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Major Cities of East Germany
Berlin is both the German capital and the biggest city in Germany. After being separated into East and West during the Cold War, Berlin was reunited after the Wall fell in 1989. The city quickly emerged as the third most visited place in Europe and the most cosmopolitan and exciting city in Germany for art, architecture, and nightlife.
Berlin Travel Guide
Best Free Sights of Berlin
Best of Berlin
10 things NOT to do in Berlin
Dresden, 120 miles south of Berlin, is also nicknamed "Florence at the Elbe", thanks to its idyllic location on the banks of the Elbe river and its excellent examples of Baroque architecture and world-class museums. Although 80% of Dresden’s historic center was destroyed in World War II, all important landmarks have been rebuilt to their former splendor. Highlights of Dresden include the Church of Our Lady, the Green Vault and the Semper Opera.
Best Things to Do in Dresden
- Off the beaten path in Dresden
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Leipzig, 118 miles southwest of Berlin, has been home to some of Germany’s best-known artists for a long time; Goethe was a student in Leipzig, Bach worked here as a cantor, and today, the New Leipzig school brings fresh wind into the art world with artists such as Neo Rauch. Besides being a center for German art and culture, the city also became famous in Germany’s recent history, when Leipzig demonstrators initiated the peaceful revolution, which lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Highlights of Leipzig include the Bach Museum and St. Thomas Church, where the great composer worked as a cantor; the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, one of the oldest symphony orchestras in the world; and Auerbachs Keller, one of the oldest pubs in Germany that Goethe used to visit as a student.
Best Things to Do in Leipzig
Off the beaten path in Leipzig
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Minor Cities of East Germany
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Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia, was founded as a Catholic diocese in 742 and became an important trading town in the middle Ages. Filled with historic townhouses, cathedrals, monasteries, and the oldest inhabited bridge in Europe, Erfurt still has the feeling of a medieval university town. It’s best to explore Erfurt’s "Altstadt" (Old Town) with its charming winding streets on foot. One hour away from both Leipzig and Weimar, Erfurt is still an insider tip for many Germany travelers.
Best Things to Do in Erfurt
Weimar is the heart of German culture. This city in the East of Germany was home to many of Germany’s artists and thinkers; Goethe, Bach, and Nietzsche, just to name a few, shaped the intellectual zeitgeist of Weimar. The city is also the cradle of the Bauhaus movement, which revolutionized the aesthetics of the 20th century.
Best Things to Do in Weimar
Potsdam is just a quick train ride away from Berlin, and most of the city’s parks and palaces have UNESCO World Heritage status; one of the most famous sites is the rococo palace Sanssouci and its ornate royal park, which is filled with cascading terraces, fountains, and statues. Another must-see for history buffs is Cecilienhof, the site of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, where Stalin, Churchill and Truman decided to divide Germany into different occupation zones. For fans of recent cinema acclaim, visit the real life Bridge of Spies.
Best Things to Do in Potsdam
- Wartburg Castle and Eisenach:
The Wartburg Castle sits on a steep hill, overlooking the city of Eisenach and the forests of Thuringia; it is one of the oldest and best-preserved Romanesque castles in Germany. Built in 1067, the Wartburg presents over 900 years of German history. The castle became the refuge for the German church reformer Martin Luther, who translated the Bible in only eleven weeks into German. Since 1999, the Wartburg Castle is part of the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Guide to Wartburg Castle
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Quintessential Meals in East Germany
You haven't really sampled East German life until you've eaten these seven East German meals. Meat, offals and lots of sausage, this is the tastiest way to take a bite out of DDR Ostalgie (nostalgia for East Germany).
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- Spreewald Pickle
- Königsberger Klopse
- A selection of sausage from Ketwurst to Grützwurst
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Products that Survived Reunification
Walking around modern Germany, you may have no idea that Ostprodukte (products from East Germany) are all around you. Reunification has proved a rocky road with many West German companies taking over from their eastern counterparts, but a few select products have toughed out the integration phase and made it to nationwide prominence in the 21st century. Watch out for Trabants on the street, the cheery Ampelmännchen telling you to cross and Rotkäppchen (Sekt - sparkling wine) to celebrate the best of both sides of Germany.