european lakes

Das Allgäu is a region in the German South. It covers the south of Bavarian Swabia and southeastern Baden-Württemberg (plus parts of Austria). The region stretches from the pre-alpine lands up to the Alps. The main rivers flowing through are the Lech and Iller. The region is sub-divided into:

Das Oberallgäu (in Bavarian Swabia, in the state of Bavaria)
Das Unterallgäu (in Bavarian Swabia, in the state of Bavaria)
Das Ostallgäu (in Bavarian Swabia, in the state of Bavaria)
Das Westallgäu (mainly in Upper Swabia in the state of Baden-Württemberg, but also a very small part in Bavaria)

The western Austrian part is the Kleinwalsertal in Vorarlberg, accessible from Germany only. The region is noted for its beautiful landscapes and is popular for vacations and therapeutic stays. It’s well known for its farm products, esp. dairy including Hirtenkäse (“herdsman’s cheese”) and Bergkäse (“hill cheese”). Besides tourism and dairy, another important economic sector is the building of industrial equipment and machinery, such as Fendt tractors. The alpine regions of the Allgäu rise to 2,000 m in altitude and are popular for winter skiing. The famous Neuschwanstein castle is located here. Famous people from the region include Ludwig Ganghofer (writer of Bavarian homeland novels), Max Ritter von Mulzer (WW1 pilot), Ernst Walter Mayr (leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th century), Klaus Nomi (countertenor & one of the first prominent German victims of HIV/AIDS), and Mario Götze (football player & scorer of the goal that made Germany the 2014 FIFA World Champions).

Russia’s Lake Khaiyr Monster was first sighted by a group of scientists in 1964. The scholars of Moscow University were on an expedition in the lake to examine the mineral deposits and reportedly witnessed a prehistoric creature. Dr. Nikolai Gladkikh described the animal and his encounter later on: “It had a long gleaming neck with a small head. Its body was huge, covered with black-blue skin. There was a big dorsal fin on the back of its body. All of sudden, the animal slid back into the water. Some time later I saw it standing out the water in the middle of the lake. The animal started swinging its long tail to whip the water. The waves were rippling the surface of the lake.”

Bled - Slovenia

Bled is a popular city to visit, known for its romantic scenery, and great outdoor adventure opportunities. The city is also famous for its little white church that sits on an island, in the middle of Lake Bled. A relatively small city, a walk around the lake will only take an hour. Pletna boats take visitors to the island in the middle for a small fee, and rowboats call also be rented. Visitors enjoy stand up paddle boarding on the lake. Swimming is also popular, especially at the foot of Bled Castle, you can find outdoor pools, water slides, rock climbing walls, jump boards, and sandpits for children to play in. 

Bled Castle is a medieval castle high up on the hill, that overlooks the lake. It is the oldest castle in Slovenia, dating back at least, to the year 1101 AD. 

Der Hintersee in Ramsau. Ramsau is a German municipality in the Bavarian Alps, pop.: ~1,800. It’s located on the Königssee in the Berchtesgadener Land in Bayern (Bavaria), Southern Germany, 35 km south of Salzburg/Austria and 150 km from München (Munich). Notable sights include the 3rd-highest mountain in Germany called the Watzmann, Lake Hintersee and the village’s famous church.

Lake Baikal - Russia 

Lake Baikal is a rift lake in southern Siberia. It the worlds largest freshwater lake (by volume), and with a depth of 1642 at its deepest point, it is also the worlds deepest lake. With the purest freshwater on the planet, in many places on the lake, the ice is completely transparent. It has been reported that you can see 40m below the ice in some of these places. 

On shore, the lake has many grottoes, that form impressive icicles during winter. During the summer, the beaches are also great for fishing, and river rafting.

