Germany is one of the biggest European countries with a lot of (well-known) history. Although you don’t see much from the 1ste and 2nd World Wars, the history is still there. We mainly visited Berlin, the capital of Germany. A big city with a lot of diversity.
Besides this city, we’ve also seen Essen, Schwerin, and smaller cities.
This city has a lot of sightseeing and it’s impossible to do it all in a week, even if you try. We visited the most obvious places in this city, with some surprises.
Before you go
Visitors to this country need a Schengen visa, which can be found here. This will allow you to stay up to 90 days. With this visa, you can stay as a tourist, for business purposes, or medical reasons.
There are plenty of ATMs that accept most cards. You can use credit cards and ATM cards in most stores, but keep an eye on the exchange rate. Some restaurants and smaller shops don’t allow payment by card, so keep some money with you at all times.
As of 2002, Germany has the Euro. A coin that is accepted throughout Europe. The Euro has a few coins, consisting of 1c, 2c, 5c, 10, 20c, 50c, €1, and €2. The 1c is hardly available and so is the 2c. Most prices will be rounded up to avoid these coins (€ 1,99 will become € 2,00).
The banknotes are €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500. The € 200 and € 500 are not that much represented and chances are slim you will get these from an ATM. These large banknotes are also not really accepted in stores, because of the big amount.
Making contact in Germany
Germans are known to be friendly and glad to help. It does depend on with side of the country you are in. After the 2nd World War, the country has been divided into East and West. Although the Berlin wall has been removed, there is still a big difference between both sides. East is poorer and the West has more luxury and is more modern. People on both sides are very friendly, but the people in East Germany speak hardly English and their German has a bigger accent.
The bigger the city, the better the English, and the less friendly people will be. But this is in all countries.
Oh, don’t mention the war. They don’t like to talk about it, especially the older generation.
Germans love food and drink so don’t be afraid to try it out.
This country is also known for its unlimited speed on the highway. Well, let’s put that out of perspective. Yes, there are places where you can drive as fast as you want. But is that wise? Your gas will run out way faster and even Germans don’t always drive that fast. The roadsigns aren’t that good, so it’s always guessing what the speed limit is (use Google Maps, that can help).
Visit small markets, or better yet; a Christmas fair. The small stalls with all kinds of nice things are not something the Germans are interested in. They are interested in the food and the drinks, and they know how to drink! My advice: join them!
Food in Germany
German food is mostly a lot of meat. Think about the sausages (bratwurst), schnitzel, and steaks. Usually accompanied with fries or smashes potatoes. If you want authentic bratwurst, go find a market. They usually have very good currywurst. But if you want a salad don’t worry, you can find those everywhere too.
The food is usually meat, potatoes, and veggies. In the larger cities, you find a lot of other cuisines. Mostly Indian and Italian. Also lots of kebabs and other fast food.
My advice: Try it all and don’t stick to what you know. The food might seem boring, but it might surprise you.
Places we visited in Germany
We have been to several places in Germany. Schwerin is a small, East German city. Here you can still see and feel the time when the Sovjet forces ruled. Simple, straight houses and everything is gray. Except for the historical buildings, like the castle, churches and some houses in the city center.
Berlin is the capital of Germany. Here you can find everything you need. From food to historical sightings. Pieces of the wall are scattered in the city, including the art on them. Although the Germans don’t like to talk about the war, you can find many historical buildings and museums that will show you the gruesome things that happened during the 2nd World War.
Berlin has very good public transport and if you have the right hotel, you might get a free public transport card.
Essen is a smaller city in the west. A big city center with a lot of shops. Outside holidays it’s not that awesome, but when Christmas is almost there, Essen has a big Christmas market. Lots of stalls and music. But most Germans don’t care about that. They just love the beer and food… Which I can highly recommend!
During a small holiday, we went o Center Parcs Medebach. A really small town that usually thrives in the winter. Most people go here to ski, but outside the season is almost deserted. A very good time to relax and enjoy nature and German hospitality.
Our 3 favorites things to do
Although we are not really big city people, Berlin is different. Yes, it can be crowded but if you know the city a bit you can find the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the city.
Wander around and find historical POIs on every corner. Dive into the history of both World Wars. Don’t go to the tourist things, there is much more to see outside these areas.
German food isn’t that special, but it does have its charms. Find the small markets where they sell bratwurst with curry. Drink a nice cold beer in the sun. Or just find a nice cafe where you can have a great time with Germans while you enjoy coffee specialties.
There are plenty of restaurants and small cafes. You won’t get bored soon.
German nature is diverse. In the west, it’s kinda flat. Maybe some small hills and some trees. But the further you go east, the more nature you will get. Big forests and even small mountains will change the scenery.
If you love hiking, Germany is a great country to do that.
Where to stay
If you travel to Germany you have a lot of options of where to stay. From luxury resorts to simple hotel rooms and hostels, there’s something for every budget. It all depends on where you’re going.
Some of our favorites:
This hotel is right next to the biggest train station in Berlin. They will also give you a free public transportation card, so trains and subways are free.
A nice hotel on the edge of the city center of Essen. You can take public transport or a 15-minute walk to the shopping area. Good breakfast and nice, modern rooms.
In the middle of ski resorts you will find this Center Parcs. Nice cottages, friendly people, and plenty of nature to go hiking. A bit deserted when it’s not the ski season.