Germany forms the heart of Europe, whose most populous nation and largest economy has more borders than any other country on the continent. The storied rivers of the Rhine, Danube and Elbe wend their ways across an array of storybook landscapes from the snowcapped Bavarian Alps to the sylvan farmland of the middle country and the windswept shores of the North Sea. The great cities of Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich remain magnets of continental sophistication and commerce. During the summer, Germans practically live outdoors, and the cities come alive with alfresco cafés and beer gardens.
Needless to say, this is splendid country for a driving tour. The quintessential route is The Romantic Road, which stretches 217 miles from Wurzburg to Neuschwanstein Castle (above) and is best accessed from Frankfurt. Originally a Roman trading route, one of the world's most scenic stretches of tarmac laces its way through dozens of medieval villages in the Bavarian Alps. In particular, the landmark Hotel Eisenhut in the village of Rothenburg is at once welcoming and utterly transporting. The “shoulder months” of late spring and early fall are recommended for a visit, as this area turns quite hectic during peak season.
CLIMATE: Summers are more showery in the south, with Munich receiving 4 to 5 inches of monthly rain from May-August. In the extreme south, the Bavarian Alps are cold and snowy during the winter, but very pleasant in the summer. The North Sea coast is the mildest region and is typified by Hamburg.
TIME: Six hours ahead of New York (EST).
CURRENCY: Euro (€). Fluctuating rate valued at €1.00 = US$1.30 as of October 2012.
U.S. EMBASSY: Berlin, Tel. 30-8305-1200. There are also consulates in Frankfurt, Tel. 69-7535-2102, and Munich, Tel. 89-28880.
DIRECT DIAL CODES: To phone hotels and restaurants in Germany, dial 011 (international access) + 49 (Germany code) + city code and local numbers in listings.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Passport. Visit www.travel.state.gov, and for travelers’ health information, www.cdc.gov
GENERAL INFORMATION: Plan well ahead for visits timed to festivals, and visit cometogermany.com before your trip.