Germany - a winter journey

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Bavaria

Bavaria is the state that usually gets the most snow, so climate change can't upset winter plans. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a traditional winter sports resort. It lies at the foot of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak. The Zugspitze Glacier enjoys perfect ski conditions - its slopes are more than 2,000 meters above sea level.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Baden-Württemberg

In Baden-Württemberg, the hearts of winter sport lovers beat faster as well. At 1,493 meters, the Feldberg in the Black Forest is Baden-Württemberg's highest peak. It always has snow in winter, and offers 63 kilometers of pistes and downhill runs in all degrees of difficulty. It's also considered especially good for snowkiting.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Hessen

The Grosser Feldberg, The Feldberg's namesake in the Taunus Mountains, isn't as tall. But an elevation of 880 meters is enough for a picture-book winter landscape. Unfortunately, there's no ski lift, but there are lots of toboggan runs.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Saxony-Anhalt

It looks like a toy train, but it's real. This narrow-gauge railway runs through Harz National Park to the summit of the Brocken, 1,142 meters above sea level. When snow falls up here and lies heavily on the fir trees, they bend under the burden and take on bizarre shapes. Locally, they're then known as Brocken witches.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Thuringia

168 kilometers long, the Rennsteig is one of Germany's best-known long-distance hiking trails. If only summer hikers knew how lovely this ridgeway is in winter! Walkers are alone, enveloped by silence, except for the crunching of snow under their boots. Cross-country skiers will also be happy here. Many well-groomed cross-country trails lead through the nature park's matchless scenery.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Saxony

When powdered with snow, the rock formations of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains look like eerie trolls. Winter is the time for true romantics here. They have the usually crowded trails and outlooks to themselves. Using the new winter hiking guide with 29 routes is recommended, as it rates their degree of difficulty, pointing out those that should be avoided in icy and snowy conditions.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Rhineland-Palatinate

In contrast, a stroll on the banks of the Rhine in Mainz harbors no risks. The river rarely shows itself in white, and when it does, it has a magical attraction for walkers. There have been years when it was so cold that the Rhine froze over. The last time was in 1963. Back then, not even ice-breakers could get past the Lorelei upriver. Explosives had to be used to break up the ice.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Saarland

For the vineyards along the Moselle, the well-earned winter rest is short. Things start up again as early as January and February, when the vines are pruned while the new vintage is still maturing in the wine cellars. It can be tasted in places like Berg Castle, a small Renaissance castle near Nennig. Gourmets will love it: Michelin 3-Star chef Christian Bau cooks here.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

North Rhine-Westphalia

Coal mining in the Ruhr region came to an end in 2018. What remains includes slag heaps, many of them crowned with artworks - like the Tetrahedron, near Bottrop. At night this walkable steel sculpture is transformed into a light installation. During the day it's a tourist attraction and offers a view of one of the largest extended urban areas in Europe.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Lower Saxony

To the right, the sea; to the left, flat farmland. The way to Pilsum's lighthouse, one of the best-known landmarks in East Frisia, runs along the North Sea dyke. After a walk along it, you're frozen through. There's nothing for it but to stop off in one of the cozy tearooms to warm up with a good strong cuppa, drunk in the local style, with cream and Kluntjes - white rock sugar.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Schleswig-Holstein

Sylt is the largest of Germany's North Sea islands. Always booked out in the summer, it calms down in the winter. The Rotes Kliff, a line of sea cliffs, is an inviting place for a long winter walk. Here on the island's west coast, the wind can be brisk. For centuries, the distinctive Rotes Kliff served as a navigational aid for seafarers. It's unique in the entire North Sea region.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

Compared to the North Sea, the Baltic is gentle. On the Fischland-Darss peninsula, dunes, woods and salt marshes alternate with kilometers of beaches. They're broad, sandy - and endlessly long. And they're known for the amber that can be found on them, especially in winter. Shortly after a storm from the north-east, the chances of finding some of this "Baltic gold" are especially good.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Brandenburg

The Spreewald is good hour's drive south of Berlin. This marshy area is crisscrossed by hundreds of small waterways. The traditional means of transportation here is the punt. Even mail is delivered on these flat-bottomed boats. In both summer and winter, tourists can enjoy a boat trip through this watery landscape. Mulled wine is, of course, available on board.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Berlin

It's a magical moment: when snow blankets Berlin, the noise of the city is muffled; everything moves more slowly. The busy metropolis seems enchanted. Meadows suddenly become sled runs, and if the snow stays long enough, Berliners unpack their cross-country gear and ski to work or do a few laps around Tempelhof Field, a public park that used to be the grounds of Tempelhof Airport.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Hamburg

Hamburg, the chic metropolis on the Alster lake, is beautiful in the winter twilight. For a perfect winter, people here yearn for a hard frost - one that lasts long enough for the Outer Alster in the middle of Hamburg to freeze over. Then the Alstereisvergnügen takes place, a folk festival with stalls selling handicrafts and mulled wine. People skate or sail over the ice.

Germany in Winter - a trip through the 16 federal states

Bremen

The Schnoorviertel, in the city's medieval center, is especially cozy in winter. In Bremen's oldest district, narrow houses from the 15th and 16th centuries snuggle close to one another. It's the ideal place to while away the time as you drink hot chocolate or mulled wine, and perhaps make plans for the coming spring.

In the past few years, winter sports conditions in Germany have been less than ideal and business has suffered as a result. This year, the snow is back and the slopes are packed.

In early January, parts of Germany were engulfed by heavy snowfalls. At first the negative aspects of winter dominated the headlines. As the year began, the heaviest snowfalls for several years hit the Alpine region. The snow piled up meters high in some places and several winter resorts were cut off from the outside world. A series of avalanches claimed a number of fatalities.

Zugspitze - a vast mountain panorama stretching as far as the eye can see

Now, as February begins, the situation in Germany has eased. In many German states the winter school vacation is about to get underway and holidaymakers are delighted at the prospect of perfect conditions from the Alps to the Sauerland in south-eastern North Rhine-Westphalia. Almost all the ski areas report 10 to 30 centimeters (4 inches - 11 inches) of fresh snow. On Germany's highest peak, the Zugspitze (2,962 meters, 9,717 feet), the snow is 4 meters deep.

Elsewhere, in Berlin and Hamburg, for instance, it is cold but people there are still waiting for the magic moment when winter shows itself at its most picturesque.

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