Something odd happens throughout Germany on Easter Sunday. Whether in apartments, houses or gardens, excited children run around, pushing the furniture aside, lifting the cushions and looking under trees and bushes outdoors.
Why? Easter is the time at which German children look in the most obscure corners for brightly colored Easter eggs that have been hidden the night before by the Easter Bunny.
But why is it a bunny that brings the eggs at this annual festival?
If you’re traveling through Darmstadt, make sure to stop by the Waldspirale (“Forest Spiral”) – a building so unusual that it will stop you in your tracks.
This residential building was designed by the famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He is best known for the colorful Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, but he actually has many other famous buildings – including the Waldspirale in Germany.
If you look at any of his buildings, you’ll notice their curvy shapes and unconventional designs; Hundertwasser was always fascinated by spirals and referred to straight lines as “godless and immoral” and “without thought or feeling”. The artist strove to bring beauty to the world and he even refused payment for his design of the Hundertwasserhaus, claiming that the beauty of the building was worth the investment to “prevent something ugly from going up in its place.”
If you look at the Hunderwasserhaus and the Waldspirale, you’ll notice similarities. The 12-story “Forest Spiral” apartment complex has a green roof, a tower in the shape of an onion dome and colorful walls. There are no straight lines or edges. The building has more than 1,000 windows in different shapes and sizes and no two windows are the same!
The Waldspirale is one of Hundertwasserhaus’ newer designs. It was completed in 2000 – the year that the artist passed away.
Although this is a residential building that is not open to the public, it is still worth seeing from the outside!
If visiting a moated castle is on your to-do list, then Vischering Castle is the place for you. This German castle takes you on a trip back to medieval times.
The Vischering Castle was built in 1271 and stands in present-day Lüdinghausen, North Rhine-Westphalia – an area saturated with castles. Germans call it a Wasserschloss (“water castle”) because it is surrounded by water for protection.
The castle is a product of a family feud between Bischop Gerhard von der Mark and the Von Ludinghausen family. In the 13th century, the bishop constructed it to compete with the other family’s castle, which was located nearby. Family feuds were common in those days, but they did not always lead to magnificent castles!
The horseshoe-shaped castle was built for defense and still contains its drawbridge, courtyard, strategic gateways and defensive wall. Although it was partially destroyed in a fire in 1521 and partially damaged during World War II, it was rebuilt and continues to stand open to visitors today.
In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at 12 influential German women whose names have gone down in history. Who would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
Hildegard von Bingen
Hildegard von Bingen (also known as Saint Hildegard) is the oldest person on our list. This influential German woman is largely considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. She was a Benedictine nun who was also an abbess, artist, author, composer, pharmacist, poet, preacher, mystic and theologian! It seems there is nothing that von Bingen couldn’t do! In 2012, she was named a Doctor of the Church, a rare title only given to saints who contributed heavily with their theological writings. Only three other women in history have received this title.
“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world – everything is hidden in you.”
Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria („Sissi“)
Many of you may have watched or heard about a royal Austrian woman nicknamed “Sisi”. Elisabeth of Bavaria was born into a royal family in Munich, Germany, which was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria at the time. At the age of 16, she married Emperor Franz Joseph I and became the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. Her biggest achievement was helping to create the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867. She was killed during an anarchist assassination while in Geneva in 1898.
Although the invention of the first practical automobile is credited to Karl Benz, his wife also had an enormous impact on the industry. Bertha Benz, a German woman from Pforzheim, was Karl’s business partner. She financed the manufacturing of his first horseless carriage with her dowry. In 1888, she took her two sons and drove the Patent Motorwagen Model III 120 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim without telling her husband. This was the first time someone drove an automobile over a long distance, fixing all technological complications on the way. Bertha made history; her drive alleviated fears that people had about automobiles, bringing the Benz Patent-Motorwagen its first sales.
In the Swabian Mountains in southern Germany is a spring so blue that it attracts countless visitors. Known as the Blautopf (“blue pot”), this strange mountainous spring forms the drain for the Blau (River Blue) cave system. What makes this spring particularly strange and unique is its deep blue color – a result of the physical properties of the nanoscale limestone present in the water.
According to scientists, that is.
Legends tell a different story.
