Germany. The heart of Europe and our spiritual homeland. It's not all Bier and Bratwurst though! The country boasts some of the prettiest villages, most impressive rivers and deep dark forests on the continent. From the beautiful quiet islands of Rügen and Usedom on the North Coast to the industrial Ruhr area or the mountains of Bavaria, there is something to cater for all interests. Walking around Berlin, you are aware of how recent Germany's history is with traces of the wall that used to separate East from West still evident and the route it took marked through the city.
Throughout the country, you may be amazed by how many medieval towns survived the war. The truth is that most didn't but the people rebuilt their homes brick by brick - perhaps Dresden is the most famous example of this. It's a pity Coventry didn't follow suit. There is a definite North-South divide, so it's well worth taking a few weeks for a longer trip - the trains tend to run on time and are easy to use or driving a car is a pleasure so it is easy to explore.
People always ask why we love Germany - it is certainly a hidden treasure in our view. The scenery is stunning, the capital city has a grandeur absent in Switzerland and the people, in our experience, are very friendly, especially if you learn a few words - Danke, Gutentag and noch ein Bier bitte should see you through a trip!
Germany sits in the middle of the european continent and, as such, has hot summers, cold winters and plenty of rain. In January, when the icy wind sweeps across Berlin, you really feel how exposed to Siberia the city is (there are no mountains until you get to the Urals). Yet, in summer, there may be temperatures of 30-35 C for weeks at a time. There tends to be less rain than in the UK too - unless you visit Hamburg, where it rains, on average, 1 day in 3.
In mid-Summer, it can be uncomfortably sticky in the cities and it is a welcome (and popular) relief to spend a weekend at the coast or in the mountains. In Winter, snow is a likelihood - even in the cities. It is not unusual to have up to a foot of ice on the pavements in Berlin with snow covering from November to March. However, when Spring comes, the Tiergarten bursts into life and the harsh months that have just passed are soon all but forgotten.
Our recommendation if visiting Germany? Don't forget your sunblock, a raincoat or umbrella, whenever you go. Be prepared for sunny T-shirt weather or cold winds in the North East.
As with most of Europe, the currency of Germany is the Euro. Credit cards are accepted in major cities, but not as widely as in Switzerland or the UK. Be aware that it is generally frowned upon to use plastic for small purchases (under €100). Hotels are good value with 5* properties in Berlin available for around the €130-160/night mark, although the Adlon is a little more than this.
As a Schengen-member state, travel from most of Europe in very easy with no passport checks. Most of the Western world can enter Schengen without a visa, including nationals of the USA, most of S America, Australia and Japan. Nationals of Africa, India, Russian and most Middle-Eastern countries require a visa, which costs €60.