Germany Tourist Info
Touring Germany, when in Austria is as easy as pie. Not only does it share its language but also much of its Southern border, and culture with Austria. When traveling you’ll also find that the Bavarian
region and Salzburg in Austria are especially intertwined.
Leave from Vienna on a tour boat on the Danube River, wind your way into Southern Germany, link up with the Rhine River through the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, located in Bavaria that joins the the two. From that point, depending on your tour, you may travel south all the way into Switzerland, or north up to Amsterdam. The Rhine is a historical river dotted with villages, castles and vineyards.
Germany is officially known as the Federal Republic of Germany and is the most prominent and financially strongest country in Europe. It has endured many historical movements, such as the Roman Empire, the Nazis, the rule of a good portion of its land by the Soviet Union and the reunification of East and West Germany after the fall of the Iron Curtin and the Berlin Wall. I can still hear President Reagan saying; “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall”.
Despite the toll of WWII, many of its historic castles and villages were left intact. The southern part of Germany and Rhine River Valley are especially
picturesque. Getting around is quite easy, as it has an excellent road “Autobahn” and rail system. This is further facilitated by the fact that while German is the national language, English is the second language, and most Germans can speak it.
Climate wise, Germany tends to have a rainy climate, and you may experience rain throughout the year. The Spring months of April and May are great for flowers and fruits. Tourist type travel is best during the summer months, and the beginning of fall, when sunshine can be abundant. Note, that most Europeans take their vacations (holidays) seriously, and the roads can get pretty well traveled during July and August.
Germany offers lots of outdoor activities, such as swimming, hiking, and cycling during the warmer months. In the winter, there is great skiing and other winter sports, especially in its South Western parts.
The Germans, as is the case in many of the other Europeans, tend to be a little more conservative in their manners and dress code. While comfortable and western casual are the norm, dining out and visiting finer hotels and special events call for a bit more formal wear. When greeting someone be sure to say “Guten Tag”, or “Good Day”, and shake their hand. When departing a “goodbye” or “Auf Wiedersehen” is the norm. When visiting someone’s home, bring some fresh flowers. Also, remember that it’s the custom to refrain from smoking in public areas.
Getting around as a tourist in major cities is made easy with their Welcome Cards, which are city passes that give you unlimited bus rides in the major cities of Germany. Of course car rentals (be sure to purchase insurance) and chauffeured cars are always an option. Expect to pay a VAT of around 16 percent.
Southern Germany is quite picturesque an offers many attractions, one of which is frequently called the nine stars in Southwest Germany and is comprised of the following beautiful cities; Freiburg, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Heilbronn, Mannheim, Pforzheim, Stuttgart, and Ulm. A bit further East there’s Munich in Bavaria and the closest major neighboring city to Austria. In this region you’ll also find Germany’s ski capital – Garmisch and Partenkirchen in Germany’s Bavarian Alps.
In addition to Lufthansa, Germany is serviced by all International and European Airlines. Although Frankfurt and Bwelin-Tegel are two of the major hubs, direct flights to some of the other major locations, such as Düsseldorf are also available.
Once in Germany travel through out Europe and especially the EU countries is greatly facilitated by the excellent rail and road systems. Other connections include; a ferry service that connects you to Norway, Lithuania, Finland, and The Netherlands (Holland). Then, there is the Eurostar railway service which goes to and from Belgium, the UK, and France.
These trips can be booked by telephone. The Inter-rail line offers travelers unlimited second-class trips to 29 European countries. The Eurailpass offers unlimited first class travel to 17 European countries.
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Switzerland Tourist Info
Switzerland, which is to the West of Austria and right in the midst of the Alps,
is a country that is best known for its picturesque and natural landscapes, its watches, clocks and chocolates. It is one of the most tourist visited places in the world, with most going to the Swiss Alps, where skiing, hiking and spas are abundant. You can even stay in an igloo in places St. Moritz and Zermatt, or take a cog rail up to peaks such as Jungfrau or Gornegrat and view the expanse of the Alps and its glaciers. OK, want to do some serious climbing there’s always the Matterhorn. Ready to come down from the heights, stop into one of the Chocolate stores.
Because of its bordering countries; Italian, German, and French are all the official languages here. Having said that, there are English speaking people here as well and the money used is the Swiss Franc. Remember, Switzerland is a neutral country and thus not aligned with the EU or other alliances.
One of the things that Switzerland is known for is its chocolates. It is also known for its clocks, luxury watches and precision instruments. However, the country is also known for the wide variety of cheeses, music boxes, linens, and of course, the Swiss Army knife. Please note that most stores are closed on Mondays. Since 7.6 percent taxes are charged on all items, tipping is optional.
With regards to travel in and out of the country, Swiss airline is its national air carrier. The main International airport is located in Zurich with its many rail connections, which leave every 15 minutes and believe me they are punctual. The winters in Switzerland, because of its location in the Alps can be pretty severe, so traveling by train to other locations is highly recommended. It’s also a great way to relax and enjoy the scenery during any season.
Using a Swiss pass is a great way to see the country and of course, as with the rest of Europe, rail travel to other European countries is hassle free. Roadways connect to Austria, Germany, Italy, and France. If you choose to drive in the winter, be prepared to carry snow tires, and chains but, why not take the rail – relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
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