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One of the most scenic spots along the Danube resides near the Bavarian town of Kelheim — the Danube Gorge. Reachable only by ferry, visitors who travel through the gorge have the privilege of experiencing some of the river’s most stunning and ancient sites as well as the baroque architecture of the hidden Weltenburg Abbey.
The gorge, also known as the Pass of Weltenburg, was created as the river shifted, and its waters carved a deep passage, separate from the main Danube. The Jurassic cliff faces that line the waterway are a stunning sight. The gorge, which sometimes only spans 230 feet, leaves no room for a road, but is easily navigated by boat. Many of the more striking cliff faces have, over the centuries, received various nicknames for their unique configurations. Locals travel through the river via row boats or canoes, and it is a popular place for young people to swim along hidden beaches and secluded river banks. As visitors float by, they have the chance to see rock formations such as the Stone Virgin, Lizard or Robbers Rock. One formation is called the Beehive and is distinguishable by pockmarked holes along a whitewashed wall. Depending on which direction you are cruising, visitors can view the Mitre and the Bavarian Lion as well.
If traveling from Kelheim, you will first catch a glimpse of the impressive Liberation Hall. Perched atop Michelsberg Hill, the massive hall is 148 feet high. It was commissioned in 1842 by King Ludwig I of Bavaria in memory of the wars of liberation against Napoleon. Eighteen German nations took part in the war and, on the lower half of the hall, there are 18 sides with 18 statues. Each statue holds a tablet inscribed with the name of one of the German nations. On the inside of the hall, there are 34 white, marble statues of victory angels. In the center stands a statue of Ludwig I himself. The king saw the hall as a symbol of national pride and as a reminder to the German people that unity would guarantee freedom. The hall was completed in 1863, in time for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig.
While Liberation Hall is easy to reach by car or bus, the Klosterl hermitage is only visible by boat through the gorge. For the best views, clients should take a kayak or a canoe down the river, so that they can get up close to the small church. The hermitage was built in 1450, and one of its most outstanding features is its chapel, which was built into the side of the cliff, using the actual cliff face as its roof.
At the opposite end of the Danube Gorge is the Weltenburg Abbey and the home of the Weltenburg Klosterbrauerei — one of the oldest breweries in the world, founded around the 7th century. The abbey’s beer was honored with the World Cup of Beer award in 2004. In addition to its famous brewery, the monastery is also home to a beautiful baroque abbey church, constructed by architect brothers Cosmas Damian Asam and Aegid Quirin Asam. Construction of the church began in 1716. One of the most interesting parts of the church, the entrance hall, was completed in 1751 by Franz Anton Neu. The hall features symbolic representations of the Four Last Things (death, judgement, heaven and hell) as well as the four seasons, which remind visitors of the passing of earthly things.
With its baroque architecture, natural beauty and tasty beer, the Danube Gorge is representative of Bavaria’s overall beauty.
Berlin’s Maritim Hotels: Clients can take the time to see everything the city of Berlin has to offer with a stay at either of the two Maritim Berlin hotels. Guests receive free use of public transportation as well as discounted or complimentary admission to more than 130 tourist and cultural experiences with the included Berlin Welcome Card. In addition, the concierge will put together tailor-made programs for clients. Rates for six nights start at $700 including breakfast and are bookable throughout the year. www.maritim.com
Movenpick Hotel Berlin: The Movenpick Hotel Berlin is offering the Big City package, allowing clients to explore the capital by bicycle. The package includes accommodations for two nights, breakfast, a welcome drink at the Anhalter Bar, use of the fitness area and sauna, a one-day bicycle rental and a picnic lunch with a basket, a blanket and more. If the weather is bad, the hotel offers guests a free dinner at the Restaurant Hof Zwei as well as a half-bottle of wine. Rates vary, and packages must be booked at least five days in advance. www.moevenpick-hotels.com
A Taste of the Old World: This Christmas, clients can enjoy the spirit of the Old World with Gerhard’s Odysseys. Gerhard Meng personally leads tours of his homeland and takes clients through the Christmas markets of Germany. Tours begin on Nov. 19 and run through Dec. 17. The Nov. 19 tour visits Frankfurt, Rothenburg, Feuchtwangen, Ulm, Lindau and Munich, and clients celebrate Thanksgiving during the trip. The Nov. 27 to Dec. 5 itinerary heads to the East German cities of Dresden, Seiffen, Annaberg, Leipzig, Weimar, Erfurt and Frankfurt. The Dec. 4 departure features an AmaWaterways cruise on the Danube and the Dec. 8 itinerary features Christmas Markets on the Rhine, also with AmaWaterways. Details of the trip are planned in order to provide a stimulating, hassle-free experience. Tour prices start at $1,995. www.christmastrips.com
