Top 5 Small Towns in Germany
Small town Germany is everything you imagine fairytales to look like and more, cobblestone streets and alleyways, gothic architecture and half timbered houses, and palaces and castle walls decorated with the most intricate and detailed paintings you have ever laid your eyes on.
The 5 towns/cities below are only a small fraction of where I have visited, however I know I am still only just scratching the surface.
Where my love for quaint German towns began, I visited here in 2017 and fell in so in love with the town I made the trip back two years later. The Moselle river splits Cochem in two and Reichsburg Castle towers above on a nearby hill. During the summer months live music can be heard from across the river and the pubs are usually booming. Cochem is a short drive from Burg Eltz, and daily boat trips can take you to nearby towns along the Moselle.
With a rather bleak history of being known for burning women accused as witches several hundred years ago this town is a UNESCO work heritage site with buildings from the 11th and 19th centuries. Famous for its Rauchbier (smoked beer) and is home to 9 breweries and hosts a beer festival every August, the town boasts a magnificent Palace and cathedral. So grab yourself a beer and find a spot riverside to enjoy the bustling town which is Bamberg.
A gorgeous bath town known for being the chosen holiday destination for rich and famous socialites around the world. Based in the northern Black Forest area close to the French border this spa town has a lot to be discovered, Bush walks, shopping and grand Roman styled public baths (both nude and swimwear friendly). Perfect for a relaxing weekend with you’re significant other if nude bathing has ever been on your to-do list.
Situated on the western side of Lake Constance, Allensbach has all the beauty of lake front excitement but none of the hoards of tourists that usually accompany such a town. Day trips can include lounging or dining lake side or taking the train into Konstanz. Paddle boarding can be done at any of the nearby beaches, just watch out for the swans.
An industrial city and home of the Zeppelin, larger than any of the towns mentioned above but still worth a visit. Friedrichshafen is rich with history relating to World War II and the German aviation industry. Sitting lake side you will spot a number of Zeppelins floating at high speeds through the air, Friedrichshafen being one of the only few places in Europe where you can actually pay to ride in one however it will cost you a pretty penny.
Top 5 Castles and Palaces in Germany
Finding a castle in Europe is like coming across a Holden Commodore in West Auckland, piss easy to find and you're left wondering how they're still standing let alone functioning safely. I've visited numerous fortresses, castles and palaces around Europe so I thought I would break down the most memorable in Deutschland...
Perched on top of a rugged hill which looks over the German village Hohenschwangau and built in the architectural fashion of castle romanticism, this castle has been visited by more than 61 million people since opening in the late 1800’s.
Featured in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as used as inspiration for Sleeping Beautys’ castle, it’s easily one of the most gorgeous castles in Europe whether decorated by snow or Autumn leaves. Worth a visit if you’re passing through the area.
Still owned by a branch of one of the three families that lived there in the 12th century, Burg Eltz is another fairy tale castle sitting among picture perfect landscape with no other buildings in site. Easily reachable by car from Koblenz, Cochem or Trier. Burg Eltz is well known for its bridge entrance which is the centre of many photography wars among travellers and Instagram fanatics.
One of the most lavish interiors I have ever seen; built in 1604 and decorated with a significant collection of baroque paintings which leave no walls of the imperial hall untouched. More than 40 rooms are embellished with furniture and rugs from 17th and 18th centuries.
Serving as an exile for the abdicated Greek royal couple, Otto I and Amalie for a number of years and in 1815 being the location of one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Marshals who jumped out of an upper window as he didn’t want to fall into the hands of the advancing Russian army, this palace has enough history to make you want to hit the pub for a smoked beer.
My favourite quaint town of Germany sits below the Reichsburg Castle, first documented in 1051 and destroyed in 1689 during the Palatine Succession. The castle was purchased by a Berlin businessman in 1868 and reconstructed in the Gothic revival style. Since 1978 Reichsburg has been owned by the town of Cochem and is decorated with renaissance and baroque furniture.
Schloss Seehof Palace
Memmelsdorf, District of Bamberg.
Another contender for top spot; the interior dates to mid-1700’s and houses a lot of the original furniture which is on loan from various museums locally and around the world, which includes a table once used by Napoleon Bonaparte. 9 rooms are open to the public and are modelled as closely to what they once were, the grounds contain multiple rows of fruit trees, a grand fountain and lake.
Nurburgring; The Green Hell
One lap is 20.81km long with 154 turns scattered throughout; Nurburgring is among the most dangerous race tracks in the world and has been nicknamed 'The Green Hell'.
Built in 1927 around Nurburg village in the Eifel Mountains the track has 300 metres of elevation change from its lowest to its highest points, blind off-camber corners, crests and dips, different types of tarmac with varying levels of grip and the quick change of weather to go along with it all. The motorsport complex has a person capacity of 150,000 and hosts multiple events each year along with the Grand Prix track which was added in 1984. The track is so long that a number of neighbouring towns sit within the Nordschleife circuit.
