Weekend Wanderlust: How to travel the world without leaving Germany

The corona crisis means that the big wide world may have to wait this summer and be replaced with trips around Germany. But which places can still give you the feeling of being abroad?

Weekend Wanderlust: How to travel the world without leaving Germany
Outstanding rock formations in Saxon Switzerland. Source: Sächsische Schweiz e.V./DPA
In the time of a pandemic, warnings and precautions mean that many holiday destinations remain unreachable for German residents for the time being.
You can, of course, still enjoy international cuisine at home or from restaurants while daydreaming about far-flung destinations. Or you can marvel at the exotic animals in the zoo and get the feeling of being in Australia with koalas in Duisburg, Dresden or Leipzig. 
But when it comes to having a deeper experience in different surroundings, an excursion within Germany could also help to transport you abroad. Here is a selection of places, which can offer that feeling of escapism:
Berlin: Although the capital is sometimes nicknamed “Athens on the Spree”, with its hipster hotspots, celebrity scene and wide expanse, it is more like Germany's answer to Los Angeles – Lake Müggelsee would be Venice Beach, Wannsee Malibu and Grunewald Beverly Hills.

Frankfurt: Continuing the theme of bringing the US to Germany, the skyline and stock exchange of Frankfurt in Hesse brings to mind another obvious comparison – Germany's New York. The Eiserne Steg (iron footbridge) as Brooklyn Bridge, the Main River as the East River – all of course on a slightly smaller scale than in North America.

Mainhattan – Frankfurt on the river Main is Germany's answer to NYC. Source: DPA

Hamburg: English-looking rows of houses, residents who love an understated style – and the Beatles started their careers here. No German metropolis is more British than Hamburg. The city of the Reeperbahn and the Elbphilharmonie could pass as the German London.

READ ALSO: Meet the Beatles superfan keeping the Fab Four alive in Hamburg

Bad Homburg: The casino at the gates of Frankfurt advertises itself as the “Mother of Monte Carlo” and with its high number of wealthy inhabitants, the nearby region of Taunus could be seen as Germany’s Monaco – just with a low mountain range instead of the Mediterranean.

Munich: The northernmost city in Italy likes to call itself Munich – and the city’s Odeonplatz looks very much like an Italian piazza. Monaco di Baviera (the Italian name for Munich) could therefore be a great domestic replacement for Florence, Rome, Rimini, Verona, Bologna, Turin, Trieste, Milan or Siena.

Harz: With their forests, high peaks and lakes, Germany's low mountain ranges are reminiscent of Scandinavia. A sense of being in Norway or Sweden is particularly strong in Harz. In the Hahnenklee-Bockswiese district of Goslar there is even a typically Norwegian stave church.

The Krämer Bridge in Erfut. Source: ZB

Erfurt and Dresden: The Krämer Bridge in Erfurt, Thuringia’s capital, is a bridge with buildings on both sides just like the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno in the Italian city of Florence. But it is actually Dresden which is nicknamed “the Florence on the Elbe”.

Wiesbaden and Cologne: Sophisticated architecture, historical buildings – Hesse's state capital of Wiesbaden is a bit like Germany's Paris. Or those craving the French capital may prefer to visit Cologne – its huge cathedral is reminiscent of Notre-Dame – and is even undamaged

READ ALSO: Weekend Wanderlust: Getting my feet wet in Wiesbaden

Görlitz: With its well-preserved buildings from different eras, this city on the Polish border has already been featured in many films, standing in for New York, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Paris, and Heidelberg. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” was just one of the many films shot here.

Berchtesgaden: In Hitler’s time, this Alpine town served as a kind of second seat of government. Because the city is comparatively low – only around 600 meters high – the neighbouring Watzmann mountain with its height of 2700 meters, looks almost as powerful as the Matterhorn does next to the Swiss town of Zermatt.

The Watzmann mountain overlooks the alpine town of Berchtesgarten. Source: tmn

Potsdam: Amongst other attractions, this former Prussian residence city has a Dutch quarter and is otherwise known as the city of palaces and gardens, which are reminiscent of Versailles, Vienna, Saint Petersburg or even Italy.

Uckermark: With its hilly landscape, this area is sometimes called the Tuscany of the North. Just under an hour's drive north of Berlin, the Chancellor Angela Merkel also has a dacha (a Russian country house) in Hohenwalde, a municipality in Milmersdorf.

Switzerland: Saxon Switzerland, Franconian Switzerland, Märkische Switzerland, Elfringhauser Switzerland (NRW), Dithmarscher Switzerland (Schleswig-Holstein) – there are dozens of Swiss-place names throughout Germany, although not all of them live up to their name. Whatever. 

READ ALSO: Scenery as far as the eye can see in Saxon Switzerland

Chalk cliffs on the Island of Rügen in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Source: dpa-Zentralbild

The sea: Thanks to the climate, Binz near the Baltic Sea will never replace Bali and Sylt is no substitute for Saint-Tropez. And Kiel, the capital of Schleswig-Holstein, is not much of a Barcelona either. The pretty islands and towns of the Baltic Sea and North Sea are beautiful in a different way to Mallorca, Ibiza, Sicily, Crete and Co.

World travel via place names: You don't have to fly thousands of kilometers to Brazil, because Germany has places with names from all over the world.

There are several Amerikas, a Jerusalem in Neuenkirchen (in Lüneburg Heide), Siberia in Elmshorn near Hamburg, Greenland in Sommerland near Itzehoe, California in Schönberg on the Bay of Kiel, Siberia in Elmshorn near Hamburg, in Emkendorf (and also Schleswig-Holstein) and in Mohrkirch, south of Flensburg, you can find Sweden and Norway. 

And the name Brazil not only denotes the country in South America, but also a beach on the Baltic Sea. 

If that's not enough, you can go on a world trip in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's most northernmost state. There is a village there called Welt (world) – with just 200 inhabitants.

Travel to the end of the world and still be in Germany. Source: dpa

Translated by Sarah Magill

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.