One local myth claims that someone pours a vat of ink into the Blautopf every day to maintain its color. Another strange myth claims that it is impossible to measure the Blautopf’s depth since a water nix steals the leaden sounding line (a thin rope with a plummet) every time it is submerged. There is even a story about the Schöne Lau, a beautiful mermaid trapped in the Blautopf. Today, a life-size statue of the mermaid stands near the Blautopf.
Experienced cave divers are known to explore the Blautopf and its underground corridors (which are many miles long with enormous chambers). This, however, is restricted to well-trained divers, since it is dangerous and has led to fatalities in the past. But for most people, viewing the Blautopf from the outside is satisfying enough! The majestic blue color makes for spectacular photos year-round.
Germany is filled with creations from the days when castles and knights were the norm. One such creation is the Rakotzbrücke — the Devil’s Bridge.
Located in Kromlauer Park near Gablenz in eastern Germany, this unique bridge is shaped as a semi-circle. From a distance, the reflection in the water creates the image of a perfect sphere. Photographers and travelers love visiting this bridge, and you may have seen already seen fantastic images of the Devil’s Bridge on Instagram!
The bridge was commissioned by a local knight in 1860 and built with a diversity of local stones. It was called the “Devil’s Bridge” because its structure made it so dangerous that it must have been built by Satan, people said. Similar bridges exist throughout Europe and many of them are considered the work of the devil due to their “impossible” design.
This bridge (and the surrounding park) are a must-see for travelers in the area, but take note that crossing the bridge is strictly prohibited! There are great views of the bridge from the park, and you can always Photoshop yourself into the pictures you take!
Excitement is running high as we head into the final days of the Winter Olympics. Today, Germany beat Canada 4-3 in the men’s ice hockey semi-finals. Many were surprised by the result, since Canada has been a nine-time Olympic Champion in the sport and rarely settles for a bronze. Germany will play against Russia in the finals on Sunday – you can be sure that we’ll be watching!
If you’re looking for a travel destination with jaw-dropping views, add The Bastei to your list. This rock formation stands 636 feet above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, southeast of Dresden.
What makes this majestic rock formation even more spectacular is a wooden bridge that connects several of these rocks together. Visitors have been walking across the bridge since it was constructed in 1824 (and replaced by a sandstone version in 1851).
From the 12th to the 15th century, a fortress known as the Felsenburg Neurathen stood by the rock formations. This fortress, however, was burned down by an opposing army in 1484 and there is little left of it to see.
In 1801, tour guide Carl Heinrich Nicolai perfectly described the rock formation from one of its lookout points:
“What depth of feeling it pours into the soul! You can stand here for a long time without being finished with it (…) it is so difficult to tear yourself away from this spot.”
The rock formations have impressed so many people that The Bastei was even the location for Germany’s very first landscape photographs, taken by photographer Hermann Krone in 1853.
The Bastei continues to draw in tourists today, as it has done for centuries!
Nordic-combined skier Eric Frenzel has been chosen as Germany’s flagbearer for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday.
Frenzel was selected for the honor by the German Olympic Sports Association, which held a poll on its website. When Frenzel found out he was nominated to be in the top 5, he said “I feel honored and it is a certain recognition for our sport and me individually.” (Source: DPA)
The 29-year-old athlete won the Olympic gold medal in the 10km individual normal hill at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He also won a bronze medal in the 2010 Olympics and a silver medal in the 2009 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.
After two years of construction, a world record-breaking cableway has opened in the Bavarian Alps: the new Zugspitze cable car.
This cable car takes passengers up Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze, located near the quaint Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Although there was already a cable car in place before its completion, the new cable car is much more efficient, bringing up to 580 people per hour up the mountain, 30 minutes faster than before. The cable car system has the tallest steel tower in the world, the longest cableway span and the highest elevation difference. It’s no wonder that this cablecar system even made its way into US news this week!
For those who have visited southern Germany for skiing or snowboarding, you’ve surely heard about the Zugspitze – Germany’s tallest mountain at 9,718 feet. The mountain is a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding in the wintertime. For the more adventurous types, it is even home to its very own igloo village, consisting of 20 hotel snow houses in the winter. A true winter wonderland!
But whether you’re skiing on the Zugspitze or celebrating the holidays with family in the US, we would like to take a moment to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a joyful holiday weekend!