Germany

Background: Germany is my home country and thus for me the place where traveling and getting around is easiest. It is safe and not too expensive, and there are some nice outdoor activities.

Accommodation: Couchsurfing and AirBnB are quite popular within the cities and towns. I found it a bit harder to couchsurf in more rural areas (but seriously, how rural can we get in Germany? There’ll always be a town somewhere). There are lots of Couchsurfing meetings and events going on in the cities, too. When I was biking along the Rhine river in 2012 together with my room mate, we couch surfed even in small towns and had a great time. Hostels or smaller hotels are also affordable, and the atmosphere in big city hostels is usually very international and sprightly. Camping is only allowed on campsites, which cost about 5-15 Euros for a small tent per night. Those campsites are usually well appointed (bathrooms, showers, kitchen). Many Germans love to camp and some might even live in their camper during summer. We always prefer camp sites that do not primarily host caravans but also hikers or travelers by canoe, depending on the region. 

IMG_2731

Transportation: Car sharing is mainly organized via “mitfahrgelegenheit” on the internet and is one of
the cheapest ways to get around (you can try hitch hiking if you got time, it usually works alright). However, buses have become very popular the past years and they’re also very inexpensive (e.g. about 20 Euros from Cologne to Berlin; or 10 Euros from Cologne to Munich). You can check Flixbus or Postbus on the internet. Traveling by train is usually the fastest and most comfortable, but also the most expensive option. However, there are some promo tickets available especially if you book ahead of time, so you can actually get around by train fairly inexpensive, if you’re lucky. Within cities, short-distance traffic (buses, trams, subways) are quite reliable (the bigger the city, the better the connections of course), but you could also take a bike (often, rented bikes are available from train stations- you pay via your cell phone and just leave the bike wherever you want). Taking taxis is less common for young people, but you might want to use one in smaller cities at night. They are, of course, not inexpensive, yet the prices seem to be fair and transparent.

Safety: To me, Germany seems to be one of the safest countries I have been to. Of course, this could be because it is my home country and I know how to get around. Apart from the fact that there are no dangerous animals and usually no dangerous natural disasters, I personally have never been pick pocketed, robbed, or hurt in any way, but of course you need to be a bit careful in train or subway stations or in dodgy neighborhoods (although these “dodgy” neighborhoods are still many times less dodgy than those in the US, for example). On New Years Eve 2015/16, there have been many incidents of sexual harassment and thievery near Cologne Central Station. Although it has to be taken seriously, I assume that these things usually don’t happen on a large scale. I personally do not feel unsafe at all, neither at night, nor near the train station, and solo female traveling is no problem at all.

IMG_2834Food & Drink: German food is often hearty and includes often meat. You’ll get typical german dishes like Sauerkraut, Schnitzel, roast, Bratwurst or Currywurst, potato dumplings, potato pancakes and red cabbage in local restaurants and breweries, but to be honest, we don’t cook Sauerkraut and roast every day. Maybe on sundays, or for holidays. There is plenty more great food apart from these stereotypical german meals. It is true, though, that we do like potatoes! And bread. We love bread. We could live off bread. Real bread. It’s thick, nutritious, and tasty, and has got nothing to do with the white bread (or even “german-style-bread”). Germans love to eat sandwiches (Butterbrot) for dinner and as a second breakfast at school or work. Perfect for a bread dinner is, of course, beer, and each region has got its own special beer. Drinking on the streets, by the way, is okay, especially on (local) holidays like Karneval, neighborhood festivals or on New Year’s. There are also some nice wine regions in Germany, and mulled wine (Glühwein) is a specialty for christmas. The official drinking age for beer, as you will probably know, is 16 (18 for wine and spirit). Which does not mean that Germans get hammered at each occasion- a glass of wine or beer is often just part of a nice dinner or gathering, or even the evening after work. What I enjoy most about food in Germany is probably the great variety of street food especially in towns and cities: Kebab and falafel places are everywhere, french fries are an all-time-favorite and even salads, wraps and bagels to go are easy to find. Apparently, Germans love italian and chinese food, so there are quite many international restaurants as well.  

IMG_2840

Hiking & Outdoor tips: The low mountain ranges in Germany (e.g. Eifel, Taunus, Harz, Siebengebirge, Sauerland) are great and popular for effortless hiking. The Eifel is even a volcanic region- very interesting! About one third of Germany is forested– being home to many different tree and animal species, also birds of prey, deer, boars, and even wolves. Therefor, nature reserves are quiet big and as a hiker, you will have to stay on the trail and – of course- leave no traces. Getting to nice hiking trails can sometimes be a bit challenging if you don’t have a car- but buses usually go somewhere close. The internet is your best friend- routes are all mapped out and explained. The coastal area (North Sea and Baltic Sea) is beautiful, too, but rather interesting for horse riding, going for walks, or water sports (e.g. windsurfing or sailing). Canoeing or kayaking is popular in the lake areas, e.g. in Mecklenburg. Canoe rental is inexpensive, and campsites are all around!

Read more blog posts about Germany:

Berlin, you’re just so wonderful

Peace. A report from the refugee hub in Köln

The Spark in My Bonfire Heart