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The latest news from Germany is Wunderbar!

Meet our Germany experts: Will Hide, travel writer

UK travel writer Will Hide has walked in the Harz Mountains and explored Berlin’s café culture. Taking part in the 50 km König Ludwig cross-country skiing race in Oberammergau last weekend, he was grateful for the hearty Bavarian cuisine for powering his tired legs. Here he tells us why Germany is always a bit different than what you’d expect.

Are you able to walk again?

I made it round a lap of the course in one piece, although I don’t think I gave the pros too much to worry about – the winner lapped me at the 8km mark! Blame my lack of lycra. Well, that and not really having trained at all.

Tell us a little bit about the race. Who took part? What was the course like?

It was chopped down to 42 km because part of the course wasn’t skiable, but the rest was great fun and very scenic – if you had to design a picture postcard winter wonderland scene, this would be it. There were thousands of competitors from all over the world – we met people from Australia, Belarus and the USA, for example. Hardly any Brits, though. The course was relatively flat, but the first two kilometres were all up hill, which was a shock. I’d like to thank the chap at one of the drink stalls who let me have his beer when I explained I was English and would rather have that than some warm isotonic nonsense.

Did you have a chance to enjoy the scenery of the Oberammergau Alps?

Yes, the day after the race we drove to Neuschwanstein via the Linderhof Castle (both built by so-called Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria). Seeing them both under clear blue skies and surrounded by snow, without summer crowds, was pretty magical.

Oberammergau is best known for the Passion Play which takes place there every 10 years.  After your recent visit, would you say it’s worth visiting for UK travellers at other times too?

Hmmm, that’s a tough one. It was a decent base for exploring, and had some nice restaurants, but I was really only there for the race so it’s difficult to tell.

What is typically Bavarian for you (and you’re not allowed to mention Lederhosen!)?

Beer and brown food! I can’t say I ate the healthiest meals in my life last weekend but they were extremely tasty.

You’ve travelled quite a bit in Germany.  Any particular travel experiences that stand out?

I was really surprised by Cologne. There’s a lot to do there for a weekend. And I love Berlin. It’s becoming a bit of a summer tradition for me now, a long weekend there just mooching around cafes and trying to appear intellectual while clutching German newspapers. (In reality I’m just looking at the photos.) Although I do feel like a total frump alongside the impossibly hip Berliners.

I spent a week walking in the Harz Mountains two years ago which, as well as the scenery, was interesting because I love modern history and I got to talk to people who lived in the former DDR in the shadow of the Wall and hear their stories.

Hamburg is definitely on my to-do list, as is going from London to Berlin by train, and I’ve reached the age of young fartdom when the thought of just collapsing into a Strandkorb on Sylt for a long weekend of book-reading and cups of tea is very appealing.

Please complete: Germany is Wunderbar because …

… it’s not what you expect!

More on Sylt, King Ludwig’s castles and the Harz Mountains.

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