Top city themes – select 'your city' …

Ingolstadt – a city of many facets, steeped in history and tradition yet with a modern, urban flair, vibrant and full of life. This university city and shopping destination on the Danube has a delightful blend of charm and atmosphere. And it also has the Audi Forum, a world of automotive discovery that is not just for petrol heads.

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If German cities were schoolchildren then Darmstadt would be top of the class. Highly educated, well read, cultivated, immaculately groomed and with a range of interests. Through science, literature, art and architecture, Darmstadt has developed a wholly unique appeal that has earned it much acclaim.

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Every Cologne resident has more than their fair share of zest for life and partying spirit – it's in their DNA. After all, Cologne is more than just a city – it is a matter of the heart, an emotion and an unfalteringly positive state of mind. At the root of this outlook are carnival, kölsch beer and, of course, Cologne Cathedral.

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This university city on the banks of the Rhine and Neckar rivers has seen many firsts in the history of transport. Karl Drais built the first two-wheeled draisine in Mannheim in 1817, and Carl Benz's first car took to the city's streets in 1886. The legendary Lanz Bulldog tractor followed in 1921 and Julius Hatry developed the world's first rocket-powered aircraft here in 1929. Inquiring minds clearly feel at home in Mannheim.

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This is a cosmopolitan city, youthful, laid-back and proud of a history going back more than 1,200 years. Whether as a bishop's seat, a member of the Hanseatic League or a university city – Münster has always played an important role in the region and far beyond. The city earned its place in the annals of world history when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed there.

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Mainz is famous for its university, its Roman heritage, its status as a media hub and regional capital, and its three most defining features: the Romanesque cathedral, the Gutenberg printing press and the Rhineland carnival. The people of Mainz have good reason to be proud of their city's history spanning almost 2,000 years. This rich cultural heritage incorporates a well-established winegrowing tradition, which only adds to Mainz's appeal.

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Heidelberg is a city that will capture your heart. Famous the world over, it is a perennial favourite among international tourists. The city has so much to offer: charm and character in abundance between the Old Bridge and the mighty castle, an unparalleled choice of culture and entertainment, hearty yet heavenly cuisine and a picturesque setting nestled between the Neckar river and the foothills of the Odenwald forest.

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What does Berlin have that other world cities don't? Well, first of all, there's the locals, whose rough yet friendly charm is all part of the Berlin experience. Add to that an incredible array of sights that reflect not only the city's newfound swagger but also its great history and the dramatic events of the 20th century.

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Explore the far corners of the globe and return via Hamburg – travel itineraries don't get much better than that. Gateway to the world, beautiful seafaring hub, maritime capital of the north – even the normally reserved locals find it hard to conceal their pride in their home city, its ambience and its cosmopolitan charm.

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Founded as Augusta Treverorum in 16 BC during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, Trier is Germany's oldest city and an important site for classical monuments and art treasures. This can be seen at the Porta Nigra, the best-preserved city gate from antiquity and today the most famous landmark of this city on the banks of the Moselle.

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There are cars you drive... and then there are cars you dream of. Stuttgart has both in abundance. Not only does the city produce internationally renowned cars, but it also lives and breathes automotive history in a way that nowhere else does. Drivers' dreams become reality when they visit Stuttgart.

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Düsseldorf becomes the focus of the fashion world when the city reveals the latest in designer fashion and high-street trends. 'The Gallery Düsseldorf' emerged from Igedo (the world's biggest fashion show in its day) and is now a biannual event that attracts international fashion designers and buyers in their droves to the Rhine city.

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You don't have to hold a doctorate to visit Göttingen, but it could come in handy in a city that seems to pulsate with a thirst for knowledge, and that is dominated by students and academic life more than anywhere else in Germany. A total of 44 Nobel laureates are associated with Göttingen. Some were born in the town, others came here to study, teach or carry out research.

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Famously home to such companies as Schott Glas and Zeiss, Jena offers a remarkable combination of industrial and intellectual heritage, research, innovation and academia. This is as evident in the city's institutions and universities as it is in the bars of the wonderful old quarter, which as cosy as they are traditional.

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Würzburg is a pleasing harmony of history, culture and wine. This university town and former royal seat is idyllically situated on either side of the Main river and offers a vibrant atmosphere and an endearing charm. It has gained a name as the centre of the Franconian winegrowing region and, not least, as a city with exceptional places of interest.

