Missing your annual Italian holiday? For the first column in a new series, our travel expert highlights some of Germany’s best summer spots.
An Urlaub in Italien is as German as beer and currywurst. Yes, Italy is a gorgeous country, but have you seen Germany? It’s not half bad!
Staycations are en vogue (or alla moda if we embrace the Italian theme), not just because of the pandemic and subsequent restrictions, but also because we need to travel better. It’s time to make at least every other weekend away a staycation: less stress and CO2, but as much fun and adventure.
As an outsider and enthusiastic optimist, let me show you what Germany has to offer – and why it’s just as great as Italy.
Forget the Almafi Coast, head to Rügen Island
With over 574km of coastline, white-sand beaches and dramatic cliffs, Rügen is a strong competitor when it comes to seaside getaways. The Baltic Sea can be a little biting, but ice plunges are exceptionally good for your health.
I love the Jasmund National Park’s chalk cliffs and unspoilt forest: head to the Victoria-Sicht (rather than Königsstuhl) for breathtaking views. The resorts towns of Binz and Sellin are super chic and boast impressive Art Nouveau architecture.
Sure, the sun doesn’t shine as strongly as on the Italian Rivera, but that means less chance of sunburn. Oh, and Spaghettieis is basically gelato but much more fun.
Who needs the canals of Venice when you can cruise Hamburg’s waterways?
While Venice and Hamburg are very different cities, they both share some key similarities, namely beautiful waterways lined by striking buildings and position as important trading ports that help put their countries on the maps. Venice was an important stop along the Silk Road, while Hamburg was key for trading with the Americas.
Today, both towns are important cultural stops. Venice is packed with people trying to take snapshots of churches, while Hamburg bustles with theatregoers. For me, there’s nothing more pleasant than drifting along the water, taking in the crowds from afar. But with a 30-minute gondola ride in Venice costing an expensive €90, a long, leisurely and cheaper trip through the waterways of Hamburg seems much more appealing.
Why does everyone head to the Italian Lakes? Have you seen what Bavaria has to offer?
I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Barvarian lakes are a far more desirable destination than the Italian lakes. Why? I’ve been to the Italian lakes and sure they were stunning, but in Germany, you’ve got far more space and fewer packed, waterside towns. For a mini-break, quiet solitude is exactly what you need, so head to southern Germany where you can avoid the crowds, immerse yourself in unspoilt nature and switch off properly.
Watersport lovers should head to Ammersee for calm waters, mountains erupt from the banks of picturesque Königssee (pictured) making it great for hiking enthusiasts, and the clear mountain waters of Walchensee are pure enough to drink. Eibsee is picture-perfect, Obersee is lusciously green, I could go on…
Vineyard tour of Tuscany? Try the delicious Deutsch underdog
Sure, on the surface, wine aficionados might scoff at the idea of a Germany vineyard tour – especially when it comes to reds, and especially when the alternative option is a trip to Italy. But just wait a hot minute.
Palatinate, AKA Pfalz, has stepped up its red-wine game in recent years, and the dornfelder grape variety, which is mostly used as it was “invented” in the region, packs a mouth-watering punch. Don’t believe me? Then listen to internationally renowned wine expert David Williams: “Humble dornfelder [wines] are delightfully supple with notes of violets, dark cherry and plum in a style that recalls Italian dolcetto and valpolicella.”
Palatinate boasts over 23,000 hectares of vineyards, and it’s also the home to Germany’s most well-known white wine, Riesling. And, let’s be honest, after a few glasses of vino, most of us will have forgotten where we are anyway…
They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but don’t forget the Roman empire stretched across Europe
“But what about the pièce de résistance?” I hear you cry. “What about the history?” Well, the German city of Trier is the proud owner of the title “Rome of the North”.
The Roman’s conquered the city in the 1st century BC, naming it Augusta Treverorum (“The City of Augustus among the Treveri”), and began sculpting it in their traditionally ornate fashion.
Of what remains, eight Roman structures have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The highlights are Porta Nigra (the city gates, pictured), the amphitheatre and Barbarathermen (a sprawling bath complex).
Oh, and Karl Marx was born in Trier. That’s not something Rome can say.
Emily McDonnell is our German travel expert. For more inspiration and travel tips, check out her travel club The Staycation Collection.