Take a deep breath: Tribes living along rivers band together, fight off Romans, Franks then conquer Roman Gaul and bring down the Empire, there follows many centuries of inbred dynasties, then a dramatic reformation of the church, standout performers in music, art, literature, poetry, science and philosophy, then ambitions of a world Empire with much intelligence and manpower put to poor use, severe economic recession the result, enter a soapbox Corporal who convinces them they are the master race, more ambitions of world domination and intelligence and manpower put to horrific use, another defeat, a reality that can’t be faced, a separation which ironically prevents nuclear war, a front line in the Cold War, two states the puppets of squabbling world powers intent on blowing up the world, a unification, two very different countries trying to come together as one again, an economic power struggling with its identity and trying hard to come to terms with its history.
Germany is a country steeped in history, a country which has greatly influenced and moulded Europe, both positively and negatively. By visiting the historical sights of Germany, we can look through a window to the past and learn more about ourselves, about the good and bad things we are capable of accomplishing. Don’t ignore it. History is made by humans and not by fools. Goethe and Beethoven are as much a part of all of us as Goebbels and Blitzkrieg.
The Concentration Camps
Seeing is believing. Take time to visit at least one of the concentration camps of Germany. There’s Dachua near Munich, Buchenwald in Thuringen, Sachsenhausen near Berlin, Neuengamme near Hamburg, Bergen Belsen near Celle, and many others. These camps remain as museums to educate people not only of the Holocaust, but also to stand as memorials to all the crimes committed by humans against humans throughout history.
The Communist Legacy
The East German Secret Police, known as the Stasi, was a huge organisation committed to spying on both West and East Germans. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the truth about the broad range of activities the Stasi was involved in came out. Now, in most towns of the former East Germany, the old Stasi offices have been turned into museums, most notably in Leipzig and Berlin.
Also in Berlin you will find remnants of the Wall, some old observation towers, sandbags and a hut at Checkpoint Charlie. There’s also quite a lot of land left undeveloped which was previously the wide stretch of no man’s land between the walls. A double line of bricks in the street marks out the original wall line.
Thanks to all those inbred dynasties, Germany has some of the finest castles in Europe. Visit palaces in Heidelberg, Potsdam, Munich and Ludwigsburg to name but a few. Many of these castles, destroyed during wars or left to rot in East Germany, have been lovingly restored and now make up the bulk of Germany’s attractions, especially for the over 55 tour bus crowd.