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Germany’s prowess in fine art is less well known, yet from the pioneering realism of Albrecht Dürer to the ethereal Romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich, it’s a powerful tradition that is well worth discovering.Most German cities of any size have excellent galleries, with Berlin and Cologne hubs of the European contemporary art scene.

Germany’s food culture is traditionally characterized by wholesome but hearty dishes, a vast array of sausages and excellent but calorific cakes.

Yet the impact of immigration, travel and increasing culinary ambition has been powerful, and most towns nowadays offer a wide selection of international options, usually including Balkan, Greek, Italian and Turkish.

In summer, the nation’s endless forests and mountains play host to hikers and cyclists while the Alps tempt international visitors with an excellent array of downhill ski runs in winter.

One unsung pleasure of a visit to Germany is the opportunity to meet its people.

It’s now two decades since the events of 1989 swept away the Berlin Wall and brought to an uplifting end a turbulent and agonizing century for Germany, ill-served at crucial points in its brief history as a united nation-state by erratic and adventurous rulers who twice led it into disaster – in 1918, as Kaiser Wilhelm II’s vainglorious dream of empire ended in defeat, starvation and revolution; and at the end of World War II, as Hitler’s vile race-war rebounded in terrible fashion on the German people who had chosen him as their leader.

There followed a period of forty-five years in which not one Germany but two faced each other across a tense international divide – the so-called Iron Curtain – throughout the years of the Cold War. From the tenth century until the early nineteenth, the Holy Roman Empire provided only a loose semblance of sovereignty over a vast collection of states, and it’s this jumbled history, as much as the country’s varied geography, that explains Germany’s sheer diversity.

That tradition morphed in to the Christkindlesmarkt as we know it today.

There are now more than 2500 Christmas markets throughout Germany and though some of the most famous like Nuremberg and Rothenburg are located in Bavaria, the Christmas markets of Northern Germany are well worth a visit.

Though the dangers of over-indulgence are ever present, so too is the antidote.

The tradition of the or spa visit has endured to a far greater extent in Germany than elsewhere, and if you want to unwind in saline or hot springs there are innumerable spa towns up and down the country.

The small Northern German town was once part of the former GDR (German Democratic Republic), but these days it’s a picturesque spot nestled upon 10 lakes with its famous castle the jewel in its crown.

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