10 Essential shots for your German photo album

Mountain village in Germany
Mountain village in Germany

10 Essential shots for your German photo album

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

How lucky we are to live in a day and age in which taking a gorgeous photo is as simple and easy as whipping out a smartphone and snapping away! Despite the ease with which we can create such beautiful images, some photos are just meant to be treasured forever. They capture a moment in time, an age of the kids, and that feeling of togetherness as you experience something truly special. Which extra-special backdrops would you choose to encapsulate the essence of your time stationed in Germany? 

Have you snapped family pics in front of these landmarks? Let’s see those smiling faces! Who can go all 10 for 10 with us?

Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim | Photo by Pavel Dudek 

Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim am Rhein

The Drosselgasse is the splendid, slender alley that draws a virtual line from the banks of the Rhine to the vineyards surrounding the ever-charming Rüdesheim am Rhein. The lane is famous not for just how narrow it is – less than 7 feet wide – but for the quaint half-timbered houses found along both sides. These house a range of gift shops, wine taverns and restaurants. Once evening falls, many establishments offer their guests live music, from classy string quartets to one-man bands covering Elvis.

Complete a visit to this idyllic part of the world by partaking in a Rüdesheimer Kaffee, a coffee to which the locally produced Asbach Uralt brandy, sugar cubes and a dollop of cream are added. If you choose the right place, the server will bring it to you in a specially designed cup and prepare it at the table according to a set ritual popularized by a German TV chef back in the 1950s.

Bastei Bridge | Photo by Andrew Mayovskyy 



The Bastei Bridge in Saxon Switzerland

Southeast of Dresden and nestled up close to the Czech border, a wild region of mountains, valleys and strange sandstone formations has been preserved for the ages in the form of the Saxon Switzerland National Park. This paradise attracts not only hikers and nature lovers: many artists have been inspired by the area’s astounding natural beauty.

The first Bastei Bridge, made of wood, was erected in 1824. In 1851, to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of tourists, it was replaced by the handsome stone structure we see today. The bridge’s seven arches span a 130-foot deep ravine.

For a stylish arrival in the small town of Rathen, which visitors to the area often choose as their base, board an old-fashioned paddleboat steamer that cruises along the Elbe River from magnificent Dresden.

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

The Brandenburger Tor isn’t really a gate at all but rather a soaring neoclassical monument built on the orders of Prussian King Frederick William II in 1791 to grace the end of the elegant Unter den Linden boulevard. Modeled after an element of Athens’ Acropolis, it keeps some esteemed company, with the Reichstag, home of the German parliament, just a stone’s throw away.

Major historical events unfolded in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate. In 1806, Napoleon and his troops marched under it in a triumphal procession and even took its Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses and driven by the Roman goddess of victory back to Paris for a time. When the Nazis ascended to power, they used the gate as a party symbol. Although it was heavily damaged from bombing in World War II, it remained standing. From 1961 to 1989, the Berlin Wall passed directly to the west of it. Two American presidents delivered speeches in its proximity: John F. Kennedy in 1963 and Ronald Reagan in 1987. On October 3, 1990, the gate was the scene of the official ceremony marking the reunification of Germany. Today the monument is looked upon as a symbol of German unity and peace.

For memories of holiday revelry to last you a lifetime, make way to the gate on Silvester, or New Year’s Eve, where you can welcome in the coming year in the company of a million revelers.

Bamberg Old Town Hall | Photo by scanrail

The Old Town Hall in Bamberg

The Old Town Hall of Bamberg is found in a peculiar location: smack-dab in the middle of the Regnitz River, which runs through the center of this city of exceptional quaintness. According to legend, a city bishop refused to grant the citizens land for the construction of a town hall, prompting them to put stakes into the river in order to create an artificial island. The building that stands in this place today is a real beauty, with its handsome stone edifice flanked by a picture-perfect half-timbered structure to the one side and a fresco-bedecked house to its opposite. The two arched stone bridges connecting it to the land accommodate pedestrian-only traffic.

Fans of dishes can enter within to admire an impressive collection of Meissen porcelain, Strassbourg faience and other exquisite decorations used to grace the tabletops of high society of the 1800s; as a bonus, they can also take a peek at the sumptuous Rococo Hall.

Cologne Cathedral | Photo by pixel62 

Cologne Cathedral in Cologne

Even as far back as the time of the Romans, Christians were observing religious services at the location where the grandiose cathedral stands today. Modeled after the great cathedrals of Paris, Strasbourg and Amiens, the cornerstone of the existing structure was laid in 1248. Due to a lack of funds and a waning interest in Gothic architecture, construction was long suspended, and it was only in 1880 that the building was finally completed. Although it sustained damage during WWII bombing raids, the structure remained intact.

Since Archbishop Rainald von Dassel brought the relics of the Three Wise Men to Cologne in 1164, Cologne has been one of the important pilgrimage sites in all Europe. When visiting the interior of the cathedral, be sure to check out the wildly ornate, gilded sarcophagus said to contain the remains of the Magi.

