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Germany Hostels, Eurail Passes, and Backpacking Tips

 

 

Few countries in Western Europe have as fascinating and complicated a past as Germany. Despite the country's staid reputation for efficiency, it boasts a huge variety of museums, architecture from dozens of historical periods and a heavy emphasis on cultural and outdoor activities. Infrastructure is well organized, there is plenty of accommodation, and the frothy beer, heady wine and hearty food are superb.

In 1990 West and East Germany were reunified after 50 years of Cold War separation. Despite over a decade of integration, the social and economic differences of the formerly distinct countries will take many years to disappear altogether - another example of the intricate political and cultural layers that constitute modern Germany.

Highlights

Depending on how you see it, Munich's Oktoberfest will be a highlight or lowlight. Berlin, Hamburg and Munich are raunchy. To soak up Germany's fairy-tale charm, hit castles like Heidelberg, Neuschwanstein, Burg Rheinfels on the Rhine River, Burg Eltz on the Moselle, the medieval Konig-stein and Wartburg castles, Renaissance Wittenberg Castle and baroque Schloss Moritzburg. Towns which also impart this flavour are Wismar, Goslar and Regens-burg, Meissen and Quedlinburg; Weimar has a special place in German culture, and Liibeck is one of Europe's true gems.

Dangers

Theft and other crimes against travellers are relatively rare. In the event of problems, the police are helpful and efficient.

Africans, Asians and southern Europeans may encounter racial prejudice, especially in eastern Germany where they have been singled out as convenient scapegoats for economic hardship, though the animosity is directed towards immigrants, not tourists.

Time

One hour ahead GMT/UTC.

Business Hours

By law, shops in Germany may open from 6 am to 8 pm weekdays and to 4 pm on Saturday. Banking hours are generally on 8.30 am to 1 pm and 2.30 to 4 pm weekdays; many banks do not close for lunch and stay open on Thursday to 5.30 pm. Museums are generally closed on Monday.

Public Holidays & Special Events

Germany has many holidays, some of which vary from state to state. Public holidays include New Year's Day, Good Friday to Easter Monday, 1 May (Labour Day), Whit Monday, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Corpus Christi (10 days after Pentecost), 3 October (Day of German Unity), 1 November (All Saints' Day), 18 November (Day of Prayer and Repentance); and usually Christ-was Eve to the day after Christmas.

There are many festivals, fairs and cultural events throughout the year. Famous and worthwhile ones include: Berlin's International Film Festival in February; Fankfurt's Music Fair and Jazz Fair, both held in March; Dresden's Music Festival in late May/early June; Freiburg's Internatlonal Theatre Festival in June; Munich's Opera Festival in June; Berlin Love Parade in July; Munich's Oktoberfest, held in September/October; and Christmas festivals in Munich, Nuremberg, Berlin and Heidelberg.

Emergency

The emergency telephone number for police is 110 and the fire brigade/ambulance is 112.

Foreign Embassies

UK (20 18 40), Unter den Linden 32-34, 10117
USA (238 51 74), Neustadtische Kirchstrasse 4-5, 10117

 

 

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