the neighboring cities of San Francisco and San Diego, Los Angeles did not
quite hold onto the “port city” vibe. And so the idea of the LA traveler is not
quite on the surface. For a metropolis, we are not viewed as a globetrotting
bunch. But if you sit outside for two minutes, you’ll pick up on airplanes constantly
passing overhead. Residents are perpetually flying in and out, quite often to
point was brought to my attention during a presentation by the German National
Tourist Board. Los Angeles has a huge undercurrent of travel and it really
should be a bigger part of our atmosphere. You don’t often hear people jogging
through Runyon Canyon chatting about our international sister cities—but they
should. As a city, we like to travel, explore and socialize. And if we’re going
to, as the German National Tourist Board encouraged, why not travel, explore
and socialize in Germany?
are a few obvious reasons why a trip to Germany is a hassle-free vacation spot.
First of all, English is a Germanic language, so that barrier works more as a
lingual stepping stone if anything. Gastronomically speaking, Los Angeles
residents will not have a difficult time transitioning from Pink’s hot dogs and
microbreweries to bratwurst and...well, microbreweries.
then there’s the historical aspect of German travel that not only facilitates
tourism but encourages it. Angelenos are a more or less romantic lot (this is
the city of dreams, after all) and the fact that history is so celebrated in
German tourism makes for an itinerary that should not be missed. From Mozart’s
old concert halls in Augsburg to the Merchant’s Bridge in Erfurt to Gutenberg’s
original printing press in Mainz, there’s not just a sense of the human story
but the opportunity to participate in it.
presentation that I attended, hosted by Wibke Carter and Björn Rudek,
emphasized the allure of historic Germany. And really, there’s no better time
to emphasize. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Grimm Brothers’
tales, a collection of stories that have encapsulated the imaginations of people
both young and old for the last two centuries. Why sit at home watching NBC
when you can walk the 373-mile German Fairytale Route, which consists of
Grimm-inspired decorations, activities and transformed towns?
year 2013 also marks the 200th birthday of Richard Wagner, one of the most
beloved figures in music. Between July 25th and August 28th, the cities of
Bayreuth and Leipzig will be hosting Wagner’s operas in their breathtakingly
glamorous opera houses. For all the architecture fans, there will be a path
from Weimar to Chemnitz celebrating the work of modern architect Henry van de
Velde, who established the Grand-Ducal School of Arts and Crafts. And, for that slim minority of cinephiles in
Los Angeles, a trip to Germany this year would not be complete without poking
your head in Berlin’s 63rd International Film Festival. But as the festival
runs from the 7th to the 17th of February, you would probably have to start
packing your bags by the end of this sentence.
course, Germany’s romantic (and sometimes Roman) history is not limited to just
a few figures and festivals. It’s the cities, the food and the everyday culture
you watch from the corner bakery. Even if you packed away a year’s worth of
clothes and calling cards, experiencing all of Germany’s history first-hand would
be an incredibly daunting task. Fortunately, the German National Tourist Board
has put together a list of must-see, each showcasing and celebrating a unique
element of German history.
tour starts with Ausburg in the
south of Germany. Known as the Renaissance City, Ausburg sports classic opera
houses and continues a legacy of fine arts. Further north is Erfurt, the home of Martin Luther. In
the heart of Germany, this city has never left its medieval magic, and is home
to one of the oldest trade bridges as well as a Disney-esque Cathedral square. Freiburg, known as the Sunshine Town,
stands at the entrance to the Black Forest and offers incredible natural vistas
for the photographically inclined. Heidelberg
allows for a romantic stop during a tour of Germany and, due to the university
foot-traffic, it is one of the most visited places in Europe.
the tour is Koblenz, a city on the
Rhine and Moselle. Just off the banks of the Rhine is Ehrenbreitstein Fortress,
which boasts incredible views of the surrounding area. Mainz is Germany’s wine capital and, while the city does highlight
its deep history, the atmosphere is vibrant and alive thanks to the youthful
community of this college town. Cyclists (who are put at a great disadvantage
in Los Angeles) can stretch their legs in Münster,
where bikes are the main mode of transportation. Osnabrück mirrors Münster’s peaceful atmosphere with several
museums dedicated to the city’s legacy of national treaties.
Potsdam is next on the
list with a collection of international cultures that inspired Björn to describe
the city to me as the “Disneyland of Germany.” For a nice beach-side getaway, Rostock is your next stop. It is also
home to a clock built in 1472, offering an authentic symbol of history. Trier was the former capital of the
Western Roman Empire and the city is filled with landmarks and ancient
amphitheaters. Wiesbaden is the
penultimate stop on the list, a real vacation city featuring naturally-occurring
hot springs, charming villas and lots of wine. Last but not least, Würzburg is a wonderful city for any Francophile,
perfectly encapsulating the essence of the German visit with its baroque
buildings, brimming with young college students.
you go through the list, you’ll start to see how Germany is the perfect place
to visit for Los Angeles residents. LA has always been criticized as a sprawl, a
mishmash of suburbs and cities, a messy melting pot of culture and traffic. But
that’s what makes this city spectacular—there’s so much going on. And that
lifestyle maps perfectly over to Germany. Each city has its own history,
culture and experience.
speaking, not all of us can travel through 13 cities and give them each a just
visit. So I asked Björn how a Los Angeles resident specifically should plan a
trip to Germany and which cities they should go out of their way to visit, a
question he compared to choosing between his children. But after a bit of
contemplation, he suggested mixing the active “young” cities like Münster or
Berlin with historical highlights like Trier or Rostock.
the question myself, it is extremely difficult to decide which cities to visit.
Luckily, the German National Tourism Board (GNTB) provides several resources to
research Germany, its cities and your future visit. The GNTB has put together
two websites (www.germany.travel and www.historicgermany.com), where you can
navigate Germany’s cultural sites and cities. They also have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/historicgermany)
and, if you really want minute-by-minute updates on German tourism, a Twitter
be completely honest, before the presentation, I had not seriously considered
Germany as a travel destination. After the presentation, I can think of no
better place. With so many cities, each with their incredible and unique
histories that involve the arts, food and wine, it sounds like nothing short of
a life-changing trip, especially for someone from these parts. If Los Angeles
is the city of dreams, Germany is the land of fantasy—and an ideal destination
for the LA globe-trotter.