Berlin at Night
Berlin was the seat of the ruling Hohenzollern family in the 15th century, capital of the kingdom of Prussia in 1701, of the united German Empire in 1871 and capital of the Republic in 1919. Today, Berlin has reclaimed its position as capital of a reunified Germany. Flattened by allied bombing raids during World War II, Berlin cannot boast of numerous heritage buildings, grand palaces or exquisite monuments. Being divided for 45 years by the Berlin Wall resulted in a disproportionate level of development between East and West. A free and newly rebuilt West Berlin enjoyed material prosperity owing to large subsidies from a wealthy West German government. Meanwhile East Berlin, although improving, did not have access to western goods and services. The 'Wall' came down in late '89 to reveal a remarkably contrasting city from one side to the other. The Berlin metropolitan government has been working hard since, to shore up the disparity. River travel is one of the most relaxing ways to see the sights or, take the above ground metro (S-Bahn) from affluent Nikolassee to the miserable Lichenberg for an overview of the area. This route will take you past the city's best park, the Grunewarld forest and the exotic Potsdam area. The Brandenburg Gate is still a focal point, the Reichstag's rebuild is terrific, the main Cathedral is fully restored and the stunning Daimler/ Chrysler complex (Debisstadt) is a big draw, as is the Sony Center. Traditionally, the west's Ku'damm (Kurfurstendamm) and the east's Friedrichstrasse are the big shopping streets, but Ludwigkirchplatz has a good selection of shops, while Potsdam and Prenzlauer Berg are for bargain hunting. Strasse des 17 Juni has a lively, long running flea market on weekends. Wacky festivals and parades are featured throughout the year right along with the more traditional and significant themes. The most popular museums are the Pergamonmuseum, housing an impressive archeological collection and the tiny Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, celebrating the life and death of the old Berlin Wall. The Gemaldegalerie is the best traditional art gallery in town, while the stylish Mitte area has a good selection of contemporary galleries. Wild club scenes are a feature of this eclectic city, with many excellent clubs and bars found in the Kreuzberg and Mitte areas.
Frankfurt am Main
The city's Main River mirrors Germany's most spectacular skyline and Europe's tallest office building. Often seen only as a transit hub or a business centre, Frankfurt spends more money on the arts than any other European city. Chances are you will most likely be able to catch a groundbreaking exhibition at one of its museums, second only to Berlin's as Germany's finest. The international flavour is supported by foreign citizens, which accounts for more than one quarter of the urban population. Frankfurt is Germany's financial centre, home to Germany's stock exchange and over 400 banking institutions. The city is served by Europe's second largest airport containing a nightclub, art gallery and X-rated cinema to help while away those in-transit hours. Most of Germany's Autobahnen (expressways) converge on centrally located Frankfurt. It's tucked neatly in a valley below the northern Taunus Hills, equidistant from Hamburg and the Alps. Aside from the new town, or Neustadt (the business district), the old town, or Altstadt, features narrow medieval buildings with steeply gabled roofs clustered around pleasant squares. South-bank Sachsenhausen is the closest Frankfurt gets to 'old Germany' with its rowdy taverns, rustic restaurants, and tiny alleyways. The meticulous restoration of Frankfurt's Old Opera House is largely due to the power of the people; it was to be replaced by a concrete block structure but was voted down. The Deutsches Filmmuseum is a rare treat, with premieres, themed exhibitions, and an extensive archive. Goethe Haus displays the great writer's home from his birth in 1749 until 1775, when he moved to Weimar. The Goethemuseum shares a pretty garden with the house. Frankfurt am Main's museums include Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Arts) featuring industrial and product design, a museum dedicated to communications (The Museum fA~1/4r Kommunikation) with its hands-on exhibits for kids and the Cold War espionage equipment that will fascinate adults. The 13th-century Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew was the site of the imperial coronations. Frankfurt am Main has appealing proposals for every tourist, not the least of which is Ebbelwoi, the town's signature tipple.
