Historic German second cities simply wurst class
Now's best time to make tracks for historic highlights cross-country German train tour.
North-bound Munich to Berlin but, rather than attracted to those great cities' Oktoberfest and wall tourism magnets, stopping off at smaller settlements that retain huge appeal long after last dregs of Christkindl Glühwein have been drained.
It was, to sound of Charles Dickens spinning in his Poets' Corner grave, "the best of times, it was the wurst of times".
Regensburg: This Bavarian city, straddling the Danube, is medieval to its historic core, built around 12th century Stone Bridge, 300-plus metre iconic structure whose 16 river arches connect old and new sectors. Its cathedral, one century younger, stands as twin-spired Gothic landmark, home to globally renowned Domspatzen choir, old town hall, Thurn and Taxis Palace among other must-see heritage highlights, while snuff factory museum is not to be sniffed at.
Hotel Jakob offers best of budget-luxury both worlds, recently renovated 1781 listed building, itself a reminder of bygone times. Fine dining is available at Regensburg Kneitinger, combining brewing pedigree with charitable credentials, and Brauhaus am Schloss, serving fortifying fare in castle's shadow, while water-side Historic Sausage Kitchen, reputedly world's oldest eatery, sees 6,000 portions served daily, accompanied by sauerkraut and trademark sweet mustard.
Erfurt: Nestling in central state Thuringia, here was Augustinian Monastery home to Martin Luther, father of Protestant Reformation, ordained in Cathedral of St Mary, whose notable origins date back to 8th century. Alongside stands Gothic Church of St Severus and nearby Old Synagogue, Europe's most long-standing intact example. Most remarkable is Gera River-spanning Krämerbrücke, so adorned by Middle Ages merchants' outlets, visitors can be forgiven for believing it a street rather than bridge, Thuringian speciality shops veritable Aladdin's Caves of Germanic gifts.
Best Western Plus Hotel Excelsior's Art Nouveau façade fronts four star bolthole whose local culinary attractions include Viba Confiserie-Café, centred on sweet success of award winning nougat confectionery from 1893 origins, undisputed doyen of delicatessen dressings BORN, and winning recipe of tradition meets modern at Köstritzer Black Beer House, Zum Güldenen Rade's guest book including telling comment "beef roulade and red cabbage were really like my mother"! Heimathafen Craft-Brewery meanwhile has, since recent train sheds micro-base launch, fast become artisan ale lovers' mecca.
Potsdam: Bordering Berlin, here's home of Sanssouci Palace, once summer residence of former King of Prussia Frederick the Great, Renaissance building overlooking Italian gardens and fountains, while English style landscape surrounds neoclassical Charlottenhof Palace. Multi-cultural theme continues with Russian Colony Alexandrowka and Cecilienhof Palace, mock Tudor post-war conference venue attracting leading luminaries Stalin, Churchill, Attlee and Truman. Culture vultures need look no further than Musuem Barberini and Filmmusuem, whose "Dream Factory" exhibition celebrates location of such silver screen successes as Glienicker Brücke-based Bridge of Spies, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Inglorious Basterds.
Hotel Am Großen Waisenhaus stay sees guests surrounded by over 250 years of amazing architecture, accommodation originally built as "barracks for married soldiers" before becoming orphanage and children's hospital. For food and drink, make flying visit to Dutch quarter Zum Fliegenden Holländer, or Lewy Wine Bistro, long serving Italian, French, German and Russian fusion dishes. Contorting age-old proverb, if its Baroque, don't fix it! Jungfernsee Lake-hugging Dairy in New Garden Gasthausbrauerei rose from ashes of destructive fire, modern day brews refreshing development from previous Red Army occupation and proximity to divisive Communist wall.
This trio of lovable locations are among 17, From Aachen to Würzburg, Historic Highlights of Germany http://www.historicgermany.travel/ offer exciting itineraries for, promising "rich cultural experience, friendly environment and relaxing time, the key to happier, healthier and more sustainable lifestyle". For better or wurst, you can't beat getting off the beaten track.