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Bielefeld was founded in 1214 by Duke Hermann von Ravensberg. A man of great foresight, he saw potential in the location at the intersection of two old trading routes near a pass through the Teutoburg Forest. This paved the way for a typical mercantile town with a large market and beautiful timber-framed houses, which to this day remain prominent features in a city that appreciates fine art.

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What travellers from around the world are saying

Zwinger Palace

O Chateau de Versailles de Dresden

O Zwinger Palace é um dos melhores exemplos da arquitetura barroca tardia na Alemanha. Construído entre 1710 e 1728 pelo arquiteto Pöppelmann, o Palácio Zwinger foi usado para grandes festas e torneios. Hoje, o complexo barroco de pavilhões, galerias e pátios interiores é a casa de grandes museus e obras. A Madonna Sistina de Rafael você encontrará lá. O acervo de Porcelana tambem é belíssimo. O Arsenal também é muito interessante se você curte trajes e armas. Se você não quiser entrar em nenhum museu, vá pelo menos para andar pelos jardins e admirar o "Kronentor", que é o portão com a coroa.

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martinha@viajoteca.com

Asisi Panometer

Deesden : 1945

Setenta anos depois do bombardeio de Dresden, na Segunda Guerra Mundial, um panorama de 360 ​​graus que mostra a cidade destruída foi revelado na cidade. O artista Yadegar Asisi criou uma imagem circular de 100 metros de largura e 30 metros de altura que mostra Dresden após os devastadores ataques aéreos dos aliados. Entre 13-15 fevereiro de 1945, apenas alguns meses antes do fim da guerra, os bombardeiros britânicos e norte-americanos destruíram mais de 90 por cento do centro histórico da cidade, matando cerca de 25.000 pessoas. Mais de 3.900 toneladas de bombas de alto poder explosivo e dispositivos incendiários dizimaram marcos importantes do barroco em uma cidade que é considerada "a Florença do Elba". O panorama, Dresden: 1945, fica aberto de 24 de Janeiro à 31 de maio de 2015, no gasômetro Panometer. http://www.asisi.de/en/panoramas/dresden-1945/photo-gallery.html

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martinha@viajoteca.com

Frauenkirche - Church of Our Lady

A Lady de Dresden

A Igreja da Nossa Senhora de Dresden é um espetáculo de linda. É a igreja que vai te impactar no primeiro minuto que você entrar e ver uma igreja branca, super luminada. Se há um lugar cuja história pode mover-lo às lágrimas, será n'a Igreja de Nossa Senhora. Durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial, a igreja foi bombardeada e ficou em escombros até 1994, quando um programa de restauração foi iniciado. Hoje, é um lembrete dos dias antes da guerra e um dos lugares que você vai ter uma história imparcial sobre a Segunda Guerra Mundial.

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martinha@viajoteca.com

Christmas Markets in Cologne

Christmas in Germany

Christmas may be over, but 11 months from now the season will be upon us and you should spend 2015 in Germany! Why? The Christmas season is in Germany is like no other. There is no other place in the world where you can experience countless, and famous, Christmas markets that will without a doubt, put you in the holiday spirit. While the markets are open all day, it’s best to visit at night. Many towns across Germany have decorated the streets and market squares with evergreen-lined stalls, twinkling lights and religious (and not so religious) statues to kick off the holiday season as festively as possible. If you are a foreigner in Germany at this time of year, it's difficult to miss home when Germany puts on an excellent show at Christmas time. No matter what German city you are in, you can find families and friends of all ages, walking around shopping for unique and traditional gifts, sipping on mulled wine and indulging in delicious German food. You will hear laughter amongst the Christmas carols that will make you forget about your toes and fingers tingling from the cold temperature at this time of year. It’s truly a traditional delight for all of the senses. No trip to the German Christmas markets is complete without trying a class of glühwein, which is a combinations of red wine, spices and sugar. This traditional drink will keep you cozy and happy. Hungry? No problem! There are many stalls that sell traditional German Christmas Market food and snacks for you to enjoy such as bratwurst, mutzen, schmachtlappen and reibekuchen. In a world where Christmas present shopping consists of the latest technology and thoughtless gift certificates, it’s nice to be able to find traditional hand carved gifts at several stalls. Not to mention, mountains of oranges and nuts, the original gift that St. Nicholas gave to people hundreds of years ago at this time of year. While many countries around the world celebrate Christmas, no other place does it like Germany. So, if you feel that this time of year has been lacking in holiday spirit, take a trip over to this European country and be reminded what Christmas time is all about.

