowledge of German is usually expected, but not always a prerequisite.
Germany is a safe country, but there are some districts that you might avoid at night by the unwary, or by lone women. However recent statistics show a significant drop in major crimes like murder or robbery. Pickpockets can be a problem in large cities or at events with large crowds. Big cities also have their share of beggars and punks, but these are hardly ever dangerous. You don't need to give beggars money. Germany has one of the world's best social systems that nobody has to beg. Those are often "professional beggars" who beg for a second income.
Germany has a dense network of emergency services, check the next paragraph on how to call them.
The nationwide emergency number is 112 for medical emergencies and fires, while the police emergency number is 110. Even if you call the "wrong" number, your call will be forwarded to the right emergency services. These numbers can by dialed toll-free from any phone booth or (mobile) phone. Mobile phones without a valid SIM card will still allow you to dial the 112 emergency number.
If you're reporting an emergency, the usual guidelines apply: Stay calm and state your exact location, the type of emergency and the number of persons involved. Don't hang up immediately, the operator may have further questions.
The hospitals (Krankenhauser) have emergency rooms which are open around the clock. They will deal with all kinds of medical problems, although you may have to wait if your problem is minor. In life-threatening situations do not try to get to the hospital yourself - call an ambulance via 112 or 19222, the emergency number that connects you with the local ambulance service.
Pharmacies are called "Apotheke" and are marked by a big, red "A" symbol. At least one pharmacy per city or suburb will be open at all times. Each pharmacy will post the name and address of the nearest open pharmacy in the window.
There will also be a dentist on stand-by in each town. The number is usually available from the yellow pages.
Germany is often considered to be a rather racist country, primarily towards non-Europeans/non-whites/non-Christians. To some extent this might be true (especially in the East) but Germany's history combined with some dramatic television news in the 1990s have left a lasting impression with many people around the world. The real situation is far (!) less dramatic and of course much more complex. Note, for example, that there is no right wing party in the parliament.
In reality, however, Germans are no more racist than people in other Western industrialized countries. Most large cities in Germany are extremely cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic with large communities of foreigners including non-whites and religious minorities. People in Germany are aware of the issue and will usually be tolerant or at least politically correct. Most foreign visitors never deal with issues of open discrimination or racism. The most common forms of racism against non-white visitors here include are queer looks (often caused by uneasiness or insecurity), some snubbing and at worst (very, very rarely) verbal insults.
In some parts of the former East Germany, the situation is slightly different. Higher unemployment rates are a fertile ground for racist ideas. In addition, there has been an educational lack of peaceful, tolerant co-existence with foreigners in the GDR. Consequently, there are more incidences of racist behaviour than in the West with somewhat more frequent outbursts of physical violence, although such events remain rare and out of the ordinary even in eastern Germany. It is important to remember that Germany is in general an extremely safe country with a very low violent crime rate. When away from large crowds or tourist areas, Non-White tourists should be somewhat cautious, but a paranoid attitude would be overdoing it.
Gay and lesbian travellers
On the whole, attitudes are tolerant towards gays and lesbians particularly in the cities, most of which have vibrant scenes. In small towns and in the countryside kissing and holding hands may provoke stares. Many politicans and famous stars in Germany are homosexuals, and this is not generally held against them by most of the population. Germany allows gays or lesbians to adopt children like in the United States, which has recently been passed.
In large cities the police is working to control illegal immigration. As a result, it's a very good idea always to carry your passport and visa papers, if applicable - especially if you happen to be visibly of non-European descent. And apart from that, it's the law. If you don't, you could at best face a considerable delay as your story gets checked, and at worst more serious consequences. Again, remember that German police are generally very helpful, but they have heard all the stories about "I forgot my papers" before and will likely be skeptical of your explanation. If you'd rather like to keep your papers at the hotel, take at least a photocopy with you.
Sanitary and medical facilities in Germany are very good. The phone book lists telephone numbers for various medical services, many hotlines and services exist that are open during "off hours". The emergency ambulance (for serious accidents and so on) can be reached via the telephone number 112 (the fire brigade). Health care in Germany is a complicated issue, with several types of mandatory public and private health insurances involved. You may wish to check with your insurance about their co-operation with German health insurance companies.
Tap water is usually safe for consumption, you may wish to employ caution with public sources of water (restrooms et cetera) but even these should not be harmful. Exceptions will be labeled ("Kein Trinkwasser", no drinking water).
Many lakes and rivers, as well as both the North Sea and Baltic Sea are generally safe for swimming. This depends on the locale, however. And while there may be no life-threatening pollutants in most bodies of water, you would do very well to inform yourself about local regulations. Finally, if you intend to visit the North Sea, you should inform yourselves about the tide schedules. Getting caught in a tide can be fatal. There are no tides in the Baltic Sea.
Finally, while there is really no dangerous wildlife in Germany, you should be aware of rabies (Tollwut) which has been a problem in some areas in the past. If you want to go to Germany for hiking or camping, you should inform yourself about the situation at your destination and take appropriate precautions. Normally, you won't have to worry about it however. You usually need a permit to camp or make a campfire and German authorities can be quite strict about this.
In some parts of Germany there is a risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis. Innoculation can be advisable.
There are no real taboos in Germany that don't apply in other Western countries. Northern Germany (Berlin especially) is a lot more relaxed about etiquette than the south. Drinking in public is frowned upon, for those so inclined, but no punishment will ensue (if you become aggressive, that's another matter of course). On German beaches, it's usually okay for women to bathe topless, however full nudity is uncommon and frowned upon - especially for men. Nudist areas on beaches, however are very common and are labeled "FKK" (Freikörperkultur, literally free body culture). In most saunas nudity is compulsory.
