Germany is a country best known for its forests, rivers and mountain ranges. The country is one of the largest in Europe and has a thriving tourist industry. With its castles, large houses and the mountainous countryside being major attractions, and many within only a short drive or train journey from major cities such as Frankfurt and Berlin.
For the average tourist, equipped with a map, or accompanied by a guide with the ever-handy German phrase book and the fact many Germans speak very good English, a vacation is easy to undertake. But for the tourist who wants to head off the beaten track, and explore some of the hidden gems of Germany, having more than a phrase book is important. There is a great deal more to see in Germany than one could well imagine, and by having a better grasp of the language, these places and more can soon be opened up, making a German leisure visit something special.
With language, the weird and wonderful can be found and explored, and the conventional, seen how Germans see them. Take for example one of the strangest museums in the world, the German Food Additives Museum just outside Hamburg. For the non-German speaker this museum would be impossible to visit, as everything in the museum and about the museum, is in German. It is a fascinating small museum, and a real one of a kind, but only by speaking German can you really visit and understand this amazing place.
It is not just specialist museums that are “off limits” to those who cannot speak German, some historical sites make little sense, and again because of the predominant use of German make then seem pointless to visit. One such place is the ruined airport not far from Berlin, where Claus von Stauffenberg could have ended World War II, but didn’t, when his assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler failed. Not only is the airport a fascinating part of fairly recent history, but it is truly a unique place that tantalises curiosity to visit.
Without an understanding of the German language, so many small but interesting places to visit automatically fail to make a tourist agenda. Germany has many hidden gems. Even foods become more interesting, and what was once a seemingly bland and uninviting menu, becomes something you want to at least try. Being able to converse with the owner of a small back street café or restaurant can lead to some wonderful culinary adventures, coffee becomes more than black stuff in a cup and becomes a discussion about life with a local, and the meal becomes something enjoyable as you discuss specialities of the house with the host or chef.
An understanding of the German language turns a German vacation, or day away from a German business trip, into something quite special and creates some amazing memories that without language could never even begin to form.
Travelling is an exciting opportunity which can be enhanced by learning the language before you go. This blog contains some interesting articles about language and travel.