During the weekdays the track is used by car manufacturers to test new prototypes, such as Tesla, Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz, and all other hours it's either used for official events or for the general public to test their driving abilities and risk their dignities and lives. According to Wikipedia there are multiple accidents and several deaths each year however track management does not release any official figures, Jeremy Clarkson stated in a Top Gear episode in 2004 that the track has claimed over 200 lives since its opening.
Professional drivers can reach over 300km p/h on the track and public days can see speeds of over 200km p/h. The fastest time around the Nordschleife track is 6:25.91 by Stefan Bellof, in a Porsche 956 in 1983, most people aim to complete the track in 10 minutes however timing yourself is forbidden on public days due to the distraction and danger it can cause.
The Nurburgring is technically a German toll road and therefore normal traffic laws apply, keep right and only overtake on the left, allow all faster vehicles to overtake and use your indicators when doing so to allow the driver behind you know that you have seen them.
During the public sessions any road legal vehicle is allowed on the track, so everything from motorbikes, to vans and super cars can be seen sharing the road. You don't have to be an experienced track driver to enter the ring either so levels of experience vary drastically each day.
A Day at Nurburgring
We stayed for two nights at the Motorsport Hotel, its a short drive away from the ring and an easy walk to Rent4Ring where we hired our track vehicle, a BMW125i.
We arrived at Rent4Ring where we were given balaclavas and helmets before being introduced to the German racetrack via a safety video. Passengers are free of charge but no loose items are allowed in the vehicle, each lap is tallied up via a swipe card you are given to open the barrier to let you onto the track and you pay for these once you return the vehicle. When on the track normal German Road rules apply so don't be a dick and sit in the middle of the track; allow all faster cars to overtake on the left and only ever overtake on the left, any orange lights or flags mean an accident has occurred ahead and you must slow down, but all of these are covered in the video.
We did two laps around Nordschleife and Paul drove both of them (obviously), he successfully meet speeds of 200km p/h and made the corners at around 130-140km p/h, while I was sitting in the passenger seat keeping a lookout for faster vehicles wanting to overtake. Porsches', McLarens, Corvettes, a Toyota Vitz, Vans, MX5's and VW Golf's were all on the track at the same time overtaking each other and some even causing accidents, most of these I managed to catch on camera which you can watch below.
Being a passenger on the ring isn't for someone who is prone to motion sickness; the constant change in speed and sharp or sudden corners makes for a bumpy and sometimes dizzying ride. I'm thankful we ended our day at the end of the second lap as my balaclava was at risk of being filled with bile. All in all it was an awesome afternoon and I'm so thankful I did it, Im not a huge car fanatic but I'm also not one to pass up an obvious special opportunity which I will probably never have the chance to experience again.
Accidents on Nurburgring
I thought this topic deserves its own section since the ring is not as simple as Hampton Downs racetrack back at home. The track is scattered with 154 corners and turns so being distracted for 1 second could cost you your car, dignity or life. Coming to the end of our first lap an MX5 was chugging along the right barrier with it's exhaust scraping and sparking on the ground, and on our second lap a Corvette and a Starlet had possibly collided with each other as they had both spun out into the sand and were waiting for assistance from track officials.
The ring taxi is a great way to experience the ring at high speeds without driving the car yourself. You are driven around the track by professional drivers who knows the track like the back of their hand and can usually do the track in around 8 minutes or faster.
Prices range from 269 Euros to 299 Euros depending on the vehicle you choose.
Public session times are available most days of the week except when events are on, times are restricted to the afternoon and vary every day so check the Official Website for Nordschleife opening hours.
During the public sessions anyone with a road legal vehicle can enter the track, which means motorcycles, low powered vehicles and supercars can be on the track all at the same time which is another reason why so many accidents and deaths can happen during public sessions.
Each lap costs 25euros if you bring your own vehicle, otherwise you can check out any track rental car agency in the area. We used Rent4Ring and hired the BMW 125i.
Normal German traffic rules apply so passing on the right is prohibited and can land you a lifetime ban, if you hire a vehicle make sure you pay attention to the safety video; you didn't pay that money to crash your car and spend the rest of your life paying off the excess.
Viewing the track is easy and free, there is usually something going on at the track whether its prototype testing or various other commercial uses so you'll usually spot a supercar or two on the track on any given day.
There are two popular viewing spots not far from each other:
Brunnchen ("Small Well") is the larger of the popular viewing points for spectators, the track can be viewed spectacularly from the sandy area at the end of the carpark, but if you walk through the bush to the left you can get a great view the corner which is famous on Youtube for the unexperienced drivers of the general public wiping out their cars or not abiding by track rules.
Pflanzgarten ("Planting Garden") is a smaller area for viewing but great for watching cars come down the slope at speed and navigating the corners. This is one of the most difficult sections and getting this right is crucial to getting a good lap time. This section is the scene of Peter Collins' fatal crash in 1958 during Grand Prix, and also where a number of career ending crashes in Formula One occurred in the 1970's.
To find either of these areas simply search the name in Google Maps followed by 'Nurburg'.
The entrance to the track holds a large diner and carpark where a lot of the ring risk takers wait for their turn or use the space to show off their cars, a good spot if you want to check out overloads of supercars or Europeans modifications.
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