Planning a trip into the heart of Europe means planning a trip that’s encased in some beautiful history and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) makes it easy to find the sights to see. Through its process of seeking natural and cultural landmarks, there are now 40 Germany UNESCO sites in the country alone. Too numerous to list in one article, here are five that are worth a visit:
1. Cologne Cathedral
Nestled within Germany’s fourth largest city is this epic masterpiece of human ingenuity. Taking 632 years and two months to build, Cologne Cathedral bears witness to the endurance of European Christianity. A high gothic, five aisled basilica, with a projecting transept and tower façade, it’s nave measures almost 143-feet high and side aisles about 65-feet long. The cathedral includes a high altar with an enormous monolithic slab of black limestone that is believed to be the largest in any Christian church, as well as carved oak choir stalls and the largest existent cycle of early 14th century stained glass windows in Europe. The house of worship is home to many works of art as well, such as the Gero crucifix, the altarpiece of St. Clare, City Partrons (done by Stephan Lochner) and St. Agiolphus.
Photo courtesy | Jiuguang Wang
2. Upper Middle Rhine Valley
Forging its way through small, fairy-tale-like towns and the ruins of a once great fortresses, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is a 40-mile stretch of water between Bingen, Rüdesheim and Koblenz. Castle ruins, terraced vineyards and the communities of 60-small towns dot the blue and green landscape. The Rhine River has an extensive history, including its important role as a trade route, and for enabling cultural exchange between nations. 40-hilltop castles and fortresses are located in this section of the Rhine, each built over a 1,000 year period. They appeal strongly to the Romantic Movement and as such were restored and reconstructed throughout the 19th century.
Photo courtesy | Sergei Gussev
3. Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust at Brühl
The main residence of the prince archbishops of Cologne and his hunting lodge, Augustusburg and Fralkenlust were built and completed by architects Johann Conrad Schlaun and François de Cuvilliés. These two properties manage to link the great European architecture with the unprecedented richness of the period’s art. Falkenlust, a mere hunting lodge, is among the earliest and best examples of 18th century Rococo architecture in Germany. Standing in its own park, and built between 1729-1737, Falkenlust was commissioned by Prince Elector of Cologne Clemens August to practice his favorite sport, falconry. The gardens for both properties utilize multiplying ramps and symmetrical flowerbeds similar to Nymphenburg, Schleissheim and the Belvedere of Vienna.
Photo courtesy | Günter Hentschel
4. Wadden Sea
A stopover for up to 12-million migrant birds each year, Wadden is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world. Undisturbed by the modern world, the area encompasses a multitude of transitional zones between land, sea and freshwater environments. Rich with species specially adapted for this kind of ecosystem, Wadden plays a crucial role in the East Atlantic Flyway and the conservation of African-Eurasian, migratory birds. Up to 6.1 million birds can be present at one moment when visiting.
Photo courtesy | Eutrophication&Hypoxia
5. Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe
Created as a monument to the Greek god Hercules in 1689, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is a testimony to the wealth and power of the 18th and 19th century European ruling class. Rushing water from the octagon featuring the Hercules statue via Vexing grotto and artichoke basin, down the Baroque cascade to Neptune’s basin, the water works in this park culminate at the Grand Fountain and geyser (considered the tallest in the world in 1767). The park is complimented by Roman waterfalls, rapids and cataracts created under the Elector Wilhelm I, and sits along the east-west axis in the center of the city of Kassel. Hercules himself stands visible from several kilometers away.
Photo courtesy | Gunner Ries