It seems so long ago that we enjoyed Berlin’s art scene here on Backpacker’s Bible when we explored Mitte and Kreuzberg as well as Haus Schwarzenberg on Rosenthaler Straße 39. We learned the history behind the art and explored some of the city’s traditions. Now, this isn’t some misplaced nostalgia. We’re ruminating about those Berlin days because it happens to be one of the best ways for a backpacker to delve into German culture.
But while Berlin is a magnificent city in its own right, there are many more cities that are just as wonderful. In this post we tackle two completely different ways to experience and learn about German culture in each city: through each location’s art scene and its sporting heritage.
Image credit: M(e)ister Eiskaltpanorama: Pölkkyposkisolistiderivative, South façade of Haus der Kunst
The Bavarian capital city of Munich is rich in German culture. This is most apparent in the Haus der Kunst, described by Timeout as one of Munich’s many spectacular galleries. It is home to a unique range of exhibits focused mainly on contemporary art. Another museum worth checking out is Museum Brandhorst in Kunstareal. It displays over 200 modern artworks.
Image credit: Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa), Aerial view of Allianz Arena
Moreover, you’ll discover Germany’s strong sporting culture here in Munich, as the city is home to the historic Olympiastadion, which hosted the 1972 Olympics and the 1974 FIFA World Cup Final. It was also the former home of city favourites FC Bayern Munich, the most successful club in the Bundesliga. Bayern moved away from the Olympiastadion in favour of the stunning, state-of-the-art Allianz Arena. The new stadium is fast becoming as iconic as its legendary tenants, who are gunning for an unprecedented seventh Bundesliga title in a row this season. Bayern are currently playing some spectacular football and that’s why they are currently listed by bwin as favourites to win the Bundesliga. No surprise then that Bayern’s home games are always packed out at the Allianz, and that’s why it’s a wonderful experience for any sports fan.
Image credit: Johannes Fasolt [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)] Part of Stuttgart Lapidarium
German culture has many hidden gems to find. This is certainly the case with the Schweinemuseum, otherwise known as the Pig Museum. It’s an exhibit about pigs with a mind-bending 42,000 pig-themed artefacts spread out across 25 rooms. These include everything from the absurd to the impressive (a massive, rotating golden pig sculpture, anyone?). You’ll also find interesting trivia about pigs, like pig sacrifice rituals and pig adoptions. For a historic look at the city, make your way to the Stuttgart Lapidarium, an open-air exhibit that displays artefacts damaged during World War II. The displays are a stark reminder of the horrors of war, and they contrast perfectly with the beautiful Renaissance garden that houses them.
Stuttgart is also a city that is football mad, and you can soak up the atmosphere (and the beer) at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Baden-Württemberg. Yet Stuttgart is also home to many other sports. You can watch ice hockey at the Waldau ice rink in Degerloch, catch an American football game at the Gazi Stadium, and even marvel at Australian Rules football at the Eberhard-Bauer-Stadion. Each one is a fun way to learn more about Germany.
Image credit: Thomas Robbin, Museum Ludwig and Cologne Cathedral
Cologne is much like Berlin in that it showcases the country’s rich art culture. This is most evident at the Museum Ludwig which houses contemporary art pieces that include the works of Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Germany’s Roman Catholic and Roman heritage are also featured prominently in Cologne by way of the Cologne Cathedral and the Roman-Germanic Museum.
Like Munich and Stuttgart, Cologne is also very sports centric, especially for those who love golf. The city is known as the mecca of golf in Germany as it has a range of majestic courses. Most notable among these courses is definitely Gut Lärchenhof, which has hosted the Mercedes Benz Championship several times. Golfing enthusiasts are encouraged to check out Golfnet-Rheinland and its golf-dedicated website, which offers everything avid golfers need to play a round or two.
Now, not that we’re encouraging it, but if you can, you might as well try out some of Germany’s best brews at every stop. After all, beer is as much a part of German culture as the arts and its many different sports. A bottle or two at every stop will do. Ask the locals for the best. Good luck, and have fun!