When the days seem to drag like tranquillised snails and it feels like years since you last enjoyed yourself, these are the first warning signs that you’re seriously in need of a joy injection. Travel always does the trick, ripping you out of over-familiar ruts and providing an invigorating change of scene. Different climate, different people, different food, unfamiliar language and Bob’s your uncle – new you!
With cheap weekend breaks spilling out of the internet, you can feasibly escape the office on a Friday evening and be in Paris, New York, Berlin, the Swiss Alps or even a tropical paradise within hours. Forget the daily grind of management targets, office politics and performance reviews for a few days, and bust outside the old comfort zone to recharge your batteries mid-term and return to your desk a new person.
There are few more convenient or varied destinations than Germany, home to far more than just the sausage and sauerkraut, lederhosen and ironclad work ethic. The cities are shrines to some of the world’s greatest historic treasures, there are wonderful festivals taking place throughout the year and the breathtaking landscapes of mountains, forests, lakes and plains offer a wealth of brilliant outdoor activities. You’d be hard pressed to find so much variety offered by any other country, and with such an excellent transport network you can get to where you want in no time at all.
The great cities of Germany are like magnificent, glittering jewels of high culture. Cologne Cathedral soars above the Rhine like a shining black stalactite erupting from the earth. It was begun in 1248 and not completed until 1880, maybe a slight blip in the Teutonic efficiency record but still worth the wait. Its twin towers were the world’s tallest structures until the Eiffel tower went up in 1889 and inside it’s even more impressive with 14th century stained glass, gold shrines and intricate carvings greeting you at every turn.
Heidelberg Castle, high above the magical Rhine again, has one of the most romantic locations in Germany. Home to the Palatine princes who ruled southern Germany in Holy Roman Empire days, it’s reached by cable car and has panoramic views across the ancient university city of Heidelberg and the Neckar Valley beyond.
Neuschwanstein Castle, one of three built by mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the late 19th century, when he was infatuated with Wagner, is right out of a fairytale. Perched in the spectacular Alps, it was the inspiration for Disney’s Magic Kingdom. It was not quite completed because Ludwig was relieved of his duties by a commission looking into where all the state’s money had been going.
Finally and perhaps most appropriately, in the suburbs of Berlin you’ll find Frederick II’s magnificent Sanssouci Palace. The name means literally ‘no worries’ and by the time you’ve finished your tour of German castles and cathedrals, even just a few of them, you should have things back in true perspective again. After all, in the context of the ‘dark backward and abysm of time’ what does it matter if your precious performance review fell foul of office politics and you didn’t get what you obviously so richly deserved?
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.