One should sit on a toilet even when urinating, and clean it after each use with the brush kept beside it. Rumors that it is illegal in Sachsen-Anhalt to use a toilet standing up are, however, unfounded.
Feeding pigeons is prohibited in many cities. It is hard to imagine that you will get fined even if confronted about it by a policeman, but it is entirely possible. You don't feed rats in the street; and likewise, you shouldn't feed pigeons either.
It is important to bear in mind that Germans at first glance seem to be, generally, somewhat less polite than folk in English speaking countries - but it is only the nature of the language: don't be offended by curt remarks, that's simply how you talk in German.
Do not be afraid to approach Germans. They are a very direct and honest people: if they can or want to help you, they will, if not, they will tell you so.
Note that technically it is against the law to insult others, so swearing at someone or "giving him the finger" in public is rare and could lead to unforeseen complications.
Be very tactful with regards to the subject of the Second World War. The legacy of that war is well understood by Germans and it can be a very shameful burden shared even by people born forty years after its end. What might appear from an outsider's perspective to be "an innocent joke" might actually go down in a much more awkward way. It's also not very intelligent to say "Heil Hitler" or anything like that in public -- it can get you in really big trouble and possibly even arrested.
Conversely, some foreign tourists and residents complain that Germans themselves bring up topics such as WWII or recent events (eg. the Iraq war). Other complaints revolve around Germans pushing and shoving in public and staring at strangers.
Do not, under any circumstances show any swastikas or other symbols related to Nazis. It can land you in jail. Denial of the Holocaust is also a crime in Germany. However do note that symbols similar to Nazi symbols are used by rightwing groups, often in coded form.
In Germany it is illegal to film or photograph of a person without their permission if you want to publish the result. The exception are of course crowds or people just happen to stand in front of something else you take a photo of. When in doubt, ask for permission. For private use both is allowed.
Please be aware that taking picture in special situations, like bathrooms, lockerrooms or swimmingareas are probably forbidden. There are some new laws in progress that will forbid taking pictures of people in intimate situations.
The international calling code for Germany is 49, and the prefix for international calls is 00; the area code prefix is 0. Some number blocks are reserved for special use: Number starting with 010 let you choose a different phone provider (see below), 0800 and 008000 are toll-free numbers, 0180 are service numbers (which may or may not be more expensive than a local call). Avoid 0190 and 0900 prefix numbers. These are for commercial services and often incredibly expensive.
Germany has a highly advanced communications network; coverage for mobile phone is very good unless you go into really outlying areas between small villages. All mobile providers use GSM technology at the 900 and 1800 GHz frequency ranges. This is different to the GSM 1900 standard used in the United States, but modern "multi-band" handsets will usually work in all GSM networks. Non-GSM phones cannot be used in Germany. Germany is one of the few countries in the world that feature the UMTS technology in metropolitan areas.
The vast majority of Germans own mobile phones; the disadvantage of this is that the once-common phone booths have started to disappear except at "strategical" locations such as train stations. If you stay for an extended period of time, consider buying a prepaid phone card from one of the mobile phone companies; you won't have trouble finding a T-Mobile (in a "T-Punkt"), Vodafone, E-Plus or O2 store in any major shopping area. Mobile telephony is still comparatively expensive in Germany, depending on your contract you may be charged about €0.10 to €0.50 per minute (and more for international calls).
Since the liberalization of Germany's phone market, there is a multitude of phone providers on the market. If you're calling from a private fixed line, you can usually choose from the different providers (and thus from different pricing schemes) by using special prefix numbers (starting with 010-) with prices of 0,01 ? or 0,02 ?, sometimes below 0,01 ? even for international calls. There's a calculator on the net (http://www.billiger-telefonieren.de/) where you can compare the prices for different destinations. Hotels usually have contracts with a particular phone provider and won't let you use a different one as they can't afford to pay the bill.
Alternatively, you can also buy prepaid phone cards you can use by calling a toll free number; this is especially a good deal if you intend to make international calls. Cards' quality and prices vary wildly, however, so a good recommendation cannot be made.
Consider to make your calls from German public payphones. While the original rates are often quite high (e.g. call to Australia 2.60 Euro per minute) you may save a lot using "Open Call Through" (call to Australia 0.20 Euro per minute). See The Foxy Phone Page (http://foxyphone.tarife-fuer-ferngespraeche.de) for details.
Recently, phone shops have sprung up in the major cities, where you can make international calls at cheap rates.
Internet cafes are common, but usually small, local businesses. You probably won't have a problem finding at least one in even smaller towns or large villages. Phone shops will often offer internet access, too.
Most hotels offer internet access, but this usually takes the form of dialup lines. You should also be aware that many hotels have a contract with Deutsche Telekom which includes the blacklisting of call-by-call numbers. Inquire at your hotel before booking if this matter is important to you.
In several cities, projects exist to provide free "community" hotspots for wireless networking.
Passenger lounges at some airports and central railway stations also provide internet access to their customers.
Public libraries often offer free internet access. However, entrance to the library itself may not be free. Always ask first.
The German postal service is pretty reliable. Some of their service can be testing the patience of the customer at times (but then again, all Germans like to complain about the bad service, not just at the post office...).
Inquire for the rates to your destination country at the local post office. Air mail (Luftpost) doesn't really make sense if you want to send anything to a destination in the European Union. If you want to send packages, there are two options - Packchen is a small packet. It's cheaper, but includes no insurance and no option for the postal service to track them, so choose wisely. Packets do not usually get lost, but it can happen.