“So, where are you off to this year?” a friend of mine asked me over a cup of coffee in Berlin recently.
My answer: “Germany.”
“No, I mean, I’m sure you’re planning on traveling a bit this year, right?”
“Yeah, I’ll travel Germany. I’ve never really been there before.” I said.
Confusion is written all over her face.
Not an unusual response, I’ve discovered, when I tell people that my travel plans include Cologne instead of Cancún.
Why should an actual German explore Germany?
There are so many reasons, lots of them hidden in plain sight so that they’re easily overlooked, even by Germans themselves. But lucky for you, I’ve broken down why you need to visit Germany in just eight simple reasons.
1. Great value for money
In Germany, a bottle of water from the grocery store costs only 30 cents and a beer, 60 cents. Dinner at a good restaurant starts at just 10€. Suffice it to say that you’re usually sure to get good quality at affordable prices not just for food, but for almost anything you need for daily use! When compared to other destinations with similar living standards, you’ll get by in Germany cheaper than almost anywhere else.
With the exception of Poland and the Czech Republic, the cost of living in all neighboring countries is higher than in Germany. In Switzerland, for example, you have to pay on average more than 50 % more than here; in the Netherlands or France, the cost of living is about 10% higher.
Travel to: Elbe
I mean sure, who doesn’t love getting an amazing dinner in Thailand for just 4€ and a comfortable hotel room for between 5€ and 10€? Just remember that you need to first consider that in order to get these amazing prices, you’ll be set back at least 600€ for a flight, right off the top.
See Also: 8 Things To Do In Thailand For Under $8
2. The superb infrastructure
When I speak with any foreigner about traveling through Germany I often hear them rave about our incredibly well-developed railway system, which reaches all the way to the most remote mountain village. They are amazed by the quiet speed of our ICE trains and even the punctuality of the Deutsche Bahn. To appreciate why travellers would be especially impressed with the Deutsche Bahn you have to know that it’s almost a ritual of German travelers to complain about the Bahn being late. But in fact, 95% of the trains in Germany run on time (give or take five minutes). While this might not sound surprising to a non-German, to a German it does!
Although traveling by train is indeed somewhat expensive, it’s fast, convenient, and comfortable which makes it well-worth the cost. For example, you can go from Hamburg to Munich in just 5 hours and 42 minutes (800km/500 miles). Anyone who doesn’t book early enough to get a discount ticket and thinks 100€ is too expensive for a one-way trip still has a lot of great alternative options for getting from A to B.
Consider taking a long-distance bus with stops in all major cities. Get from Hamburg to Munich, for example, in 11 hours starting from just 15€. Seriously, there are some incredible bargains out there. I’ve travelled from Stuttgart to Cologne (667 km) before for just 1.50€!
I recommend visiting www.busradar.com to compare all available bus lines. You can also book train tickets here, often at cheaper prices than those found on the DB website.
And last but certainly not least: “Mitfahrgelegenheit”, or ridesharing with BlaBlaCar is yet another great option for travel within the county. I’ve used this regularly for the past 10 years and have had nothing but good things to say about it – both as a driver and a passenger. Let’s take our standard Hamburg-Munich route, for example: with ridesharing, you’re looking at just 30-40€ and 7 to 8 hours of travel. Nice conversations with usually very friendly co-passengers are included at no extra cost.
3. A diverse landscape
Baltic Sea, Zugspitze, Black Forest, Ruhr Valley. Lake Constance, Lower Rhine, Harz Mountains. The list is long, the landscape varied. But one thing is certain: Germany’s landscape is colorful, diverse, and more often than not absolutely stunning.
4. The Safety
I’ve been to many places abroad where locals recommended I take a taxi after nightfall. If someone were to ask me if that’s also a necessary precaution in Münster, my hometown of choice, I’d say:
“Here, you can walk down the street buck naked with a transparent bag full of cash and the worst thing that could happen to you would likely involve getting hit by drunk cyclist.”
Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration and not necessarily true for every corner of Germany, but: Germany is a very safe travel destination.
The Global Peace Index 2016 listed Germany as one of the safest countries in the world – even before Norway! Certainly no surprise, but for the most anxious traveler definitely an incentive to vacation here.
5. The perfect location
Poland, Czech Republic, Austria. Switzerland, France, Luxembourg. Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark; 9 borders, 9 options for exciting European excursions in addition to your romp around Germany.
Of course, Germany itself has plenty to offer. But for those who want a few more stamps in their passport, Germany is an ideal starting point for seeing a lot of Europe.
A little fun fact: Did you know that Brazil and California are only one step away from Hamburg? No? Then go visit the tiny villages called “Brasilien” and “Kalifornien” at the German Baltic Sea Coast for a round of stand-up paddling or kite-surfing.
6. A change in perspective
This is for Germans like me: people spend surprisingly little time thinking about things they already know or things they think they already know.
But no matter if you’re from Germany, have lived in Germany or vacationed here in the past, you will never regret your decision to rediscover this beautiful country. If you’re open to it, you’ll see the country you thought you knew with completely new eyes and enjoy completely new adventures.
While learning to see familiar things from a different perspective is never easy, it’s definitely exciting and certainly rewarding.
7. The Reinheitsgebot (or “German Purity Law”)
OK, so I’ve tried to avoid clichés like the Autobahn, bratwurst, and Oktoberfest, but there’s one I simply can’t in good conscious ignore: our beer.
Anyone who has ever had to choke down an Australian Foster’s (sorry, mates) or a Vietnamese Bia Hoi knows that German beer has more than earned the stellar reputation it has all around the world.
Pilsner, wheat beer or Koelsch, the tastes may be different but the probability of having a quality beer in your hand is pretty big thanks to the German Purity Law (which is celebrating its 500th anniversary in 2016). There are over 7,500 varieties waiting to be tried. Prost!
See Also: Oktoberfest Parties Around The World
8. Last but not least: the Germans
What defines a country more than its people?
Even though we like to joke about typical German stereotypes, Germans are not as stuffy and humourless as their reputation would have you believe. Not if you take the first step, that is. After hitchhiking all over Latin America I returned and tried my same open-minded approach in Germany. And guess what? The people were just as helpful as they were abroad!
Give it a try: Instead of asking Google, why not just ask someone on the street how to get where you want to go? You’ll discover that people are friendly, welcoming and happy to offer advice.
Abroad, German travellers also enjoy an image that’s as nice and sparkly as their freshly washed Audis. During my many long-haul travels, I couldn’t help but notice that, as a German, I always received a very warm welcome. After all, Germany wasn’t voted most popular country in the world in a certain BBC-poll for nothing!
So what are you waiting for?