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Germany
Despite a plethora of ghosts in its past, Germany has undergone an amazing transformation in the last decades. The nation has become a symbol of economic success and political stability, a vanguard of art and culture, and an influential force in science and technology. Visitors find that Germany's appeal lies in the greenery of its lakes and forests, the cosmopolitan and eclectic lifestyles its cities offer, and its important monuments—all connected by an efficient transportation system. And when Germans celebrate, they do it with a sense of purposeful and well-earned fun, enhanced by great wines and abundant beers.

Frankfurt Airport is one of the busiest points of entry in Europe. If you are already in Europe, though, several low-cost airlines will bring you exactly where you want to go. Germany is also well-connected by European rail, and international bus lines offer affordable services (sometimes including free Wi-Fi). Highways are excellent in the country—and in continental Europe in general—but the speed limits (some sections with no limits at all) are something to take into consideration. 

Deutsche Bahn is the main company that provides high-speed and regional trains for those who want to move between German cities and regions.The German Rail Pass offers unlimited train travel in both first and second class for up to 15 days within one month. Many Germans prefer to get around with the help of services like Mitfahrgelegenheit finden, where drivers search for riders and vice versa, but some knowledge of German is necessary. Buses are the most affordable way to get around Germany and offer many amenities such as free coffee, movies, and Wi-Fi, though it should be noted that travel times can be long. 

For meat lovers, Germany has amazing options, including regional variations of goulash and schnitzel, as well as the classic German street food, currywurst. Turkish influences have made their way into the culture—like the döner kebab, which is affordable, tasty, and readily available across the country. International cuisine has also become a part of the lifestyle, with Indian, Vietnamese, and Italian restaurants abounding. Vegetarian options are increasingly prevalent, with soups, salads, falafel and vegetarian-only restaurants now in almost every town and city. Beer is a trademark of Germany, including the mixed radler (beer with lemonade or any variation of juice)—a popular drink during the summer months. In winter, don't forget to try the famous glühwein (mulled wine with spices).

As cities go, Berlin is one of the most interesting, not only for its history but for its classic museums, open-air exhibits, and trendy galleries. The Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the best attractions in the south, along with the famous Schwarzwald (Black Forest). Dresden, a city full of culture, has one of the most beautiful and charming skylines in central Europe. In the north, the port city of Hamburg offers maritime history along its waterways, music and nightlife in its theaters and bars, and treasure hunting at its lively Sunday fish market. 

In Berlin, Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures) and May Day bring out maybe the most interesting concentration of people and culture. Berlin's celebrated gay pride parade draws people from all over the world each July. Leipzig seduces music lovers with the Bachfest Leipzig, and the city also hosts the literary event Frankfurter Buchmesse. Oktoberfest is celebrated throughout the country, but Munich has the most popular (and also most crowded) version of this beer festival (with the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart a close second). The Melt! Festival in Ferropolis, with its amazing music lineups, is perfect for those wanting to enjoy summertime amid dance and beats. Worldwide cinema is celebrated in February with the open film festival, the Berlinale, featuring two weeks of screenings and conferences. The annual Cologne Carnival is Europe’s largest carnival celebration and offers a chance to disguise oneself and eat lots of candy.

A little knowledge of the German language can't hurt. Be sure to respect the traffic lights, whether you're a pedestrian or behind the wheel. The country is exceedingly bike-friendly, with rentals available almost everywhere. There is a culture of nudity in some parts of the country; it's most visible in parks and at lakes during the summer, but it also extends to saunas. Almost all stores and supermarkets are closed on Sundays, with some exceptions made on special occasions. Credit cards are not widely used, so it’s best to travel with euros. Drinking in public spaces is normally allowed, but some cities have strong policies against drinking in metro trains and stations.
Adam Groffman Berlin, Germany Local Expert

 

Adam Groffman is a freelance writer and travel blogger based in Berlin, where he covers city trips in Europe and around the world, expat life, LGBT issues, festivals, and nightlife. His work has been featured in Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler, DETAILS, USA Today Travel and numerous online publications. When he's not out exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he's usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene. His travel stories are available on his blog, Travels of Adam, and additional travel tips are shared through his @travelsofadam Twitter account.