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What Makes a Valuable Vacation or an Unglaublicher Urlaub

Written by Emma Walker 

 On my morning Metro rides into Gallery Place, I can’t help but notice the large groups of tourists that stand on the left (incorrect) side of the escalators. These people come from all over America and around the world to visit the sights on the National Mall, get a picture with the White House, and observe the art in the National Portrait Gallery.

Tourist families with their brightly colored hats and lanyards with plastic name tags reminded me of all of the touristy vacations I would take while living in Germany. Unlike American tourism, Germans have the surrounding continent of Europe to explore.This allows them to travel short distances to reach the perfect summer getaway destinations. And because they have much more vacation time than Americans), they know exactly what the best excursion spots are. Here are some comparisons and contrasts between popular American travel destinations (from an East Coast perspective) and their German counterparts. 

#1) National Parks vs. Bayern 

When most Americans hear the words: mountains, hiking, or camping, they will often associate these words with the National Parks found around the United States. However, it is more likely that Germans will be taking a summer excursion to the Bayern region of Germany. Because the Bavarian Alps are located in this area, it is quite common for German families from the suburbs to visit towns like Mittenwald which are located in the heart of the Alpine Region. Like American National Parks, you can go on hikes on designated trails, and reconnect with the nature surrounding you. However, rather than staying at a hotel in a nearby town, visitors in Bayern will stay at rustic bed and breakfasts that are also the home of the owners. 

#2) Disneyworld vs. Playmobil Land/LegoLand

A common American tradition that American families take part in is visiting Disneyworld, and all of its surrounding attractions. Many families will head down to Orlando Florida, and purchase expensive park passes which let them have certain benefits when visiting the park. However in Germay, where Disney is not the most popular franchises in the country, other amusement parks reign supreme. These include Playmobil Land, located in Zirndorf and LegoLand, located in Guenzburg. At both of these parks, kids have the opportunity to interact with the park itself by having water gun fights on paddle boats, completing adventure quests, and traveling to and from different themed worlds. This provides a completely different contrast to Disney World because most of the rides there are themed, and allow visitors to interact with Disney characters from specific movies. Despite these differences, both parks offer themed foods that kids and adults love to enjoy. 

#3) Mallorca vs. Florida 

When asking someone in Germany what the largest German island is, they would probably laugh and answer Mallorca. In reality, this is a joke because Mallorca is a fairly small island located off the coast of Spain. What originally started as a cheap travel destination for an average or middle class German family has turned into an extremely popular German tourist destination. Many older Germans who came to the island at the beginning of its popularity are now living out their retirement on this island. When comparing this island to America, Mallorca can be described as a mirror image of what has happened to the state of Florida. Many families from the East Coast will travel to Florida during the summer and winter to enjoy the beaches or play golf at a fancy resort. In fact, like Mallorca, it is so cheap and warm in Florida that many older generations spend their retirement living on the coast of the state. 

#4) The local “See” vs. the beach 

While most towns in Germany are all very different, each of them have one commonality. This being the lake that the entire town will flock to during their summer vacations. For my family and many others in my hometown of Sankt Leon-Rot, this lake was called the “Sankt Leoner See” and was home to many small cabins that members of the town owned. Some members of the town spend entire summers there, running summer camps or relaxing in the Biergarten next to the lake. Because the majority of Germany does not have a coastline, it is not common for families to be spending their summers living in beach houses like Americans. Having experienced both of these traditions, it can be said that both are unique in individual ways. Going to the Sankt Leoner See and spending time with the kids from my neighborhood always makes members of the community feel welcome and relaxed. However, spending time at a beach in New Jersey allows you to experience boardwalk ice cream and the ocean, which is something that does not exist in Germany. 

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