Dip in behind the very well-storied cliches of travel through Germany, and you’ll discover an amazingly layered country full of delights for travellers of all sorts, and one that melds and equally celebrates both its heritage and its contemporary elements.

But, first the cliches! Some of the most iconic palaces and castles in the world live here. Whether it’s the fairytale-like Neuschwanstein, the quirky Burg Eltz or the brooding Heidelberg, there are castles of all shapes and sizes, in arguably the finest collection of any on the planet. Add in spectacular mountain scenery, chocolate box meadow landscapes with timber chalets, world-famous Christmas markets, medieval walled towns and some of the best Gothic & Baroque architecture in Europe and it’s a great starting point.

And, where better to start than Berlin, troubled and divided for so many years, but now the cultural and emotional heart of the country. The Wall, Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie among others are wonderfully evocative (and sobering) reminders of Berlin’s more recent past, but it’s in Museum Island on the Spree or Unter den Linden that you get an insight into the Berlin of earlier times. Interspersed with eclectic modern art & architectural creations and a vibrant multicultural bar & restaurant scene, and there’s more than enough to occupy you here for over a week.

Outside of Berlin, Germany is very much a country of major cities. The home of Oktoberfest and the gateway to the Alps, Munich is very much Germany’s 2nd city, known equally for the quality of its museums and architecture as well as it’s brewing qualities. Throw in Cologne, visit-worthy even if just for its incredible cathedral, the wonderfully gritty and character-filled Hamburg with it’s music scene and market place, or Heidelberg for its cobbled laneways, olde-worlde charm (and of course it’s castle!).

But, once you’re done with the cities, the size of Germany is such that there is still abundant countryside to explore. The picture-postcard Black Forest is one of the most visited areas of Europe, the mountains offer abundant hiking and skiing options, while many of the best castles occupy incredible positions high up in the Alps. Down in the flatter areas, the castle-encrusted Rhine Valley cuts a swathe through the western half of Germany, and a train/boat/road trip along here is one of the most spectacular river journeys in the world.

Fuel yourself with some traditional fare (read sausage & schnitzel) and wash it down with one of the numerous ales or very fine wines. Or, indulge in the sophisticated and emergent food industry based around local seasonal produce that again tips the cliche about Germany on its head.

Image by Canadastock, Shutterstock