Münster in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Northwestern Germany, started with a monastery in 794 by a Frisian missionary to aid Charlemagne’s campaign to gain control over the Saxons. It has had town rights since 1170. Today, it’s a fast-growing city of 300,000+, and has a large number of bikes which creates a special atmosphere that reminds of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. There are 40,000 uni students in town so travelling by bike and on foot are key modes of transportation. Pavements have a red brick section reserved for bikes; the entire city has a pedestrian/bike path that surrounds it, which follows the route of the old medieval walls, and makes for a nice walk, taking you past the lovely Aasee, a large artificial lake with surrounding park.

The Dead Sea - Israel 

The Dead Sea is a 304m deep salt lake, bordered by Israel, Jordan, and Palestine, and surrounded by the Negev Desert. At 430.5 metres below sea level, the lakes shores are the lowest elevation point on earth. The lake is also one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet. The high level of saline in the water gives rise to the sea’s name, as no fish or animals can survive in the incredibly salty waters. The salt content has made the Sea famous in other ways: for its healing abilities; and the ability for swimmers to float naturally on the surface.

Konstanz is a town of ~ 80,000 inhabitants located at the western end of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in Baden-Württemberg, Southwestern Germany, bordering Switzerland. The city houses the University of Konstanz and was for more than 1200 years residence of the Roman Catholic Diocese. The Rhein river, which starts in the Swiss Alps, passes through the lake and leaves it, considerably larger, by flowing under a bridge connecting the 2 parts of the city. North of the river lies the larger part of the city with residential areas, industrial estates, and the university; south of the river is the old town, which houses the administrative center and shopping facilities in addition to the Hochschule or the University of Applied Sciences. Car ferries provide access across the lake to Meersburg, and the Katamaran provides a shuttle service for pedestrians to Friedrichshafen. At the old town’s southern border lies the Swiss town of Kreuzlingen.

BERLIN FACTS

* Berlin has more bridges than Venice/Italy - between 1400 and 1700, depending on who you ask (Venice only has 409). There are over 180 km of navigable waterways.

* Berlin is the only city in the world with 3 active opera houses: the Staatsoper, the Deutsche Oper, and the Komische Oper. Opera lovers are treated to events with many of the world’s best singers, conductors, and musicians taking to the stage. If you’re under the age of 30, try the evening box office where you can pick up any unsold tickets for around 10€!

* Parks, lakes, and forests comprise around 1/3 of Berlin’s total area, so many “nature” activities such as kayaking, cycling, and hiking can be done within the urban area. 

* Berlin’s Zoologischer Garten’s zoo and aquarium gets about 3 million visitors a year. It’s considered to be the most visited zoo in Europe and one of the most popular worldwide. Regular animal feedings are among its attractions. There are 19,000 animals of 1,500 different species. The zoo collaborates with universities, research institutes, and zoos around the world. It maintains and promotes breeding programs, helps safeguard endangered species, and participates in species reintroduction programs.

* Berlin is also home to the largest department store in continental Europe. The Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) has over 60,000 sqm of display space on 8 floors. If you like gourmet foods, visit the 6th and 7th floor - they’re entirely devoted to food, adding up to the size of 2 football fields. The 6th floor “Delicatessen” is famous for its wide variety of foods and beverages. There are 110 cooks and 40 bakers and confectioners supplying 30 gourmet counters. The 7th floor includes a winter garden with a 1000-seat restaurant surrounded by an all-windowed wall offering a view over the Wittenbergplatz.

* The Berlin Wall (1961-1989) was 155 km long; it was guarded by 302 manned watchtowers. In the communist/socialist East, it was named ‘Antifaschistischer Schutzwall’ (anti-fascist protection wall), implying that it was erected to protect the East Germans against capitalist West Germany. In reality, its purpose was to stop the flood of East Germans trying to escape to the West by locking them in as prescribed by the Russian/USSR communist occupiers. Prior to 1961, 3.5 million East Germans had left, totaling about 20% of the population.

* Today, about 30% of Berlin’s population of 3 million have some kind of migrant background. About 13% are foreign nationals. As the capital, Berlin has a long history of migration, going back to 1685 when the city welcomed many protestant refugees from France, known as Huguenots. The Neukölln district has one of the largest Turkish communities in Germany.