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hopscotchtheglobe@gmail.com

Canadians First Time at a Traditional Co-ed Spa

Visiting a co-ed spa was a foreign concept to me, being born and raised in Canada. Nudity in my culture is reserved for your own home where some have issues looking at themselves in the mirror. The gym change room is another publicly acceptable nude room, many of us have mastered the art of undressing by using a towel without exposing our private parts. My wife, Kristen, and I walked into that spa and let go of our Canadian mentalities. I undressed in the co-ed change room next to a woman in her 60s. She had kind eyes, a warm smile and no knowledge of nude shame as she stripped down without embarrassment. Kristen and I entered the spa, dropped our towels and were liberated, free for all to gaze upon! There were adults of all ages and body type, casually conversing as if being nude was more comfortable than being clothed. I had to constantly remind myself that people are not judgemental of bodies here, something I have never experienced in North America. Nudity is very much a part of the culture here. This German spa was the first place I have experienced harmony and equality among class, age, sex. Nobody knows whether you walked in with an Armani suit or a ripped t-shirt, you are all equal, beautiful and free. I immediately felt unjudged and part of the community. The architecture and decor of the spa was heavenly. Stone tiles lead the way to a large open room with lounging chairs and a marble swimming pool. The ambiance is zen, with only the sound of calm conversations and light background music. Buddha heads, candles, bamboo designs and waterfalls decorate the many rooms with relaxation and beauty. The outdoor rooftop contained hot tubs and saunas to keep you warm and steamy as well as cold pools and a bucket of snow used to cool your body down before jumping back into the hot tub. I left with my body relaxed, my skin clean, and my mind at peace. I learned that the human body is a beautiful gift which should be appreciated and accepted. Nudity is our original state and should be more widely accepted.

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hopscotchtheglobe@gmail.com

Herrenhauser Gärten Grotto

Niki the St.-Phalle at her best

A couple of years ago a very wealthy friend of mine, who owns an work of art by French artist Niki de St.-Phalle, told me included Hannover in a trip to Europe just to see Nikki's art in town. I had totally forgotten this until I came to Hannover and found out that Niki's works are all over the place. There are three Nanas in the Sculpture Mile downtown and an ancient grotto at the Herrenhauser Gardens was redone by Niki, who filled with her Nanas, a colorful Ganesha and a myriad of kaleidoscopic mirrors. Before her death, she donated her private collection to Hannover's Sprengel Museum, and will appear in the new wing due to open late in 2016.

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xongas@gmail.com

Elbphilarmonie

The next big thing

Due to open in 2017, the Elbphilarmonie is a ~very~ controversial project among Hamburg's taxpayers. But its sheer originality and generous public spaces will definitely put Hamburg on the map of people who've never thought of visiting this vibrant town. The building will contain three concert halls, two hotels, apartments, shops and a public square between the base of the bulding (a former wharehouse) and the new, Gaudí-esque top. You can count on Hamburg becoming as popular with foreign travelers as it is among German visitors.

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xongas@gmail.com

Christmas Markets in Cologne

A White Christmas in Cologne

My notions of winter in Europe have been shaped by Hollywood movies. I expected to watch snowflakes romantically descend upon short winter days, and the cosy glow of Christmas trees in makeshift homes (think boutique hotels) to keep me warm. What surprised me on my December trip to Germany was the camaraderie and sheer revelry at the country’s famous Christmas markets, compelling enough to brave the single digit temperatures and rejoice over a white winter! If the thought of Europe evokes images of quaint old churches in juxtaposition with hi-tech buildings, and old towns with cobbled streets and artistic cafes, a winter trip to Cologne only romanticizes those images further. Come December, chirpy little Christmas Markets pop up among the city’s most charming neighborhoods, and become the go-to place for the city’s locals. Colorful booths line the streets, selling traditional German and Christmas gifts, like the famous Räuchermännchen, a wooden toy that is an incense smoker in disguise. Food stalls serve up hash browns, frankfurters, crepes, and local delicacies. People gather around drinking glühwein, the famous mulled wine of Europe warmed with spices, chatting, warming up over some neighborhood gossip. Christmas music plays everywhere, and the night rings with the clinking of cups and prost. Such revelry! At the Christmas Market on the Alter Markt in Cologne, local craftsmen and women demonstrate their talents with wood crafts, crystal painting and glass glazing; it is fascinating to observe the precision and pride that goes behind each little piece of work, and meet men and women who have come to these markets since they were little boys and girls. But the icing on the cake in a festive Cologne is its main market, which glitters in the dramatic backdrop of the city’s oldest and most charming cathedral; truly a European Christmas!

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shivyanath@gmail.com