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The Great Outdoors
The German Seacoast
Germany has over 2,300 km of coastal line on the shores of the North Sea in the west and the Baltic Sea in the east. Lots of lovely islands belong to German territory. Their beaches are beautiful, but bad weather can spoil your vacation.
If beach vacations mean palm trees and tropical waters to you, you’re in the wrong place. Summer temperatures at the German coast often seem lower than they actually are, due to strong winds. But if you like maritime sports, you will find plenty of opportunities for windsurfing, kite-surfing, and catamaran sailing.
If you don’t live too far from the coast, you do not need to plan ahead and can simply wait for the right weather. To avoid one particular disappointment: When you arrive at the North Sea and all you see is mud, don’t be surprised. Tidal variations are extreme, and the long sand beaches are very flat. The sea draws back, up to several kilometers, allowing easy passage between some islands, only to return twelve hours later.
But don’t consider an extended walk on the uncovered seabed (Wattenmeer) without a guide! Barefoot hikes through the mud of the “Wadden Sea” can be a memorable experience, but they can be fatal if you do not know what you’re doing. Moreover, only a local guide can explain this unique natural habitat to you.
Some popular destinations to explore the tidal lands are covered on these tourist information sites:
Down by the Riverside: Cycling in Germany
The country’s many rivers offer great opportunities for cycling in Germany. Such trips are not as exhausting as cycling in Germany’s mountains, but you can still spot some gorgeous scenery. There are numerous bicycle trails along German rivers, with a complete absence of any car traffic whatsoever.
You can take your bicycle with you on regional trains in Germany for a few Euros extra. However, it may be more comfortable to rent a bike for a day, saving you the hassle and cost of transporting it. A number of towns near popular routes for cycling in Germany have bike rentals available at local train stations. They may also have bags, helmets, maps, and other gear available.
Some of the best-known routes for cycling in Germany pass through the Altmühl Valley, alongside the Danube or the River Moselle in the Rhine region, to only name a few. The Spreewald region, halfway between Berlin and Dresden, is a unique biotope of canals.
Wherever you are staying, there will probably be an area suitable for cycling in Germany nearby. You can also combine a bike tour with some sightseeing in historical towns along the way. All in all, cycling in Germany is a great way of getting to know both the scenery as well as historical landmarks. Guided boat tours on Germany’s major rivers are available, too.
Hiking in Germany’s Forests
If you need a break from the urban rat race, a visit to one of Germany’s forests is the perfect occasion. National parks in some larger forests are spacious enough to provide plenty of peace and quiet. If you choose a less popular trail, you’ll meet only a few other people while hiking in Germany. Other recreational areas may be rather crowded in summer, though.
The Black Forest with its national park in Baden-Württemberg is probably Germany’s most famous forest. It is great for cycling and hiking in Germany, and for cross-country skiing in winter. The Bavarian Forest is smaller, but more mountainous than the Black Forest. It became Germany’s first national park in 1970. Just like the Black Forest, it is an official national heritage site.
Paths and trails for hiking in Germany are usually well kept. Some national parks offer free guided tours, too. Many areas include moors and lakes, and the woods forests are often dark and humid with a rich fauna. They are highly sensitive biotopes for rare birds, such as owls and woodpeckers, and lots of other animals.
Wolves and wild cats are reported occasionally. However, they usually shy away from human beings and are not considered dangerous. Wild boars are more common. They often search the trash left by visitors for edibles. If you see any boars while hiking in Germany, don’t approach them, especially if they are mothers with their young. They may become aggressive.
Please also see our article on tick-born diseases in Europe for more information.
Hiking in Germany’s Mountains
Germany has far more mountains than just the Alps. However, the Alps have the highest peaks and the longest mountain range. Therefore they are best-known abroad, although Germany shares only a small part with Austria and Switzerland. The German Alps are neither as high as the French, the Swiss, or Austrian mountains, the Zugspitze being the highest mountain with “only” 2,963 meters.
Two lesser-known mountain ranges are the Harz in Germany’s heartland and the Erzgebirge in Saxony. Another interesting destination is the Elbsandsteingebirge, also called Saxony’s Switzerland, south-east of Dresden. It is famous for its sandstone formations that were created over a period of 100 million years.
Hiking tours for all skill levels as well as free-climbing opportunities are available there. Boat excursions on the River Elbe are a less strenuous alternative to enjoy the scenery. The official website of the Tourist Information for Saxon Switzerland gives you a first impression of this beautiful region.
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