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Traveling in regions of the former East Germany is a fulfilling experience. Once difficult to visit, famous cities have been beautifully revived and are inviting and less touristy than some of the picturesque towns in southern Germany. Notable examples include Dresden, destroyed during World War II and poignantly restored, at least in part; Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach spent most of his musical life as cantor (choirmaster) of St. Thomas Church; Meissen, famous for exquisite porcelain; and Weimar, glowing from its recent designation as a European City of Culture. In addition, unspoiled scenery and medieval towns such as Quedlinburg invite you to wander off the beaten track.

Since reunification, many visitors have come from around the world to explore the political landscape and to honor the memory of the intellectual giants who once made eastern Germany their home -- Goethe, Luther, Bach, Schiller, and Brecht, among others. Hotels are being built, tourist facilities are being developed, and getting around eastern Germany is easier than ever. Some 1,600km (1,000 miles) of autobahns and about 11,000km (7,000 miles) of secondary highways cut across the region.

But travelers should be aware that the economy is weaker than in western Germany, and eastern Germany is still a region in transition. The best guess is that it will take 10 to 15 more years before eastern Germany's infrastructure is comparable to western Germany's. The upside of this is that you'll find some of Germany's most unspoiled countryside and untouched villages, where rural traditions that have disappeared from most of western Europe still linger. Outside Dresden or Leipzig, you can still see many old towns that have not succumbed to the Americanization you can find in most of western Germany. Drenched in history and medieval legend, the towns of Weimar and Wittenberg, home to Goethe and Martin Luther, give you a view of Germany that has been swept away in the more modern parts of the country. A visit can provide you with unforgettable new experiences and stories to tell your grandchildren.