9 OF THE BEST Germany with a twist
Roll up to ride the Rocky Mountaineer Wiltshire weekend’s Longleat on thrills It’s not all oompah bands, lederhosen, and Black Forest Gateau. Germany is full of surprises . . .
1 HAMBURG’S ROCK ’N’ ROLL FISH MARKET Free This unsung city’s cover as a great weekend break destination has been blown of late, thanks to the extraordinary new Elbphilharmonie concert hall which looms over the docks. Along the shore, however, is a weekly event which gets little fanfare: the Sunday morning fish market, a sort of shop ’n’ rock festival, which starts at dawn every Sabbath. The market building itself hosts the heavy metal, the rock ’n’ roll and the beer-assisted breakfasts, while all around it sprawls the market proper. The music is good, and many of the stall-holders perform too, including Banana Fred (speciality: hurling fruit) and Eely Dieter (speciality: hurling abuse). It’s all finished by 9.30am, whereupon the exhausted Cinderellas drift away, clutching impulse purchases of greasy eels. hamburg.com/sights/fish-market
2 WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL COAL MINE Entry €8 The Ruhr region, with cities such as Essen, Dortmund and Duisburg, was Germany’s industrial heartland, but globalisation has changed that, and many of its giant institutions have been re-purposed: the gasometer at Oberhausen has become an exhibition space, and the blast furnace at Duisburg-nord has become a ‘landscape park’. Best of all is Essen’s Zeche Zollverein, once the world’s largest coal mine, which has been listed by UNESCO for its Bauhaus design and the delicacy of its brickwork, and attracts a million visitors a year.
Today there’s a swimming pool in the coking section, a trendy restaurant in the former power plant, plus a design museum and a big dipper. zollverein.de
3 APPLEWINE IN FRANKFURT €3.10 per half litre There’s another side to the sleek, sterile financial capital of Germany. Downtown, so-called Bankfurt, is a place of scurrying suits, but head south across the river and things begin to loosen up. Here in the working class district of Sachsenhausen, the focus of social life is a nest of pedestrian alleys a couple of blocks inland, particularly Paradiesgasse and Rittergasse, lined with applewine taverns. Their offering is simple: customers drink locally-made apfelwein (a tart cider which packs a punch) seated at sociable long tables, and eat
traditional food such as Handkäs mit musik, a sour milk cheese drowned in vinegar and chopped onions and served with bread. It all gets pretty lively on Friday and Saturday nights. struwwelpeter-frankfurt.de
4 DIY GRAND PRIX AT THE NÜRBURGRING €25 for one circuit
Germany is a paradise for petrolheads, famous for its car makers, for speed-limit-free autobahns, and for opening up its race circuit to all comers in their own cars. The Nürburgring, in the Eifel region near Cologne, has its Formula One circuit and its original 14-mile Nordschleife, which drapes itself in sinuous loops around the Eifel’s forested slopes. The 73 right-angled bends of this original track were too much for professional drivers, who boycotted it after Nikki Lauda’s 1975 accident. Since then the “Green Hell” (Jackie Stewart’s description) has become a place for the public to unleash their inner Audi. You will be warned before you set out that you have to pay for any damage to crash barriers, but if you find yourself hauling out the credit card, you should be pleased you’re still alive. The schedule for public circuits is posted on greenhelldriving.nuerburgring.de
5 HOMEBREW HEAVEN IN BAVARIA €3.80 a litre There are a handful of villages in the Oberpfalz region of eastern Bavaria where the homebrew is official. It’s called Zoigl beer, and is made by individual households, in village brewhouses. Having made his brew, the householder takes it home, hoists the Zoigl star and throws open his doors to all comers until it’s all gone. It’s a convivial experience, with very good, cheap beer and simple food. The key villages involved are Windischeschenbach (zoiglbier.de/brauhaeuser/ windischeschenbach) and Neuhaus, and a Zoigl calendar reveals which Zoiglstube (Zoigl bar) is open. Stay in Hotel Zum Waldnaabtal (waldnaabtal-hotel.de) in Neuhaus. Rooms from €60.
6 zoiglinfo.de PADDLESTEAMER UP THE ELBE From €7.50 Famously carpet-bombed in World War II, today the city of Dresden is like a porcelain vase carefully pieced back together. The riverfront, with spires, belltowers and boats that once earned the city the title of the Florence of the Elbe, is back as it was in the days when Canaletto painted it. Serving the waterfront is the oldest and largest fleet of paddlesteamers in the world. In the
summer they do trips upriver to Saxon Switzerland, past remarkable castles and vineyards. Timetables are on saechsische-dampfschiffahrt.de
7 HAMELIN’S PIED PIPER PLAY Free It’s not often a plague of rodents followed by a mass child abduction becomes a tourist attraction, but Hamelin in Lower Saxony has made a virtue out of its Pied Piper story. Every Sunday, from May to September, 80 townspeople join in a public re-enactment of the fairytale. It’s free to attend, but the town’s bakeries are infested with rats (made of bread, chocolate or cake) and restaurants offer rats’ tails (pork, sliced thin) and Rattenkiller cocktails. hameln.de/en
8 SEABED HIKING TO NEUWERK Ferry €44.50 return The Waddensee off Germany’s North Sea coast is very shallow, and in spring the water goes out an astonishing 15km. That means the low-lying grassy island of Neuwerk completely dries out. It is a tradition to make the 7km crossing of the sandy seabed from island to mainland on foot or by horse and cart, on a route marked with twigs and dotted with safety cages for anyone caught by the returning tide. Neuwerk ferries depart from Cuxhaven, cassen-eils.de
9 SLEEP ON A BALTIC BEACH From €60 per night The white sand beaches of Germany’s Baltic Coast look appealing, but are very windy. So the Germans hire out Strandkorbs, double beach chairs, to shelter you from the wind for €8 a day. They also offer sleeper Strandkorbs, double beds with hoods, popular on the beaches of Schleswig-holstein. From €60 per night. ostsee-schleswig-holstein.de/ strandschlafen-ostsee.html
1 Heavy metal with your breakfast in Hamburg 3 Take your pick of the many applewine inns in Frankfurt
2 Essen coal mine is deeply impressive
6 Enjoy a trip up the Elbe from Dresden
4 The Green Hell track is heaven for drivers 5 The Zoigl star means stop here for the beer
7 He who plays the piper in Hamelin’s fairytale