15 APR 2015: Milestone anniversaries, grand festivals, and innovative developments were some of the themes discussed at a recent German National Tourist Office event. Antje Splettstoesser, director of marketing and sales in Canada for the German National Tourist Office hosted a media luncheon to showcase some of upcoming highlights from the various regions. In addition to the representatives who flew in from Germany, special guest German Consul General Walter Stechel was also in attendance.  

Carina Schumacher, PR manager for the German National Tourist Office in Canada discussed how Germany, which has been focusing on customs, festivals and traditions this year is also commemorating one major milestone anniversary: the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Germany.

Known as German Unity Day, she explained that each year a different state is chosen to host the anniversary which takes place on Oct. 3. This year’s host city is Frankfurt in the federal state of Hesse which will mark the historic occasion with a special two-day event on Oct. 2-4, straddling the national holiday. It’s expected 1-million visitors will converge in Frankfurt to mark this year’s momentous occasion.

"All of the sixteen federal states will be presenting themselves. There will be booths, stages, several entertainment activities and artists performing," said Carina adding that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also be present.

The main celebratory locations in Frankfurt are the Frankfurter Dom (cathedral), Alte Oper (Opera House), and Paulskirche.

Now for the trip planner’s 411 on some other German tourism notes:

Saxony

"Saxony is the number one cultural destination in Germany," notes Wolfgang Gartner, head of international marketing for Saxony Tourism.

There are many historical hubs here from the rich royalty days in Dresden, which is the region’s capital city to the historic mercantile hub in Leipzig to an array of other destinations throughout Saxony each with unique surprises.

What’s new:

• Germany’s best hotel voted by TripAdvisor second year in a row is the new Swissotel Dresden am Schloss in Dresden. It certainly helps the 235-room property which opened in 2012 is ideally located opposite the Royal Palace.

• Watch for a new permanent exhibition of the Coin Cabinet opening this June in the Royal Palace, part of the Dresden state art collection.

• The beautiful town of Meissen fetes two big anniversaries. There’s the millennial anniversary of beer in Saxony at the Albrechtsburg Castle this year. "Saxons drink more beer than the Bavarians." Watch for events from April to November. Another anniversary dating to the Middle Ages is the 1000th anniversary of the Margraviate of Meissen, which is territory that later became Saxon.

500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017

Among the Luther celebrations there will be the opening of the Luther Trail (www.lutherweg-sachsen.de) next month in Torgau, a medieval town on the banks of the Elbe. Torgua was a political centre of the Reformation where the Saxon rulers stayed. Leipzig, meanwhile is the biggest city on the new Luther Trail with five authentic sites.

The Church of Our Lady in Dresden celebrates its tenth anniversary of reopening after a major restoration. "This is also the most perfect example of a church built to Martin Luther’s ideals."

Leipzig

Steeped in history, this medieval town celebrates its millennial anniversary this year. The former mega trading post was a rich mercantile town unlike nearby Dresden, the capital which was the royal center.

Nearly every fashionable composer of the day performed or lived in Leipzig, says Steffi Gretschel, head of PR international tourism with the Leipzig Tourism and Marketing Office about the strong music ties. The city has roughly 23 authentic sites devoted to composers among them Bach, Grieg, Schumann and Mendelssohn and is revered as the "City of Music."

During the events leading up to the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, Leipzig played a critical role toward the eventual reunification.

"Not many people know the peaceful revolution started in Leipzig on Oct. 9 1989 one month prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. More than 70,000 people marched along the inner city Ring Road of Leipzig to protest against the GDR regime," Steffi said and added the news of the peaceful demonstration quickly spread and built momentum to other cities.

Today, Leipzig is often called "The City of Heroes" due to these heroic efforts. "Every year on October 9 we celebrate these events with a huge Festival of Lights," she says noting this year’s festival will be particularly big due to the 25th anniversary of Germany’s reunification.

What’s new:

"Leipzig is what Berlin was like 25 years ago," explained Gretschel.

• The Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei District, which can be compared to our own Distillery District in Toronto, is a gentrified cotton mill factory complex that now houses arguably the largest contemporary arts scene in Germany. Paintings from artists like Neo Rauch (Brad Pitt is a big collector) fetch well over €500,000 ($658,490). 
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• Clients can purchase a Leipzig Card (http://www.leipzig.travel/en/Service/LEIPZIG_CARD_1920.html) with unlimited public transit and discounts to the galleries and local establishments.

Distance from Berlin: 1 hour

Bremen and Bremerhaven

Located in northwest Germany, the seaside city of Bremerhaven was at one point Germany’s largest emigration port.

In the council wine cellar known as Bremen Ratskeller is one of Germany’s oldest wine cellars which reportedly houses the country’s oldest barrel, a wine from Rudesheim that’s been stored since 1653.

What’s new:

There’s a new harbourfront tourism area known as the Havenwelten Bremerhaven, home to several complexes like the Zoo at the Sea, the German Maritime Museum, and the Climate House Bremerhaven.

For genealogy there is a fascinating museum called the German Emigration Center that has interactive exhibits and a research centre on-site.  Located on the historic site in the New Harbour, a new wing focusing on the history of Germany as a country of immigration was also added in 2012.

Distance from Berlin: 3 hours

Frankfurt Airport FRA

Do you get lost or complain FRA is so huge? Just download an app with all the details and airport plans.

One of the world’s busiest international airports, Stefan M. Kopp, senior manager sales & customer relations for the Frankfurt Airport, relays how the huge hub is setting its path to be a family-friendly airport and, "We will be a five star airport soon," he noted adding new programmes and products will be rolled out monthly for passenger convenience.

"We are the only airport with its own train station running more than 400 trains daily."

What’s new:

Check out the VIP service available for a fee for all passengers. The VIP service gives access to a new VIP Lounge. As Kopp points out, "It’s not just an ordinary lounge you get individual service that comes to you," and he adds how immigration comes to you, and customs comes to you. "You don’t have to stand in line, you don’t have to wait."

FRA is an ideal hub for transfers to the spa town of Wiesbaden (35 minutes by train), Rhine River excursions (40 minutes by train), and Cologne (50 minutes by speed train).

FRA is only 12 minutes by train to downtown Frankfurt.

Munich Airport MUC

Stress-free check-in with natural light seeping into the huge terminal, Munich airport has mega diversions ideal for clients in transit. Find the world’s only beer garden at the airport called AirBrau, activities such as ice skating (seasonal), indoor beach volleyball, and a wave pool, and a temporary hotel called "NapCabs" with minimum two hour sleepovers.

28 weekly departures from Canada

Europe’s first five-star airport as voted by SkyTrax, this year alone SkyTrax voted the airport as Europe’s best airport; world’s best airport serving 30-40 million passengers; and, the third best airport worldwide.

Team Germany

author

Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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