Looking for meaningful holidays or a vacation with a difference, try Baden Wuerttemberg more commonly referred to as SouthWest Germany! With France on its western border, Switzerland on the southern flank, & Bavaria to the east, the region enjoys a strategic tourist friendly location & offers more attractions than many European destinations. Despite the large number of tourists (close to five million) visiting this heart-warming region, SouthWest Germany is able to easily absorb this high number because of the various sustainable practices it follows including fine standards of hygiene & safety. The water you drink from the tap is potable across the state as are the organic fruits & vegetables produced in local farms. Then you have this age old tradition of keeping more than 50% of the state’s land mass green, which virtually means stepping into Nature, each time you open the door!
As you enter the autobahn or one of the regional roads, you’ll be astonished to see a number of vehicles fitted with attachments carrying sail boats, bicycles or even camping equipment. Besides being brazenly Nature friendly, SouthWest Germany is also an outdoor destination offering regular to outlandish experiences. Those vehicles with sporting gear fitted onto them, which you notice while driving past, bear testimony to this! It’s a marvel watching automobiles ranging from classic to ultra luxury maintaining strict driving rules on three lane highways that offer ‘no-speed limit’ on some stretches. Driving past scenic mountain beauty, verdant green fields, monasteries (klosters) & castles delicately clinging to hill tops, you discover it all turning into a magical experience!
You’ve arrived…but are also spoilt for choice! What does the mind say, what does the heart seek or should `I’ leave it to instinct? If you wish to make the most out of your wanderings in Baden Wuerttemberg, its best to decide in advance & not leave it to instinct! Matching your personal interests with destination offerings & duration of trip, is a good way to begin. Besides offering experiences to match your likings, it also fulfills your aspirations. Be it tasting internationally acclaimed local wines while visiting a vineyard, soaking in thermal pools or lying in a sauna, experiencing new levels of wellness, test driving a Mercedes or a Porsche before visiting these world acclaimed classic museums, doing a 360 degrees on a rollercoaster at renowned amusement parks or at the Cannstatter Wasen (festival), taking in fresh air while pedaling in Nature Park & on Nature Trails in the Black Forest or simply trying your swimming skills on languid lakes spread across `die Landschaft’, Baden Wuerttemberg proffers it all.
V 8 Hotel. Photo courtesy: SouthWest German Tourism
Yet another way of plotting your holiday is to follow a geographical pattern. Arriving at Stuttgart – the capital city, & the automobile capital of the globe, by any convenient flight from your hometown is a great way to begin. Discover the opulence of this magnificent city as you walk in the pedestrian zone close to the iconic main Railway Station & take in the customary tour, absorbing the architecture of the Old Castle, admiring the beauty of the Modern Art Museum, trying out gastronomic Swabian meals & finally shopping for bargains at Koenigstrasse (the longest pedestrian zone in Europe) and international brands at Outletcity Metzingen. Those seeking a maverick experience could visit the Pig Museum!, while, car lovers (there are many in India!) will be rewarded with the time of the lives by choosing to spend a couple of nights at the car-themed hotel V-8 (old) & the new V-8 classic, recently opened in 2018. A visit to Mercedes Benz Museum & Porsche Museum in futuristic buildings offering an astonishing range of automobiles beginning with the model of the first gasoline powered automobile (1885) to racing cars whets the appetite of not just car admirers but ‘de-rigueur’ tourists. Still not satiated; you can buy a car at the Mercedes Benz Museum, for those who only wish to take back souvenirs, do so at elegant gift shops located within. Children would be delighted simply visiting Germany’s largest botanical & zoological park ‘Wilhelma’ named after King William I, with architecture done in typical Moorish style, rarely found elsewhere in Germany. Want to ‘marry’ holidays with a festival? A 200 year old tradition still lives on, as the Cannstatter Wasen is celebrated end September, early October – an experience not to missed.
Yearning for rejuvenating wellness, 90 minutes away lies the internationally acclaimed stylish spa town, Baden Baden, home to fine luxury & deluxe spa hotels and two public spas – the modern Caracalla & the historic Roman-Irish Friedrichsbad where the waters run from natural thermal springs, the source of which is two kilometers below the earth’s surface. ‘The green town of short distances’ will leave you truly refreshed & relaxed when you depart. Or how about extending your departure to the afternoon & trying out a hot-air balloon ride with a champagne breakfast in the morning from Mt Merkur – it’s a soft adventure sport you will truly enjoy.
Photo courtesy: SouthWest German Tourism
For those inclined for more adventure, there are activities aplenty in the Black Forest, home to the largest Nature Park in Germany, having a staggering size of 675,000 hectares & 109 municipalities. Sports and recreation have a grand tradition in this holiday region. Together with the Schwarzwaldverein, the two nature reserves have developed a standardised system of signs that point hikers along reliably marked trails to their destination. The Schwarzwaldverein is an association that cares for the needs of the nature in the Black Forest and is predominantly responsible for signposting the hiking trails in the Black Forest. Experience your very own special moment on top of a mountain – the Black Forest has quite a few. No matter whether you choose to go hiking or rock climbing you will enjoy magnificent views over the Black Forest and if the weather is good even as far as the Alps. During winter, don’t miss an opportunity to learn skiing on these gradually inclined mountain slopes. When evening sets, step out for an original Black Forest Cake, during supper don’t lose out on an opportunity of trying out local fruit based Schnapps & the Black Forest Ham.
Romanticists, unconventional tourists & wine-lovers could choose to sleep in a wine barrel, scenically located in a vineyard overlooking a gorgeous mountain range in the Black Forest. The eight “holiday apartments” in each case consist of two converted 8,000 litre wine barrels – one for sleeping, the other for living. The barrels are heated and are equipped with double beds, bed linen and towels, and a toilet. A common room, a grilling cabin in the vintner’s yard, an extra toilet and a shower round off the offer. The double barrels can be booked year-round for a total price of €156, which includes a gift basket, wine and breakfast. This is a perfect example of experiential tourism at its very best.
Constance at the southeastern tip of the state is also known as the four country region as Germany, Switzerland, Austria & the principality of Lichtenstein are in close proximity to each other. For those who get a rare high ‘being on water’ can set themselves loose on the third largest lake in Europe. Drive to Meersburg, Friedrichshafen, Konstanz; all important towns doting the Lake of Constance, where a plethora of activities await you. Choose to take the boat to the Flower Island at Insel Mainau, or visit the Nature Reserve home to 290 bird species & 600 flowering & fern plants; pedal on the Lake Constance Trail which encircles Lake Constance for about 272 kilometers, or step back into the past at the German Stilthouse open-air Museum at Unteruhldingen where you can learn about the living conditions of the lake’s original residents dating back to over 6000 years.
The ultimate experience is a ride on the Zeppelin Airship – a hot air balloon ride over the lake of Constance from a height of less than 1000 feet. You could choose either a 30 minute ride or a 60 minute ride, though there are only three rides a day departing from Friedrichshafen. The trip is not cheap by any means, yet it’s well worth the price for a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. Tip: stay for at least three days in this region, do a boat ride of the Lake before encountering the skies in the Hot Air Balloon. You need to book months in advance to be guaranteed a seat on this flight.
No matter what your holiday aspirations, there’s a very good chance you’ll find it all in SouthWest Germany, quite naturally!
To find out more, visit www.tourism-bw.com.
This article has been penned by Hector Dsouza, Director of SouthWest German Tourism in India.
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