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Germany: a bird's eye view

Online mapping, now a standard tool for the modern traveller, is very useful in Germany but recent history has left us a complicated picture.

Google’s maps and satellite photos, including Google Earth, cover Germany intensively and can provide detailed directions, distances and estimated travel times for routes. But Google’s Street View function is limited to some major cities – the result of a long public controversy over privacy provisions and extensive opting out.

Google street views are available for Berlin (but not Potsdam), Hamburg, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn, Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main, Bremen, Hannover, Stuttgart, Munich and Nuremberg, Mannheim, Bielefeld – and areas of the Ruhr industrial region including Duisburg, Dortmund, Essen and Wuppertal. Not all inner-city thoroughfares are covered, though sometimes Panoramio street images can be used (being contributed, these are sometimes unreliable in terms of map placement). Street View images, sometimes going back to 2008, have been blurred in the interests of privacy or in cases of significant changes to the streetscape.

Bing Maps offers wide coverage in maps and aerial images but visuals from its Streetside coverage were disabled indefinitely in 2012. Its Bird’s Eye feature however offers useful views when zoomed. The detailed maps of Here.com are especially good for street numbers but do not offer street-level images.

The website www.stadtplan.de has detailed maps with an excellent point-to-point function that will provide directions in English along with a way marker line and interim distances.

The online maps of www.hot-map.com include dozens of excellent maps of German cities, most based at 1:20,000, and a wide range of 1:100,000 regional maps covering the country.  This range takes a little getting used to but can be extremely useful for travellers, motorists in particular. A range of detailed directions or distances for point-to-point travel can be extracted for journeys over hundreds of kilometres. There is also a handful of thematic maps, such as Frankfurt airport or part of the line of the Berlin Wall.