Germany is full of unusual and cool things to do. No matter what time of year you visit this amazing country, you will find something that makes you want to return again and again. From local festivals to yearly holidays, the Germans do it up right! You will enjoy their joie de vivre and will want to join right in!
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Traveling in Germany gives you a great opportunity to have fun in unique ways that you may never have thought of before. Everyone knows that there are plenty of beautiful castles, amazing German food dishes, a plethora of World War II sites, world heritage sites, and excellent museums. However, not many people have heard of these things that we think everyone should experience at least once.
From prom queen cows to secret passages in the old Tempelhof Airport of Berlin, we're sure you'll find some activities you'll want to do with your family while visiting this amazing country.
Every fall in Bavaria (and other Alpine countries in Europe), towns celebrate the cows coming home from their summer pastures.
For many of us, this is a brand new concept. In the U.S., farmers have their land, and the cows are always in the same pastures, all year long.
However in the Alps, the mountain pastures, which are only accessible for a few months per year, have the greenest, sweetest grass. Traditionally, farmers will take their entire herd up the mountains with a few caretakers and milkers. Come fall, they will go retrieve them and take them to the barn where they'll spend the winter.
Bavarian towns where this tradition is kept alive turn this event into a real celebration. Each town does things a little differently, but overall there will be a festival tent with local specialties on offer and of course some good German beer.
The farmers and their families parade the cows, sometimes decorated with greenery and colorful flowers, all the way from the bottom of the mountain to the barns. People line the streets to see the prom queen cows and then everyone enjoys the fest tent.
If you happen to be traveling in Germany during the month of September or early October, make this part of your itinerary. It's fun for everyone from young children on up and it's basically free of charge.
Traveling is often about the new foods that you can try, and some cuisines are more pleasing to our American palates than others. German food just happens to be one of those cuisines.
Germany has mastered the art of home cooking and comfort food. With a wetter, colder climate much of the year, I love a good plate of piping hot yumminess, and one of the best things to eat is yep...German sausage.
It's these types of foods that we want to learn to make and then bring home some great local knowledge. Therefore, we decided to learn how to make Germany's iconic food, the sausage or "wurst."
We spent the better part of a day making bratwurst in a butcher's shop in Nuremberg. You might know that Nuremberg sausages are quite famous and have been for centuries, so it was an easy choice to find out all about how to make bratwurst from a working butcher in the Nuremberg region.
From actually doing a bit of butchering ourselves, to grinding the meat, adding spices, encasing them, trying our wares, we had a blast making and eating bratwurst in so many ways. We had it the traditional way and even as ice cream.
This is an experience that is really great for people interested in fantastic food lessons from the age of 14 and up. However, I must warn you. If raw meat is a problem, this particular lesson is not for you.
The Ludwigsburg Pumpkin festival is also held in fall, when the pumpkins cannot possibly grow any larger.
Each year, the festival picks a new theme, and the visitors pay to walk around and enjoy all the sculptures made from all kinds of pumpkins. I was amazed at what the artists can do.
Of course while you are there, you can go to the exhibit and learn about all kinds of pumpkins and where they are grown. You can go to the restaurant and try some pumpkin dishes, and you can buy all kinds of fun things, most of which are pumpkin-themed. For instance, one popular item is pumpkin wine.
The festival runs for four or so weeks in September, but they host the pumpkin boat races only on one weekend of the festival. This is a must if you are going. Real pumpkins turned into real boats with real people paddling to the finish. It's quite the spectacle. If you're feeling up to it, you too can sign up to race one of the pumpkin boats. Now, who can say they've done that?
I had seen photo after photo of this magnificent rock bridge while living in Germany for so many years, but I'd never gone. It's a bit out of the way.
It got to the point that I was determined to get there and check it out, and I'm so glad I did. Even though photos are worth a thousand words, a photo of the bridge doesn't tell the whole story...at all.
You see, Bastei Bridge is located in a very scenic national park, called Saxon Switzerland. This park is great for hiking, and there are many paths to take. We took a shorter hike with the intent that we would definitely return. It is such a stunning place.
We enjoyed lunch and hiking, and planned to leave right after sunset so we could capture the bridge at its most beautiful. We can't wait to go back.
A beautiful country, Germany is criss-crossed with gorgeous rivers that allow the sun to develop some of the best white wine grapes. Germany might be best known for its Rhine wines, but it seems like each state has its own river with a full-blown wine culture and traditions.
Taking time to ride a boat on a river cruise on some of these rivers is a must. Each one has specialty tours and wine tastings. No matter what part of the country you visit, I'm sure you can find a river to ride.
The one we're highlighting this time is the Mosel River. On the western side of the country, right up to the border of Luxembourg, the Mosel River winds its way past castles and vineyards.
Boat rides are short, cheap, and fun for everyone - especially kids.
Of course the boat ride is only part of the experience. Make sure to stop off and explore a castle or one of the many charming towns along the way.
Bernkastel has been a favorite of ours since we first lived in Germany (back in the 1980s)! It's half-timbered buildings, narrow cobbled streets, and generally fantastic views make it super memorable.
One of the most wonderful things about Germany is that there is so much outdoor space to go out and hike and play.
Good for everyone, especially in these current times, finding a place to hike and enjoy nature is just good for the soul.
One of the best places we've found is the Luisenburg Rock Labyrinth. A park with a specific trail where you will find yourself climbing and squeezing through huge boulders. Some even have writing carved into them.
The views are spectacular, as is the foliage. We think the best time to go is in fall when the leaves are changing colors, but really anytime will do.
Everyone knows how magical Germany is during the Christmas season. With its chilly air, sometimes with snow falling, meandering through a Christmas market definitely feels like Christmas is supposed to feel.
We hadn't been to the Dresden Christmas market, so of course, it was on our list. We headed over there the first part of December, and oh was it cold.
We wanted to see the largest stollen in the world. What?! That' right. Every year, Dresden, the home of the famous German Christmas cake, stollen, makes the largest one in the world.
When we got the car parked, we realized just how cold it was! Ouch! But we were determined to have a great time and trying this famous stollen.
To be honest, we really didn't know what to expect, but the entire day was devoted to stollen. First the day began with some pomp and circumstance, when the mayor made a proclamation.
Then there was a parade of bakers and millers, and all the in-betweeners that are part of baking. At the end of the parade the horse-drawn gigantic stollen made its appearance.
The entire crowd followed it to the marketplace where for 5 Euros you can buy and eat a piece of this huge, powdery cake.
We couldn't have asked for a more fun day. If Dresden is on your Christmas market list, make sure to go on stollen day!
Millions of people visit Germany specifically to go to the Oktoberfest each (normal) year. For that reason, you can't have a uniquely German list without including it.
The first time I went to this amazing world-famous festival was in 1983. I was young, stupid, and had major wanderlust. I signed up for a quick weekend tour and off I went.
Needless to say I was overwhelmed, and after only one mass (1 liter mug) of beer, quite tipsy. All this by noon, so I happily tripped over the grounds trying some new foods, riding some fair rides, and just reveling in the newness, the different-ness of this cultural icon. I was more than ready to be back at the bus at 5:00 PM.
The Oktoberfest hasn't changed much over the years. It's still as fun, as overwhelming, as tasty, and as German as it gets. Yes, go to Germany and experience it.
I hope you enjoyed our list of the top 10 unusual and cool things you can only do in Germany. To be quite fair, there ar plenty more things I can think of, but we wanted to really whet your appetite with all the wonderfully different things you can experience here.