Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city to the far north, doesn’t end up at the top of many visitors’ lists. Somehow the Southern German romance of hills, forests, beer festivals and vineyards grabs most. But all of those folks are missing out on a real diamond of Germany’s culture and  pretty gardens, like Planten un Blomen. Situated on the Elbe River, the city is a shipping and transport hub and a rather affluent port too. Hamburg’s charm, however, comes from the canals that crisscross it, and the green expanses all that water nourishes.

The subject: A visit to the Planten un Blomen Garden on your Hamburg tour is a must, whether you are a flower and garden lover, adore open spaces, enjoy dancing water fountains, or just want a nice place for a stroll or picnic. Now, not many non-Germans head there – obvious in the fact that the official Hamburg tourism website doesn’t have the garden’s page translated into English! But the official Visit Germany website helps with your Hamburg tour and a garden visit.

The inspiration: With 47 hectares (116 acres) of flowers, trees and ponds, bees are buzz-buzzing when the flowers pop out. When I saw this garden full of pink hydrangeas in full glory and bees everywhere in the Planten un Blomen Garden, I started the chase with my lens. Bees don’t ever stop when you tell them to, nor do they land on the flowers that are what you would perhaps always deem the best to photograph. But I wouldn’t give up the hunt on my own “bee-zy” Hamburg tour

Artist’s tools: My Nikon D90 still serves me well for many an adventure, as does the 18-105mm lens f/3.5-5.6, both of which I got when I returned to photography after about 25 years! What I like about this focal length on a lens is its ability to capture almost everything for me without fiddling with changing lens or being draped with several cameras with different lenses. I’m a simple photographer like that. For this bee on blossoms in the Planten un Blomen garden, I was set at a 1/250th of second at f/5.6 with a focal length of 105mm. I also try to avoid over-processing so this has only the simplest of touches.

Read more travel tips for Germany

Thai Park Berlin a feast for eyes and tummies seeking yum Thai food

Germany’s capital of Berlin offers every international food imaginable, in restaurants, street markets or, in the case of the most authentic Thai food in the city, spread across a park. Thai Wiese (Thai Park) comes alive every weekend with arguably the best Thai food in Berlin.

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Battle for Berlin memorial at Museum Seelower Höhen

Just 1 hour and 30 minutes east of central Berlin by car, near the Polish border and the Oder River is the site of the biggest battle of WWII fought on German soil. Memorializing this battle at at Seelower Höhen (Seelow Heights) and located at the highest point overlooking the farmlands below sits the Museum Seelower Höhen.

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Swiss Carnival parade a clean version just for kids

Carneval (a.k.a. Fasching, Mardi Gras, etc) is a time for debauchery in many locales where it is grandly celebrated. But in some small towns there are several days of parades, including ones just for kids – like this Swiss carnival parade I photographed.

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Great carnival parades in Europe: Think small (Updated February 2017)

Known in the United States as Mardi Gras (actually French for “Fat Tuesday), the traditions of excessive celebrations and outrageous carnival parades prior to the pre-Easter fasting during Lent date back many centuries in Europe. But you don’t have to head to the crowd-filled streets of big towns like Germany’s Cologne or Dusseldorf, France’s Nice, or Switzerland’s Basel to experience some great carnival parades in Europe. And you don’t even have to indulge in excess!

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The Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow near Berlin, Germany, is an engineering marvel

The Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow was completed in 1934 and is part of the Haavel-Oder waterway connecting the Elbe and Oder river basins. The waterway begins in Berlin at the Spandau lock and opens into the West Oder at the border area between Poland and Germany. Watching ships being raised and lowered in this ship elevator is amazing. A true engineering marvel.

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Q110 Bank of the Future in Berlin by Deutsche Bank gets revamp

Earlier in 2016, HI Travel Tales wrote about a new kind of banking experience by Deutsche Bank called “Q110 Bank” or “Bank of the Future.” We were quite enthralled by the casual and friendly, yet efficient and hard-working experience. The concept we wrote about had been active for several years without much change (the branch itself originally opened in 2005), so Deutsche Bank decided it was time to re-think its original “concept bank” and try out something different. The update was unveiled on Nov. 18, 2016, on a rainy day near the outlet not far from Checkpoint Charlie in central Berlin (Mitte).

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Haunting history on Berlin Underground tours

Underground city tours always seemed to be a tourist come-on to me, but then I discovered Berlin Underground tours. Not a for-profit business, not a tour that drops you off in a gift shop, not a tour that starts in a bar and highlights raucous partying, this is the real deal in Berlin’s Underground.