Lake Königssee's St. Bartholomew's Church | Photo by Sergey Fedoskin

St. Bartholomew’s Church on the Königssee

One of Bavaria’s absolute gems is a small but lovely Roman Catholic pilgrimage church. Perched on the western shores of a pristine turquoise lake and encircled by Alpine peaks, the tidy white structure with its distinctive red roof topped with two perfectly formed onion domes takes its name from St. Bartholomew, the patron saint of farmers and dairymen. It’s been adding its touch of grace to the Berchtesgadener Land district since 1697. The former hunting lodge next door these days serves as a restaurant.

To reach the church, you’ll need to board the boat that makes regular sailings across the country’s deepest lake from the town of Schönau. The church’s opening hours are dependent on the timetable of the ferry service. Instead of disembarking, consider instead staying on board until reaching the end station of Salet. From here, a short walk leads you to a scenic overlook affording you stunning views of the lake called Obersee. Carry on to the Röthbach Waterfall, whose waters tumble down over 1475 feet, making it the highest waterfall in all Germany.

Bernkastel-Kues' Market Square | Photo by Christian Mueller

Market Square of Bernkastel-Kues

The frosting on the cupcake of a visit to the gorgeous Mosel Valley is a rest stop in one of the region’s cutest towns. The city in its present form isn’t quite as old as you might expect, having come into being only in 1905 when the town of Bernkastel united with the winegrowing village of Kues on the opposite banks of the river. The city’s best photo ops are provided in and around the market square, lined with stately, immaculately kept, half-timbered dwellings. A classic shot can be taken next to the coral-hued Town Hall, where a pillory with handcuffs and chains hangs as a reminder of times past. Breathe in deeply while you stroll along the crooked cobblestoned lanes, as the city has been officially designated a climatic health resort.

One of the best times of year to visit is in early September when the Wine Festival of the Middle Mosel Region takes place. The highlights of this beloved annual event include Saturday’s show of fireworks, which are shot off against the backdrop of the ruins of Burg Landshut, along with Sunday’s parade, with its many groups of marchers dressed in bright folk costumes. Its Christmas market is also something pretty special.

Neuschwanstein Castle | Photo by Ondrej Prosicky

Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau

No list of German beauty spots is complete without mention of this enduringly popular attraction, the fairy-tale castle of Neuschwanstein. Built upon the orders of King Ludwig II and opened to the public in 1886, the year of his death, the spot at which the reclusive king had dreamed of getting away from it all nowadays attracts a half million visitors each year. The interior of the castle was conceived to transport the beholder back into a romantic vision of the Middle Ages, with fanciful images of knights and poets peopling the walls. Images of the swan, the heraldic symbol of the Counts of Schwangau, also feature throughout. But it’s the exterior of the castle, with its towers, turrets and perch high upon a rocky bluff, that causes modern-day princes and princesses to swoon.

Some of the best photoshoots can be executed from the Marienbrücke, a pretty iron bridge reached by means of a 10-minute walk. The bridge spanning the Pöllat Gorge offers a clear line of sight to the massive, dreamlike castle.

Heidelberg Castle | Photo by mijeshots  

Heidelberg Castle in Heidelberg

Towering 260 feet above the city straight out of the pages of a storybook itself is what remains of a massive red stone castle, built in a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles.

It may be just a ruin, but it’s precisely the state of the Heidelberg Castle that tells of its tumultuous history. Built in the 13th century, it was damaged by a bolt of lightning in 1537, destroyed by French troops in 1688 and 1689, reconstructed, and suffered once again when lightning struck twice in 1764. The palace fell into a state of decay, and local citizens hastened by process by helping themselves to its remnants in order to build their own houses.

Mark Twain’s description of the castle, published in A Tramp Abroad in 1880, remains apt to date:

A ruin must be rightly situated, to be effective. This one could not have been better placed. It stands upon a commanding elevation, it is buried in green woods, there is no level ground about it, but, on the contrary, there are wooded terraces upon terraces, and one looks down through shining leaves into profound chasms and abysses where twilight reigns and the sun cannot intrude. Nature knows how to garnish a ruin to get the best effect…

The Heidelberg Castle can be taken in from many vantage points, including the Old Bridge spanning the Neckar River, or the Philosopher’s Way, a scenic path leading along the opposite banks of the river.

Plönlein in Rothenburg | Photo by pattarastock

The Plönlein in Rothenburg o.d. Tauber

Ah, Rothenburg! This perfectly-preserved medieval gem, packed with half-timbered houses and encircled by the protective embrace of ancient city walls, is Germany at its most picturesque. With its cobbled streets and gabled houses, this city in northern Bavaria ticks all the boxes reflected in the numbers of visitors who come to drink in its delights. No first-time visitor will wander down its twisting, turning lanes and emerge upon the Marktplatz, with its grandiose Renaissance Town Hall, without feeling a sense of wonder.

Rothenburg's most famous photo subject is likely Plönlein  – and even if you don’t recognize the name itself right away, if you’ve ever visited this fair city, the chances are good you’ve snapped a photo of it. The term “Plönlein” defines a square by a fountain, meaning that not only that impossibly quaint, golden-shaded timber-framed house with the green shutters, but the entire ensemble, including the fountain and towers surrounding it, make up part of the Plönlein.

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