Wish list: Six of the best German journeys for 2013
Hike across the seabed: Not a conventional journey by any stretch of the imagination, but mud-flat walking out to the North Sea island of Neuwerk is a pretty unique experience. The walk itself, guided by brushwood markers, takes a couple of hours from Sahlenburg near Cuxhaven, and you can stay over in one of the island’s half-dozen little hotels or come back by ferry with the returning tide.
Steam over hills: It’s one of the most visited pages on our website, but the Harz Mountain Railway doesn’t tend to attract mainstream international visitors because of its location, between Hanover and Leipzig, which can be awkward for travellers. The lovingly-tended locomotives criss-cross the mountains under pillars of steam, winter or summer, in sun and in snow. Go from Wernigerode to Quedlinburg.
Bike downriver: The top end of the Danube, from its source at Donaueschingen to where it gets serious at Regensburg, is an idyll of rural mittel-Europe, with castles, forests, monasteries and shepherds distributed along a mazy river that in one place goes underground. Alongside runs one of Germany’s most pleasing cycle routes, far less crowded than the hugely popular downriver cyclepath into Austria.
Paddle and hike: A fleet of antique paddlesteamers operates up and down the Elbe out of the reconstructed city of Dresden. In summer, the steamers flap-flap upriver all the way to Bad Schandau, a charming spa town nestled in the foothills of Saxon Switzerland, a hikers’ and climbers’ paradise of giant rocks and deep forest on the border with the Czech Republic.
Wine trip: Large-scale riverine tourism in Germany tends to focus on the Rhine, with all its castles and vineyards, but the serpentine Moselle has the same characteristics, but with none of the crowds. Particularly recommended is the stretch between half-timbered towns Traben-Trarbach and Bernkastel-Kues, with boat services and a cycle path through spectacularly steep wine terracing.
Road journey: And finally, there’s the Alpenstrasse, the Alpine Road, best done in a vintage car (an Alfa Romeo Spider, perhaps). Blue skies, spectacular scenery and air like Champagne, all the way along the foothills of the Alps from the Allgäu to Chiemgau, via monasteries, castles, lakes and mountain resorts.