If you’re looking for a modern Northern German travel destination with historic buildings and delightful traditions, Oldenburg is the place for you!
Oldenburg is located in the State of Lower Saxony, only 45 minutes from the North Sea. This makes it a perfect origin for day trips to the islands, harbors and beaches of Northern Germany.
Located on the river Hunte, Oldenburg is also often called the “Huntestadt”. The Hunte flows near the city center pedestrian zone past the palace gardens and flows into the old harbor.
When in Oldenburg, make sure to stroll through its walkable downtown. The city center was made car-free in 1967, making Oldenburg’s (quintessentially German) “pedestrian zone” the oldest area-wide one in the country. It is over 13 hectares and is filled with buildings spanning the centuries. At the edge of the zone there is the old powder tower, once part of the cities fortifications, which was built in 1529. There are old merchant houses from the 17th century and the palace dating back to the 16th century, to only name a few.
Spared by war destruction, Oldenburg’s architecture is characterized by a lively mix of old buildings and modern neighborhoods. Well known are the gabled houses which are called “Hundehütten” due to their resemblance to dog houses.
So what does one do while in Oldenburg? Once a year, at the end of September/beginning of October, the city celebrates its “fifth season” – the Kramermarkt – established in 1608, a Volksfest (fair), visited by around 1.5 million people every year. Around the same time the “Grünkohlzeit” (kale season) begins. The city is well known for its kale with “Pinkel”, a type of sausage from the area. This is quite a different experience from the kale shakes and salads in the US! You will see many “Grünkohltouren” (kale tours) drawing handcarts through the streets, crowning a kale king and queen at the end of the tour.
Another name for this town which you might run into is “Pauldingburg”. This is because Detroit native Rickey Paulding has been playing for the local first-league basketball team “EWE Baskets Oldenburg” since 2007 – an unusually long time for a professional athlete, during which he has hooped his way into the hearts of Oldenburg’s citizens. And although Oldenburg is located in Northern Germany, Downton Abbey doesn’t feel far away! Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband to Queen Elizabeth, is a patrilineal descended from one of the House of Oldenburg’s branches.
On the south shore of Lake Überlinger near Konstanz is a place commonly known as “Flower Island”. As the name implies, the 45 hectar island of Mainau is covered in colorful flowers as far as the eye can see, making it an attractive destinations for summertime travelers.
The small island is notable for its many parks and gardens – particularly its roses. The island is home to about 30,000 rose bushes consisting of 1,200 varieties and 20,000 dahlias of 250 varieties. The Italian Rose Garden alone has more than 500 varieties of roses!
It even has an arboretum with 500 species of trees and a greenhouse with a tropical climate and hundreds of free-flying butterflies. The gardens are also home to a peacock enclosure and a petting zoo with ponies and goats.
The island originally belonged to the Order of Teutonic Knights, but it was purchased by the Grand Duke Frederick I of Baden in 1853. Frederick I used the palace on the island as his summer residence. Over the years, ownership of the island changed hands many times. In 1932, under the ownership of Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland, the island was gifted to the prince’s only child, Lennart Bernadotte, who started a foundation that continues to manage the island today.
Today, the island is open daily to visitors. Travelers who come to the island can relax among a sea of flowers, view the baroque Mainau castle and enjoy views of Lake Überlinger and Lake Constance.
Wasserwandern is the German term for touring by water, traveling by canoe or a kayak along the designated waterways of multiple connected lakes or rivers. Rest areas, campgrounds and even restaurants are sometimes scattered along the route.
Known as the “land of a thousand lakes,” the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s many lakes are connected in vast networks. Formed tens of thousands of years ago during the Ice Age, these lakes are now home to a number of endangered species. As a result, the use of motor boats is not allowed in many of these lakes, which are now havens for kayakers and canoeists.
Gliding through the peaceful waters of the Müritz National Park in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, one can experience nature up close and personal. Buoys mark the paths along which the kayaks and canoes may travel, and stopping is only allowed at designated rest areas to preserve the fragile ecosystems along the shores. Nevertheless, bird watching from this vantage point is a breeze. One may be lucky enough to see a Fischadler (osprey) or the colorful Eisvogel (kingfisher), which have found a home in the clean waters of the Müritz National Park.
Near southwest Berlin in the River Havel is a strange little island known as the Pfaueninsel (“Peacock Island”). As the name implies, this island is in fact home to a flock of wild peacocks – and these birds have been here for centuries!
If you visit the island today, you’ll find yourself surrounded by greenery, abandoned buildings, peacocks and even an old castle.
To understand why, let’s take a look at the island’s history.
The 243 acre island was used for the first time in the 17th century, when William I of Brandenburg established a rabbit farm on the land. As a result, the island was called Kaninchenwerder (“Rabbit Island”).