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Quick Prenzlauer Berg travel guide to a Berlin hotspot

One of our favorite areas to highlight in our Prenzlauer Berg travel guide (and there are so many wonderful places it is hard to pick just one) is indeed along Kollwitzstrasse and around the Kollwitzplatz (named after artist Kathe Kollwitz appropriately enough — check out her artwork at Artsy’s Käthe Kollwitz page). Farmers markets, street festivals and more are regular occurrences.

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A colorful market watercolor near Café Anna Blume

As we sat at dinner at Café Anne Blume sipping wine on the patio on a warm summer evening, I became entranced by the colors of a small market across the street. I just had to “paint and draw” the scene using my iPad for this watercolor view from Café Anna Blume.

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Jewish cemetery at Schönhauser Allee is peaceful yet haunting

The Jewish cemetery at Schönhauser Allee in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, is a beautiful, peaceful and yet haunting place to wander. It is well worth at least an hour. Keep in mind that men are asked to cover their heads, so if you do not have a hat, be sure to don a kippah as you will see Michael did in this video — available at the front entrance in a small basket.

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Artist’s war memorial at Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz

The memorial on the Berlin Bethlehemkirchplatz (Bethlehem Church Square) is actually the work of Spanish artist Juan Garaizabel to commemorate the Bohemian Bethlehem Church. This small church was built for Bohemian evangelical refugees in about 1735 and was a center of the community. It was destroyed by bombing in 1943.

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International Donaufest Fireworks In Ulm 2016

The International Donaufest (Danube) Festival has been held since 1998 and occurs every other year. Ulm city center and the banks of the Danube river are turned into a sort of international festival to celebrate the coming together of regions and countries along the Danube that rely on the river — Bavaria, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. The festival last 10 days and includes a massive fireworks display. HI Travel Tales was there this year to witness the fireworks extravaganza from the banks of the Danube.

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Map of Germany

In the map below, pins mark the location of all the sites and travel tips mentioned in our articles on Germany. Zoom in or out on the map using the controls. Switch easily from map to satellite view. Click on each pin to pull up a tooltip with the name and any additional information.

Artist's War Memorial Bethlehemkirchplatz

Museum in the Kulturbrauerie (Alltag in Der DDR)

Berlin Underground Tours - Gesundbrunnen station

Gedenkstaette Mauer

Sowohl Als Auch Restaurant and Coffee House

Bebelplatz

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Potsdamer Platz

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Hackescher Markt

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Checkpoint Charlie

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Topography of Terror Museum

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Museumsinsel - Museum Island

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Gendarmenmarkt

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Reichstag Parliment Building

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Brandenburger Tor

http://hitraveltales.com/discover-berlin-walking-tour-top-sites/

Turkish Market - Berlin

http://hitraveltales.com/berlin-turkish-market-flavors-food-deals-in-oriental-bazaar-setting/

Kleinhesselhoer See, Englischer Garten

Sophie Scholl Memorial

http://hitraveltales.com/munich-sophie-scholl-memorial/

St Nikolai Kirche

http://hitraveltales.com/st-nikolai-kirche-memorial-hamburg-must-visit/

International Donaufest in Ulm

Drei Annen Hohne

http://hitraveltales.com/harz-mountain-brockenbahn-railway-narrow-gauge-wonder/

Wernigerode Train Station - Brockenbahn

http://hitraveltales.com/harz-mountain-brockenbahn-railway-narrow-gauge-wonder/

The Brocken

http://hitraveltales.com/harz-mountain-brockenbahn-railway-narrow-gauge-wonder/

Quedlinburg Old Watch Tower

http://hitraveltales.com/quedlinburg-old-watch-tower-forested-overlook-worth-a-visit/

Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens

http://hitraveltales.com/kellerwald-forchheim-beer-gardens-a-franconian-forest-secret/

Museum Seelower Höhen - Berlin

Just 1 hour and 30 minutes east of central Berlin by car, near the Polish border and the Oder River is the site of the biggest battle of WWII fought on German soil. Memorializing this battle at at Seelower Höhen (Seelow Heights) and located at the highest point overlooking the farmlands below sits the Museum Seelower Höhen, an incredibly moving destination for anyone even remotely interested in the history of World War II, history or war and Europe in general.

Thai Weise (Thai Park) - Berlin

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Therese Iknoian

Traveler at HI Travel Tales
Little did her parents know that a short trip to Europe in high school would launch a lifetime love of travel, languages and cultures. Trained as a news journalist, Therese Iknoian spent a decade as a daily newspaper journalist before launching a freelance writing career specializing in outdoor, fitness and training. All the while trotting the globe, her focus finally turned to travel. Fluent in German, Therese runs a translation business (www.ThereseTranslates.com) working primarily with companies in the outdoor/sports/retail industry. Also a French speaker, she loves to learn a bit of the language wherever she goes -- gdje je kupaonica? Мне нужна помощь! -- often embarrassing herself in the quest for cross-cultural communication and the search for great travel discoveries.
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