The quintessential Germany, Bavaria delivers: all the cutesy folk traditions associated with Lederhosen and Dirndl, Oktoberfest biergartens, glockenspiels and, the city of Munich is at the heart of it all. Founded in 1158 by Henry, Duke of Saxony, and named for the monks who originally settled the site, Munich evolved to become the seat of the Wittelsbach dynasty in 1255. The infamous monarch known as "Mad Ludwig," raided the treasury in the mid-19th century to pay for a number of elaborate castles, which illustrate the Bavarian fascination with opulence. The city is a haven for all sorts of culture, with a staggering array of museums, a lively arts scene and the rollicking Oktoberfest revelry. Munich sits on the banks of the Isar River, at foothills of the Bavarian Alps.
While there, be sure to visit Europe's largest city park, the English Garden, where you can take your clothes off if you like or, just stroll, row a boat or drink a cold beer in one of the many beer gardens. One of the beer gardens has a Chinese Tower sticking up in the middle of it, dating back to the park's construction in 1789. Even if you're not looking for museums, you'll likely trip over them while wandering the city; there's just so many! The focus of Munich is Marienplatz, the famous square at the heart of the Altstadt (the old city centre). Visit Marienplatz on a warm sunny day and you'll find it abuzz with swarms of people enjoying themselves in outdoor cafes and beer gardens. Don't miss the obvious photo opportunity of the Glockenspiel in the centre of the Neues Rathaus. The nearby Fishbrunnen recalls medieval market days, when fish were kept alive in the fountain before being sold. The city's trademark, Frauenkirche with its oxidised copper onion-shaped domes is reproduced on every imaginable form of souvenir. Hofbrauhaus, the lovely old building where Hitler's National Socialists first met in 1920, is today filled to the brim with beer-drinking sightseers. Schloss Nymphenburg is the grandiose Baroque palace built from 1664 to 1758 and used as the royal family's summer residence. It is really too much to describe-it really has to be seen to be believed and for that matter, so does Munich.
The medieval city of Heidelberg is the well-known site of one of Germany's most impressive historic landmarks, the Heidelberg Castle. Noteworthy religious buildings include the Church of Saint Peter and the Church of the Holy Ghost, both dating from the 15th century. The city is the site of the first university in Germany, the University of Heidelberg, founded in 1386.
Known as KA~?ln in German, the city is a railroad hub and a major port in northwestern Germany. Cologne is renowned for its churches such as the Cologne Cathedral with its twin spires, each 157 meters (515 feet) high, one of the largest bells in the world, and the shrine of the Magi. The oldest church in Cologne is Sankt Maria im Kapitol, consecrated in 1049.
Leipzig, located in east central Germany, acquired the nickname Kleine Paris ("Little Paris") in the 18th century.
University of Leipzig (1409) alumna include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the composers Robert Schumann and Johann Sebastian Bach (buried in the chancel of Saint Thomas Church) and the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte. The German composer Felix Mendelssohn conducted concerts here until his death in 1847. The philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and the composer Richard Wagner were born in Leipzig. Leipzig was chartered by the margraves of Meissen in the 12th century. They initiated the trade fairs, which continue today.
The city is a wealth of medieval architecture and museums. Tourists also come to view the former royal palace, now an art museum located within the massive baroque-style landscaped gardens of HerrenhA~?user Garten. Hannover is the capital of the state of Niedersachsen, and sits on the riverbanks of the Leine in northwest Germany.
Founded in 808 by Charlemagne, Hamburg was the religious center for northern Europe for centuries. The ancient ramparts around the old section of the city have been converted into a network of gardens and pedestrian walkways. The city boast more bridges and canals than Venice and Amsterdam combined. Shipping and water are the main themes in this port city in north central Germany.
Freiburg im Breisgau sits on the edge of the Black Forest in Baden-WA~1/4rttemberg in southwest Germany. The Freiburg MA~1/4nster is a prominent feature of the city. Built in the late Middle Ages, it is one of the finest Gothic cathedrals in Germany noted for its outstanding stonework. The largest city in the Black Forest, Freiburg attracts many visitors to this beautiful wine growing region to participate in its numerous festivals.
Dresden lies on the Elbe River in east central Germany, near the border with the Czech Republic. Much of the city was rebuilt after the allied bombing raids of second World War. Among the reconstructed buildings are the 18th-century Zwinger Palace, which houses several noted museums; the Dresden State Opera House; and a number of churches dating from as far back as the 15th century.