Germany: City Swagger
January 14, 2016
Photos courtesy of
Berlin, Leipzig & Dresden
What compels someone to return to a place repeatedly, when there’s so much to see in the world? Curiosity, certainly – this was my third time visiting Germany. Frictionless mobility and variety are other reasons: for the romance traveler who seeks ease coupled with eclectic – Germany has it all. Everything you desire is in close proximity and on the rails. That is, if crowded airlines and navigating maps in your rent-a-car isn’t exactly your “cup of Hefeweizen.”
The get: big cosmopolitan city swagger, picture-postcard villages with gingerbread-house architecture, boisterous harvest, art, music and beer festivals throughout the year, and stunning, pristine scenery. The give: not much – it’s affordable and easy. Hop the rails on a multitude of “bahns” that run frequently to every corner of the country and you’re at destination wonderful in a few hours. You’ll get variety – from edgy Berlin, to artsy and musical Leipzig, to glorious, historic Dresden. The upside? Everything in Germany runs like clockwork, ensuring a deeply satisfying and stress-free honeymoon.
Fly Lufthansa to Berlin, the buzzy, international city which has risen like a Phoenix from the ashes. Modern history surrounds you, from the haunting Berlin Wall remains, to the museums on Alexanderplatz and the ghosts of Soviet occupation. On the East – explore the ultimate hipster haven, crawling with artists, technorati, musicians and renegade chefs; the West is more posh and “uptown” with epic museums and monuments, fine dining, smoky jazz clubs and world-class shopping.
East: Get your zeitgeist on at the award-winning hotel Ackselhaus’ Blue Home – located in the heart of boho Kollwitzplatz. Your room is design-nerd heaven: throwback 60s GDR-meets-Mad-Men-glam. Enjoy cocktails on your balcony with a full view of the Fernsehturm (the Berlin TV Tower). Later, run around surrounding neighborhoods and sample eclectic Turkish cuisine, bustling wine bars, edgy art galleries and the official Ramones Museum.
West: The Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin brings the city to your doorstep: the train station, shopping district, museums and fine dining. Rooms are comfortable, the staff is attentive and breakfast is a regional carb and protein smorgasbord. It’s a “grand dame of a hotel” with traditional velvet, gilt and baroque pinnings, yet reasonably priced – think of it as your basecamp at the center of things.
A grand commercial city from 1165, hosting trade fairs with Europe’s top merchants, Leipzig boasts riches and beauty once attracting the likes of Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and more. Check into the Steigenberger Grandhotel Handelshof Leipzig, a former trade fair palace, and prepare to be dazzled. Glamorous rooms overlook the Naschmarkt Square, Goethe’s statue and the Old Town Hall.
Head out for historical romance: visit composers Clara and Robert Schumann’s faithfully preserved home or renew your vows at the floating church VINETA, an art object and church which floats like a boat on Lake Störmthal.
When night falls, enjoy a Riesling with your sweetie on the balcony overlooking the comedic caberet revue at Krystallpalast Varieté Leipzig where music, acrobatics and dance hold you spellbound – a must see.
From Cotton to Culture: Don’t miss Spinnerei – a historic spinning factory and artists’ community showcasing emerging European artists in a magnificent, massive industrial space.
Dresden the Divine
Dresden is a testament to the power of positive thinking: having been leveled in WWII, it rose back to pre-war greatness due to painstaking city planning and sheer force of will.
Steigenberger Hotel de Saxe is a jewel atop the crown of the cobblestone streets of Neumarkt. After a sumptuous breakfast, head next door to the majestic Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) – the soul of the city – offering transformative concerts of sublime beauty. The works of J.S. Bach are performed by a full orchestra.
Enjoy hearty Saxon fare like venison and spaetzle at Coselpalais or Steigenberger Hotel de Saxe and head into the historic city center: Augustus Bridge, Königstrasse, Japanese Palace and Canaletto View. A tour of the Grünes Gewölbe palace boasts
the largest collection of ancient treasures in Europe.
Relax into a romantic paddle steamer boat ride up the Elbe, or ride a cable car to the Weißer Hirsch district and dine at sunset from your perch at the Luisenhof restaurant.
Germany is ready for whatever you have in mind: big city swank, modern and ancient art experiences, hearty-to-haute cuisine, music from bohemian to Bach and back again. Variety, economy and efficiency – Germany is a beautiful bargain and is as pleasing on the eye as it is on the wallet.
This article first appeared in Destination I Do’s Fall/Winter 2014 issue. You can order a copy here.