Cliché I know, but this year has flown by and I struggle to remember everything I have fitted in these past twelve months. So I thought what better way to reminisce than by writing down and sharing my top ten highlights of living in Germany in 2017. So here goes…
1.The Bavarian Alps – Since I was a small child I’ve been obsessed with seeing the Alps, I think it has something to do with watching the Sound of Music on repeat, seeing Maria float around the hills with the mountain range in the background. On a short break to Salzburg in 2016 I saw the Salzburgh Alps from afar but it wasn’t until this year on a road trip to Bavaria where I truly got to see them in all their glory. As we drove closer towards Meersburg on Bodensee (Lake Konstanz) they were in sight. Everywhere I turned there they were, watching over me. I couldn’t take my eyes of them. You can get lost in thought gazing at the beautiful scenery, it really is like something out of a film.
2. Kung Fu Panda – For a while now I’ve been wanting to see a panda in the flesh, I’m not sure why, I can’t link a film reference to it. I don’t have any plans to head to China anytime soon so it was great news when Zoo Berlin were gifted two pandas by China. Although the zoo isn’t the first place most people would head to when arriving in Berlin, it’s exactly what we did on a visit to the capital in September. I must admit that I have a dilemma when it comes to animals being housed in cages rather than the wild so it was a bittersweet experience. For an inner city zoo, the attraction has an impressive range of animals to view and their environments have been well thought out, particularly where the pandas, Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, are residing. The pandas each have a separate enclosure where they are surrounded by bamboo by the truck load and are clearly well looked after. After spending some time watching their playful antics, I can officially tick it off the bucket list.
3. Latvian sister – Yes, I know Riga is in Latvia, but did you know it is twinned with Bremen? It was pure coincidence that we discovered during a long weekend break in June that our host city is twinned with the Latvian capital. The clue that gave it away was the famous four musicians statue sat proudly on Skārņu Street in the heart of Riga city centre. If you’re unaware of the Brothers Grimm fairytale, four animals travelled to Bremen to make it big as musicians. Spoiler alert – they didn’t make it, but never-the-less the people of Bremen are staunchly proud of this story. The Bremen based artist, Krista Baumgaertel, gifted Riga the statue in 1990. Unlike the Bremen version, this statue has political connotations. Fairytales aside, Riga is a beautiful city with a nearby surprisingly good beach to relax on, it’s definitely worth spending a few days visiting here.
4. Fun time Freimarkt – This year wasn’t the first time I’d been to Freimarkt, the biggest fun fair in Northern Germany, but it definitely was the best. During the three weeks that the fair is in town, we visit numerous time but a Saturday visit this year was by far the most fun. My friends were in town and it was time to show them what Freimarkt had to offer. After taking on some of the rides which are surprisingly breathtaking, bier was on the mind to steady the nerves. We knew getting in to the traditional beer hall would be a challenge due to its popularity but once we made it in, there were be endless hours of laughter mixed with bier and dancing to Schlager music.
5. It’s not all Sauerkraut – Many of our friends and family have come to visit us this year expecting to eat nothing but Bratwurst, Schnitzel and Pretzels but it’s been a delight to prove to them that Germany has much more to offer. Just in a small city like Bremen there are lots of places to sample, This year we’ve discovered many great restaurants from Nayla, a Syrisch restaurant, to Kamayan, which offers Nepalesische to Cream Lovers, which I am a big fan of for brunch.
6. Come on Werder Bremen – I’m not the biggest football fan despite being British but I’ve enjoyed two separate days this year at the Weser Stadium courtesy of Werder Bremen, our local team. As Bremen isn’t the biggest city, you certainly know when it’s match day as the fans flood the streets and bring a great atmosphere that all the family can enjoy.
7. Thrill seeking in the south – In May we visited Europa Park, the biggest theme
park in Germany for the first time. I’m going to share more about my day at Europa park in the new year so keep an eye for that if you’re planning a visit. The park offers something for everyone, there’s a number of high-speed terrifying rides for the thrill seekers through to entertaining shows suitable for all the family. Our mid-week visit meant we could sample most of the rides at least once due to short fast-moving queues and efficient staff – eight hours of adrenaline filled fun, fantastic.
8. Bier trinken – Before moving to Germany I didn’t touch a drop of beer. How that has changed as this year I took part in two brewery tours, one in Dusselfdorf and the other at the Beck’s in Bremen. If I had to choose which was the best, the Beck’s tour wins. Myself, my partner and my parents went along to the English-speaking tour and it was full of facts, but more importantly full of beer. For only 12 euros, it includes at least 5 different Becks beers of your choice to sample, plus some much-needed Pretzels.
9. If you haven’t rode a Rodelbahn you haven’t lived. What is a Rodelbahn? It’s just like a theme park ride but you’re in control of the brakes. What could go wrong?! Living in the flats of Northern Germany I wasn’t accustom to these rides until we visited the mountainous south. We visited Alpsee Bergwelt, the longest Rodelbahn in Germany, which takes almost 7 minutes to get to the finish line, longer if you go heavy on the brakes like me. When the operator tells you the track is slippy just before you set off, it’s very reassuring!
10. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – If this wasn’t a big enough clue, seeing Neuschwanstein Castle was a huge highlight of 2017. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a childhood favourite film ( I think I live my life by the movies) and after repeatedly seeing the magic car flying over the Schloss on screen, I was super excited to see it in real life. When planning our road trip to the south, this was the number one thing I was looking forward to. I hate to be such a typical tourist but there was no way we would be staying in Füssen and not going to see it. We purchased a ticket that permitted us to view inside King Ludwig’s former home, which I would recommend in order to find out more about the history of the attraction. Also, to get that iconic shot of the castle, you need to head to Marienbrücke but be warned, you’ll need to jostle with your fellow tourists who also want that Disney perfect picture.
That’s my top ten experiences complete and it’s making me excited for what 2018 has in store for us. What are your 2017 highlights? I’d love to hear about places you would recommend visiting.
– Sarah E