The East

The East

The formerly Communist eastern side of Germany has sandy beaches, multiple lakes, historic cities, and the nation’s capital, Berlin.

States: Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia. At the height of Communist control over eastern Europe, Germany’s Baltic Coast, once the holiday territory of the privileged, became a huge tourist destination for ordinarycitizens who were restricted in their ability to travel. The temperatures may be significantly adrift of the Mediterranean, but there’s no denying the quality and quantity of the beaches here, many of which have a long history of naturism. These days the resorts are a lot emptier than they were, and there’s less flesh on view, but the style remains.

The Lakeland of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern lies between the Baltic and Berlin. With a network of over a thousand lakes and waterways, some of them manmade, it is a well-established recreational area for anyone interested in boating.

Berlin is not the nation’s most beautiful urbanisation

Berlin itself is Germany’s most popular city break, although its history of war and occupation means that it is far from being the nation’s most beautiful urban destination. Despite once more becoming the centre of government and nationhood, it still has an alternative vibe on the streets, with a big arty and party scene, and some districts have a distinctive Turkish culture.

Just to the south of the city is the Spreewald, a watery landscape which is home to the Sorbs, who have their own language and customs. Beyond lie the industrial, workmanlike cities of Leipzig and Meissen, home of fine porcelain. And then comes Dresden, an imperial city so painstakingly rebuilt after the firestorm of World War II that it is now one of Germany’s fastest-growing citybreak destinations, particularly for opera and classical concerts.

To Dresden’s west lie other towns and cities which were key to the development of German culture; there’s Wittenberg, where Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses to the church door and kick-started the Reformation. There’s Weimar, the city of the German Enlightenment where Goethe spent most of his life, and where the first attempt at creating a modern German state, the ill-fated Weimar Republic, was signed after World War I.

And finally comes the border with the Czech Republic, marked with a line of craggy mountains known as Saxon Switzerland, where the purest form of climbing, without ropes, is still extensively practiced.