In 1793, Prussian king Frederick William II decided to use the island to build a castle for himself and his favorite mistress. This was primarily used as a summer residence.
The king’s successor and son, Frederick William III, had other ideas for the island. He turned it into a farm with grottos and aviaries and had exotic animals brought to the island, including alligators, kangaroos, buffalos, chameleons, monkeys, wolves, bears and (of course) peacocks. Over 900 animals of 100 species were brought to live on the island. The king then opened this exotic zoo up to the public.
Many people flocked to the island to see the exotic creatures, leading to overcrowding and chaos. Those responsible for the animals had to find a solution – the island simply wasn’t big enough to accommodate all those visitors.
In 1842, the animals were transferred to a location in Berlin (minus a few peacocks), which opened its gates in 1844. This became known as the “Berlin Zoo” and was the first zoo of its kind in Germany.
Meanwhile, the island went through a series of transitions and uses. Today, however, it remains home to free-ranging peacocks and exotic birds and is a designated nature reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Frederick William II’s castle still stands on the island, and visitors can take a ferry over to see it.
For the many of us here who bike to work, even a half hour ride can wind us enough to consider purchasing an E-bike. So when we found out we’d be visited by a German cyclist who is making his way around the WORLD, we stood in awe and had a plethora of questions ready to throw at him.
Who is this mystery cycling? His name is Sven Marx and he is someone to follow—we suggest on social media rather than on a bike. About ten years ago, Sven found out he had a 1 cm large tumor of the brain stem. After having it partially removed, he was left with double vision which throws of his balance. Within the same span of time, he was also diagnosed with skin cancer. Obviously, both balance and exposure to the sun are major parts of being on a bicycle. Sven promised himself, however, that if he survived to his 50th birthday with two life-threatening diagnoses, he would hit the road on a trip around the world.
Since rolling out on April 23rd, 2017, he has visited 5 continents, 41 countries, stopped in 27 capitals, and cycled over 43,500 miles! He even made a stop to visit the pope! He often sleeps in a tent overnight and carries everything on his bike—clothes, food, equipment, everything. His bike, in fact, weighs a whopping 132 pounds.
He said he can’t keep count of his calories intake when he is riding so many miles per day but that his diet consists of a lot of sugar and salt to keep his body energized—including “at least ten chocolate bars a day”.
Sven’s mission is to use his trip to raise awareness for and start a conversation about reducing barriers for those with disabilities. Under the motto “Inclusion Requires Action” he hopes his cycling the world will showcase that disabilities should not hold anyone back from reaching for their dreams and that anything is possible if we ensure access for everyone.
During his stop at the German Embassy, Sven shared a hot coffee with our Deputy Chief of Mission Boris Ruge and took a well-deserved break inside to explain his mission and experiences. He told us that the most important aspect to completing such a long journey by bike is staying calm and avoiding allowing your heart to race. So in the end it was the diplomats who were out of breath– with excitement, compared to the heroic cyclist!
The largest cylindrical fish tank in the world is located nowhere near the ocean. This giant aquarium can actually be found in a hotel lobby in Berlin – and it’s quite a sight to see!
The 82 ft tall AquaDom at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Berlin is home to nearly 2,600 fish of 56 different species. About 264,172 gallons of water fill the cylindrical tank in the hotel lobby.
The aquarium was constructed in 2004 at a cost of 13 million Euros. And upkeep is not cheap: back when the tank had only 1,500 fish, they required 18 lbs of fish food per day – and this number has surely risen.
In order to get a better 360 view of the fish in the AquaDom, visitors can take a transparent elevator up through the inside of the tank!
The Aquadom contains a number of creatures, including eagle rays, catfish and shark. Divers enter the tank several times a day to feed the variety of marine life.
There’s no need to travel to the German coast to see marine life – a visit to this Berlin hotel will leave you amazed!
Europe’s largest hillside park is located in Germany – and it happens to be an UNESCO World Heritage site, as well! Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is a Baroque “mountain park” west of the city center in Kassel, Germany.
Built in 1696, the large park is laid out in a Baroque style with beautiful gardens and architecture. The most interesting feature, however, is its waterworks. About 92,000 gallons of water flow through the park, connecting to reservoirs and channels. The waterworks begin at the top of a hill and flow down to the Grand Fountain, which shoots the water 164 feet into the air.
The waterworks are a sight in and of themselves, but the park also features old architecture, a giant Hercules memorial, faux ruins, a Roman aqueduct and a Chinese pagoda. One of its most picturesque attractions is the Löwenburg Castle, erected by landgrave Wilhelm IX at the end of the 18th century.
The best part about visiting Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe: there’s no entrance fee to get into the park itself! It’s a great spot for those summer picnics we’re so eagerly anticipating right now!