From the near-empty beaches of Usedom in the north all the way down to the to the seemingly never-ending orchards of Swabia in the south, I was incredibly lucky to have explored so much of Germany last year. As I visited various villages, towns and cities and travelled the remarkably diverse landscapes in between, my interest in regional culinary traditions – which had inspired me to set out in the first place – developed into a much broader interest in getting to know much more of my adopted home.
Over the course of the latter months of 2018, I came up with a wish list for the parts of Germany I’d like to see in 2019. There’s plenty that aren’t included in the version below – I’m dying to get to the island of Rügen for starters, and I’m yet to see any of eastern Germany at all – but I’ve tried to be realistic about how much travelling I can do over the course of the next twelve months, and the destinations below are simply the ones that made the final cut.
Looking at the list, it’s clear that having spent time in several cities last year, including Münster, Stuttgart, Berlin, Hanover (Hannover) and of course my beloved Frankfurt, I’m keen to get out into some green (and blue) open spaces during this next one (though as it happens, I’ll be heading to Berlin again twice in the next six weeks.) I thought I’d share my list here partly because I imagine it might be fun to look back at it one December rolls around, but also because I thought it might be useful for those of you contemplating German travels yourselves. Either way, grouped by federal state, here’s my Germany travel wish list for 2019…
I’ve only been to Bavaria once, at the end of 2017, for a weekend trip that combined a visit to an organic vegetable farm with a side trip to a butcher’s shop and 24 hours in Munich (München). I’d love to see more of Germany’s largest federal state, more specifically its deepest, darkest, most rural and mountainous bits; I’ve heard some fascinating food stories from those parts of the state that I’d like to follow up on. There are two regions in particular that I’d like to visit:
Technically speaking, the Allgäu lies only partly in Bavaria; the region well known for its lush green mountain pastures and wooden hiking huts, some of the country’s most famous castles and lots of good cheese, also stretches across into the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg. In addition, some of the Allgäu Alps, a mountain range that begins in Germany’s Allgäu, continues on down into Austria. I’ve heard so much about the Allgäu region from friends and acquaintances who have all fallen head over heels for it that having not quite made it there last year, it’s at the top of my list for 2019.
I’m also eager to visit Chiemgau, an area in the foothills of the Alps (the Alps proper, not the Allgäu ones) whose hilly countryside, grasslands and forests are prime for skiing and snowshoeing in winter, and glorious hikes in the summer months. The parts of Chiemgau I’d particularly like to visit – my interest once again piqued by stories of unusual regional specialties – are the municipality of Ruhpolding and the area directly surrounding one of the region’s many lakes, Chiemsee.
A sucker for thatched roof houses and pristine white beaches sheltered by grassy dunes, I find almost every photo I’ve seen of Schleswig-Holstein (many of which belong to my friend Liv Hambrett and her North Germany project, Geh Nach Norden) utterly charming. I’m very taken by the thought of visiting Germany’s northernmost state, particularly its coasts and islands (and also the city of Lübeck), and am hoping to take in some of those later this year. However, there’s one part of Schleswig-Holstein I’d like to visit more than any other, and that’s…
The Wadden Sea
The ethereal beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage site the Wadden Sea (Wattenmeer) is the “largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world“, and one that has an extraordinarily rich and diverse ecosystem. It has long held fascination for me and I’d love to have the opportunity to learn more about it, as well as to explore some of its islands. In addition, the days I spent in Usedom last year awakened in me a real fascination with Germany’s fishing traditions, a topic I’ve spent much time researching since, and something I’m very keen to learn more about. Fingers crossed I’m able to do this in 2019.
North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)
I’ve seen a little of the west German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia already on a handful of visits to Cologne (Köln), a day trip to Duisburg and Düsseldorf and on assignment to Münsterland last May for National Geographic Traveller Food. There’s much more I’d like to see of the state, from the Teutoburg Forest (Teutoburger Wald) and its extraordinary sandstone rock formations, the Externsteine, to the Eifel Conversation Park on the border with Belgium. I’m hoping to get to at least get a glimpse of the former in a couple of months, when I finally get to visit…
Having tried and failed three times to make it to the district of Lippe last year, I’m – fingers crossed – finally making it there this Spring. The city of Detmold, once its capital, is particularly pretty, and there’s some excellent hiking in the area, too, however Lippe as a whole seems to offer a rather remarkable number of culinary specialties for such a small area. Potato pancakes, liver sausage and sour milk cheese (to name but three)? I’m coming your way.
I visited three cities in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) last December, and in just one short weekend, felt I got rather a good feel for the place. From a culinary perspective, however, I can see I’ve an awful lot more to learn. Much of what I ate and drank on a day trip to Celle had been grown or reared on the nearby Lüneburg Heath (Lüneburger Heide), and it whetted my appetite to understand more about the region’s produce and culinary offerings. I’d love to spend some time on the heath itself, learning about the moorland sheep that graze there and the bees that collect pollen and nectar from the heather that in late summer, covers the landscape in an extraordinary blanket of bright purple flowers.