I was in Germany a little while ago and spent four days in an area that used to be East Germany. I am so fortunate as to have a friend there who loves the region and shows it off to visitors. So I was a tourist with an excellent guide and want to share some of the beauties and wonders I got to see.
The city of Magdeburg (the capitol of the state of Saxony-Anhalt) is interesting so see. Located at the river Elbe, it has many pretty parks and landmarks. My favorite is the ‘”Hundertwasserhaus”, Check out this website http://www.gruene-zitadelle.de/englisch/ and marvel how funky straight-laced Germans can be.
Further on the tracks of architects, I also visited the Bauhaus (which is more than just a font style) in Dessau, designed by Gropius just after the First World War. His architecture influenced much of modern design, and while I am not a personal fan of the austere functionalism, it is amazing to see it emerge at an era so long ago. Here is another link for more information http://www.bauhaus-dessau.de/english/home.html.
Also in Dessau is the location of an unrivaled landscape of parks, waterways and little chalets. It is even possible to rent historical structures as weekend vacation homes. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and I also have a link for you to check this out http://www.woerlitz-information.de/woerlitz-en/ho/ho_lp.php?&PHPSESSID=760e0f8d3e1195700e01566235bf15c3.
Just the next day, I saw another UNESCO Word Heritage site, the city of Quedlinburg, a medieval village near a low mountain range called ‘Harz’ with the largest collection of half-timbered houses. It has everything a tourist needs: a castle on one side, an abbey on the other, plenty of shops and restaurants in between on cobblestone streets. Here is a short youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRs2Po4kAL4 and more information http://www.germany.travel/en/towns-cities-culture/unesco-world-heritage/quedlinburg-old-town.html.
Other places in close range are the towns of Wittenberg and Eisleben, known for their relationship to Martin Luther who was born and died in the latter and posted his famous proclamations at the church in Wittenberg. There are interesting museums where he was born, lived and died. Some rooms are still there, and I liked the way the museums provided context for his life and work. Here are links to Wittenberg http://www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/wittenberg-luther-house and to Eisleben http://www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/eisleben-luthers-geburtshaus-birth-house and http://www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/eisleben-luthers-sterbehaus-death-house.
And if you are into domes and cathedrals, there is none like the dome of Halberstadt which houses one of the most significant treasures in the world. It has priceless tapestries which date from 1150 AD and are beautifully preserved. You may have seen the beautiful tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn in Paris. Those were woven around 1500. It appears, however, that the people of Halberstadt want to keep this treasure a secret. I could not find an English web link! So here is one in German only http://www.die-domschaetze.de/de/dom-und-domschatz-halberstadt/domschatz.html.
And while I was there, I heard about the Sky Disk of Nebra (which really lent itself to be made into jewelry and thus returned with me to the US). This disk is about 1 foot in diameter and shows different moon phases and stars. It was found about 15 years ago in that area. It is made of bronze and it quite beautiful. What makes this find absolutely astounding is the fact that it has been dated to about 1600 BCE !!!!!! That was a time well before the glory days of Greek and Roman civilizations, while the pharaohs in Egypt started on the Valley of the Kings with King Thutmose I, and we have the first traces of the Mayas. Stonehenge, however, had already been built. Here is a link with images to this extraordinary disk which is now at a museum in the city of Halle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebra_sky_disk.
After having seen all that and more, I want to share this with as many people as possible. Tourism to Germany is often reduced to a trip up and down the river Rhine with a side swipe to Berlin, Munich, Neuschwanstein, Heidelberg and Rothenburg where the tourist is catered to with a production of “Germany for the American” with Lederhosen and all.
I hope I was able to demonstrate that there is more to Germany than that.