Highlights of Germany: Cosmos is offering a 12-day itinerary focused on the crown jewels of Germany, starting and ending in Frankfurt. The journey begins with a panoramic Rhine River cruise. Clients visit Cologne with its gothic cathedral, the historic buildings of legendary Hamelin, the harbor city of Hamburg and the Hanseatic city of Lubeck. After the cruise, clients stay two nights in Berlin, Germany’s once-divided capital, then experience the cultural centers of Dresden and Leipzig. Guests then head to Weimar, where the Bauhaus movement started in the 1920s, as well as Coburg to visit its medieval fortress. Coburg is followed by Nuremberg and Rothenburg before briefly traveling along the Romantic Road. The next stop is Munich, the Bavarian Alps and King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle. Then, clients head to the Black Forest and stop in Heidelberg before returning to Frankfurt. Rates start at $1,399 (excluding airfare) and are available until November. www.cosmos.com
Exploring Freiburg: At the tip of the southern Black Forest in Germany’s southernmost wine region of Baden, Freiburg offers a taste of the academic pace of life in one of Germany’s oldest university towns. A direct high-speed rail connection from Frankfurt over Freiburg to Basel is available as well as the comfortable, local Black Forest Bahn, which offers beautiful views over the Black Forest hills and villages. Clients can experience local lifestyle by spending time at the open-air market offering products from the farmers and craftspeople in the area and then enjoying wine at the Weinhaus Alte Wache with a view of all the market place activities. The Landmann Winery is particularly notable for its biological wines, and the local wine festival, which takes place in September, is a particularly festive time. In November, Freiburg will host the Plaza Culinaria, a culinary trade fair with many local products from Freiburg’s partner cities. www.historicgermany.com
Hofbrauhaus Munich: A little known fact is that there is a Hofbrauhaus in Las Vegas. But, for clients who want the real deal, tell them to head to the Hofbrauhaus Munich — the original. Wilhelm V, the Duke of Bavaria from 1579 to 1597 was displeased with the beer in Munich and, therefore, had the drink transported from Einbeck in the Lower Saxony region. The importation was costly, which displeased the duke, so the chamberlains and council members, C. Strabl, A. Amasmeyr, S. Prew and G. Griesmair, approached him with an idea: Why not build their own brewery? Wilhelm loved the idea, and he commissioned the building of the Hofbrauhaus. Today, the Hofbrauhaus in Munich is one of the city’s major tourist attractions. www.hofbraeuhaus.de
New & Noteworthy
Humboldt Box Museum: Visitors can now experience the future Berlin in miniature in the Humboldt Box. This prestigious building project is located against the prominent backdrop of the Berlin Dome, the Zeughaus Museum and Museum Island. The idea behind the project is to awaken public interest and anticipation for the opening of the Berlin Palace (Humboldt Forum), which is currently under reconstruction and scheduled for completion in 2019. The progress of the construction will be documented by exhibitions as well as numerous events.
The multiple-story hexagonal structure containing 32,900 square feet of space is comprised of exhibition rooms, a restaurant and a rooftop garden on the fifth floor. When it opens, the Humboldt Forum is intended to become the new home of the Ethnological Museum and the Museums for Asiatic Art of the National Museums in Berlin, the Humboldt University in Berlin as well as the State and Central Library of Berlin — just a stone’s throw from the current Humboldt Box.
The Humboldt Box is open Mondays to Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. www.visitberlin.de
Steigenberger’s New Grandhotel: The east German city of Leipzig recently welcomed the new Steigenberger’s Grandhotel Leipzig, located near the center of Old Town and close to the Naschmarkt and the historic town hall. The luxury property combines traditional and modern elements. Originally a former merchant building, the hotel’s facade has been painstakingly restored.
The historic building underwent a complete renovation and now features more than 163 guestrooms, 14 suites and a Presidential Suite. A conference area features more than 5,400 square feet of space and four seminar rooms. The hotel also offers a spa, two restaurants and a lobby bar.www.steigenberger.comberger.com
11/11Potsdam Winter Opera: Clients can enjoy first-rate opera performances at the castle theater in the New Palace at Sanssouci Castle, one of Europe’s most beautiful historic theaters and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. www.potsdamer-winteroper.de
11/8Euro-Scene Leipzig: This festival is one of Europe’s top events of contemporary theater. Every year, the festival showcases 25 performances by some 15 visiting avant-garde and innovational dance and theater troupes. Nov. 8-13. www.euro-scene.de
11/20Christmas Markets: Christmastime is especially romantic in Germany. More than 2,500 Christmas markets located in town and city centers around the country invite clients to share the joy of the pre-Christmas season. Nov. 20-Dec. 23. www.cometogermany.com
12/31New Year’s at the Brandenburg Gate: Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, millions of people celebrate the New Year at the Brandenburg Gate. The festival runs from the Strasse des 17. Juni to the Victory Column and features stages, fireworks and laser shows. www.silvester-in-berlin.de
The Weltenburg Abbeywww.klosterschenke-weltenburg.de