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Europe Top Travels - Gemany - Travel Through Germany
Fall Edition 2009
gate in germany

Travel Through Germany

By Meeta Gajjar Parker


Germany is located in central Europe, and borders the North Sea, the Baltic Sea between the Netherlands and Poland, as well as south of Denmark. It has the largest population of all the European countries with 82 million inhabitants, of which, ninety-five percent are German.

Scattered throughout Germany, there are more than 25,000 castles and palaces. Having only seen one castle before, being here is like window shopping for castles.

This country is home to 500 wineries and 1,300 breweries. The United States is the only other country that has more, with 1,500. Beer is a major part of German culture. There is a "German or Bavarian Beer Purity Law" which means they have a reputation for upholding the highest quality.

Germany Castle and German bar

The Oktoberfest in Munich is well known for the quantity of beer drunk, as well as the friendly social atmosphere created by the long tables and bench seating. More than 6,900,000 liters of beer are served every year during the festival. They also serve the German pretzel of Medieval European origin.

Bavaria view
Another great symbol of Germany is the Berlin Wall, which separated East Germany from the West for more than a quarter of a century. It was also known as the Iron Curtain until it came down on November 9th, 1989, and the world celebrated. Our trip takes us from Frankfurt to Bonn where Beethoven was born and then into the Black Forest and down through Munich and into Bavaria. Passing through the area where they filmed the “Sound of Music,” we envision Julie Andrews singing in the pasture with her arms extended out.

Sitting in the parking garage after having rented a small station wagon, we have just orchestrated the combination of fitting three full size suitcases and two carry-on pieces into all the available space in our car. It is just like doing a Chinese jigsaw puzzle. Having opted for a car with a manual transmission as they are more affordable in Europe, we investigate our car’s state of the art GPS, which is operated with a joy stick and learn how to maneuver and program it. This is when we discover that it will speak to us. The female voice is deep as if on steroids. We opt for the male voice whom we name “Bob”. German isn’t our first or second language, so we look at the signs and decide that Ausfahrt must mean exit, as there is a picture of a little man running down some stairs to leave.

Severely hampered by jetlag, its Bob’s navigational skills and my husband Frank’s ability to follow directions, that gets us to our first hotel safely. Having only pre-booked our first and last nights, armed with a Frommer’s book and Bob, we begin a three week journey wandering through Germany. Never having been to Germany before, nor ever having driven in Europe, we really have no idea what kind of an adventure this will be. Trying to outsmart Bob, I suggest we make up an address to get us somewhere near our destination. Frank goes along with me and Bob teaches us a lesson. He takes us three hours backward, and across a bridge to the other side of the Rhine River to the address we punched in. No more trying to fool Bob.
german cafe

Driving along the Rhine River, we see castles for the first time and they appear before us almost every ten miles. Blown away by their mere size and extravagance, we stop to take pictures. Finally choosing one to explore, we begin driving up to our first castle. We get a running start up the steep hill to the castle. As we approach the twisting turn in the incline, four elderly people come into view. They decided to walk up to the castle rather than drive. Braking quickly, as there is no pull over, we head toward the trees to keep from hitting them. Now we are jammed. I’m panicking and Frank is trying to calm me down so he can think. I’m afraid. Turning around is impossible on this road. Frank backs the car down the road, hoping no one is coming up fast like we were for momentum. Surviving, we make it to a point where we can attempt to ascend the steep incline again. We successfully make it up to the castle and enjoy exploring it. Crossing over a drawbridge, we realize that this castle has been converted into a restaurant with a souvenir shop. I notice the cute toy shields like the ones the knights used as well as other unique items.

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