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. Or take advantage of one of many water or water-and-light concerts.

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.

Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow

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.

Marienklause Chapel

Bigger is not always better. Sometime small, like a historic Munich chapel, can be a travel must-see. It’s easy when traveling through big European cities to follow the throngs to the large churches or cathedrals in town. Huge European cathedrals can be very impressive, of course. But the Marienklause Chapel, about 3-4 miles south of the city center of Munich, Germany, is certainly worth a close look.

Kleinhesselhoer See, Englischer Garten

Created at the behest of Prince Carl Theodor in 1789, the Englischer Garten in Munich, Germany, is one of the largest city parks in the world. And, we can attest, it provides for a magical and wondrous escape from the clamor and bustle of Munich’s busy urban streets.

Sophie Scholl Memorial

Easily missed, the Sophie Scholl memorial looks like loose pieces of paper scattered on the ground in front of the university building. In actuality, they are attached permanently to the ground in front of the main entrance on the so-called “Geschwister Scholl Platz.”

Planten Un Blomen Garden

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.

St Nikolai Kirche

The  St Nikolai Kirche (St. Nicholas Church) has been a part of the Hamburg skyline since the 12th century. Now in ruins from World War II bombings, just its spire remains standing. No longer a place of worship, the spire (thought until 1876 to be the tallest building in the world) and its restored crypt below serve as a haunting and moving memorial to the horror of war’s devastation.

International Donaufest in Ulm

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.International Donaufest Fireworks in Ulm 2016

Drei Annen Hohne

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Wernigerode Train Station - Brockenbahn

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The Brocken

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Quedlinburg Old Watch Tower

The rolling foothills of the Harz mountains that surround Quedlinburg feature forested terrain with open, rolling meadows, some hills and plenty of farmland – perfect for those who need to stretch the legs and mind a bit on an easy wander. We’d heard about the Quedlinburg Old Watch Tower (“Altenburgwarte”) that was located approximately 0.5 miles (just under 750 meters) from the southwest edge of town, on a sandstone ridge overlooking the village below.

Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens

“Off to the cellar” is what you’ll hear from Forchheim locals when they disappear into the forest on trails (“auf die Keller”). What that means in local slang is that they are headed to a beehive of popular beer gardens nestled deep in the forest of Franconian Switzerland in Upper Bavaria – the Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens.

Berlin

Berlin is one of our favorite cities in the world. It is cosmopolitan, worldly, quirky, exotic, bohemian, evolving, vibrant and so very, very alive — there is something to do or see or experience 24 hours a day if you are so inclined. Little wonder so many tourists, wanderers, artists, authors, musicians, actors and creative minds discover and fall in love with Berlin. Whether you are visiting for one day, two days, a week or more, the best way to begin your quest to find what to do in Berlin is here. Our What to do in Berlin resource guide and links, map, as well as numerous articles highlighting insider travel tips for you will ensure your visit to Berlin is memorable.