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The Best of Germany: Grand Cities, Castles and the Romantic Rhine

Program No. 19454RJ
From grand cathedrals to ancient castles, from Bavarian villages to a historic summer palace, come explore the monuments and culture of Germany on this comprehensive learning adventure.

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DATES & starting prices
Apr 28 - May 14, 2024
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Aug 4 - Aug 20, 2024
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Aug 25 - Sep 10, 2024
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Oct 6 - Oct 22, 2024
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DATES & starting prices
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Apr 28 - May 14, 2024
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Aug 4 - Aug 20, 2024
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Aug 25 - Sep 10, 2024
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Oct 6 - Oct 22, 2024
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At a Glance

Connect East Germany with West on this comprehensive journey that begins in Berlin and ventures south to Munich to the heart of Bavaria, then west and north to Heidelberg and the Rhine River. Along the way learn about breathtaking architecture, quintessential Bavarian villages, 20th-century history and a nation still healing after decades of division.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles on uneven surfaces, climbing a few flights of stairs.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Explore the German Bundestag in Berlin and meet a political expert for a discussion round.
  • Learn about the great German landmarks including the Rhine, Heidelberg Castle and the Nuremburg Castle.
  • Join an expert to explore the elaborately styled opera house in Dresden, the Semperoper.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Wolf Refardt
An expert on the military history of the 19th and 20th centuries, Wolf Refardt enjoys sharing his knowledge during his lectures and classes on the events of the Cold War. Wolf has published papers on themes that range from Sepulchral culture in enlightened absolutism to the development of public welfare in Brandenburg, and to the history of battles that took place during World War II.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Wolf Refardt
Wolf Refardt View biography
An expert on the military history of the 19th and 20th centuries, Wolf Refardt enjoys sharing his knowledge during his lectures and classes on the events of the Cold War. Wolf has published papers on themes that range from Sepulchral culture in enlightened absolutism to the development of public welfare in Brandenburg, and to the history of battles that took place during World War II.
Profile Image of Sabine Rosenkranz
Sabine Rosenkranz View biography
Sabine Rosenkranz was born in Dresden, East Germany, where she grew up to become an English teacher. In love with her beautiful home city, she decided she wanted to introduce it to visitors. Sabine became a licensed city excursion leader 25 years ago and has delighted in leading American visitors around Dresden since the German reunification of 1990. She particularly enjoys showing off the Saxon State Art Collections.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Alone in Berlin
by Hans Fallada
In 1940, in the heart of Hitler's capital, Otto and Anna Quangel are alone in Berlin with a breathtaking campaign of resistance.
German History in Modern Times: Four Lives of the Nation
by William W. Hagen
This history of German-speaking central Europe offers a very wide perspective, emphasizing a succession of many-layered communal identities. It highlights the interplay of individual, society, culture and political power, contrasting German with Western patterns.
The Innocent
by Ian McEwan
After England, the cold war Berlin of 1955 is like no place Leonard Markham has ever experienced: surreal, complex and dangerous.
The Awful German Language
by Mark Twain
In this essay Twain lets the reader participate in his experiences of learning the German language by describing its absurdities in a very humorous way.
Berlin: Imagine a City
by Rory MacLean
A city devastated by Allied bombs, divided by a Wall, then reunited and reborn, Berlin today resonates with the echo of lives lived, dreams realised and evils executed. No other city has repeatedly been so powerful and fallen so low. And few other cities have been so shaped and defined by individual imaginations. Through vivid portraits spanning five centuries, Rory MacLean reveals the varied and rich history of Berlin, from its brightest to its darkest moments. We encounter an ambitious prostitute refashioning herself as a princess, a Scottish mercenary fighting for the Prussian Army, Marlene Dietrich flaunting her sexuality and Hitler fantasising about the mega-city Germania. The result is a uniquely imaginative biography of one of the world's most volatile yet creative cities.
The Invention of Nature. Alexander von Humboldts New World
by Wulf, Andrea
The author reveals the forgotten life of Alexander von Humboldt, the visionary German naturalist whose ideas changed the way we see the natural world—and in the process created modern environmentalism. Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age.
Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words
by John Man
In 1450, all of western Europes books were hand-copied and amounted to no more than are in a modern public library. By 1500, printed books numbered in the millions. Johann Gutenbergs invention of movable type ignited the explosion of art, literature, and scientific research that accelerated the Renaissance and led directly to the Modern Age. In Gutenberg, youll meet the genius who fostered this revolution, discover the surprising ambitions that drove him, and learn how a single, obscure artisan changed the course of history.
Hildegard of Bingen: The Woman of Her Age
by Fiona Maddock
The story of Hildegard's life, from her entry into a monastery at Disibodenberg on the Rhine as a child, through the exploration of her pent-up genius in middle years, to her eventual admission to the German canon of saints, is here told against a rich background of the years of the Crusades, the flowering of monasticism, papal schism and heresy. The forceful character that emerges challenges any image of demurely subjugated womanhood associated with the period. Hildegard's story is as fascinating as that of any figure in the Middle Ages, and she and her musical legacy continue to be the subject of debate a thousand years later.
The Tin Drum
by Günter Grass
Günter Grass is a widely acclaimed author of plays, essays, poems, and numerous novels. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999.
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
by Anna Funder
Not surprisingly the fall of the Berlin Wall caused panic at the Stasi headquarters, as described in Anna Funder's riveting portrait of East Germany's secret police and how it controlled a nation.
Germany: Memories of a Nation
by Neil MacGregor
From Neil MacGregor, the author of A History of the World in 100 Objects, this is a view of Germany like no otherFor the past 140 years, Germany has been the central power in continental Europe. Twenty-five years ago a new German state came into being. How much do we really understand this new Germany, and how do its people now understand themselves?
The Castles of the Rhine: Recreating the Middle Ages in Modern Germany
by Robert Taylor
Far from being mere antiquarian or sentimental curiosities, the rebuilt or reused fortresses of the Rhine reflect major changes in Germany and Europe during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Taylor begins The Castles of the Rhine with a synopsis of the major political, social and intellectual changes that influenced castle rebuilding in the nineteenth century. He then focuses on selected castles, describing their turbulent histories from the time of their original construction, through their destruction or decay, to their rediscovery in the 1800s and their continued preservation today.
Martin Luther: A Life
by Martin E. Marty
A professor of religion at the University of Chicago, Marty quotes liberally from Luther's work in this engrossing, spiritual overview.
Germany Map
A sturdy map of Germany (including the region east to Prague) at a scale of 1:700,000 with good topographic relief, roads, waterways and index. (GER07, $12.95)
The Berlin Wall Story
by Hans-Hermann Hertle
Where did the Berlin Wall actually stand? Why was it built? How did people keep managing to escape across it – and how many died in the attempt? Why did it come down in the end? Numerous previously unknown photographs document the construction of this barrier system of barbed wire, alarm fences and concrete. Spectacular escape stories and shocking deaths are chronicled here in words and images, as are the dramatic events surrounding the construction and the fall of the Wall. A stunning survey of the Berlin Wall – the central symbol of the Cold War.
The Swan King: Ludwig II of Bavaria
by Christopher McIntosh
"The Swan King" is the biography of one of the most enigmatic figures of the 19th century, described by Verlaine as 'the only true king of his century'. A man of wildly eccentric temperament and touched by a rare, imaginative genius, Ludwig II of Bavaria is remembered both for his patronage of Richard Wagner and for the fabulous palaces which he created as part of a dream-world to escape the responsibilities of state. In realization of his fantasies, he created a ferment of creativity among artists and craftsmen, while his neglect of Bavaria's political interests made powerful enemies among those critical of his self-indulgence and excesses. At the age of 40, declared insane in a plot to depose him, Ludwig died in mysterious circumstances.
The Germans
by Gordon A. Craig
A gifted historian, Craig explores the complex paradoxes of German identity in this masterly portrait of German life, past and present, with chapters on religion, money, Jews, women, literature and society, Berlin and language.
Five Germanys I have known
by Fritz Stern
The "German question" haunts the modern world: How could so civilized a nation be responsible for the greatest horror in Western history? In this unusual fusion of personal memoir and history, the celebrated scholar Fritz Stern refracts the question through the prism of his own life.
Book of Clouds
by Chloe Aridjis
Chloe Aridjis's beautifully evocative novel is set in today's Berlin; a young Mexican woman flees her family only to find a city that cannot escape its past.
Germany: A New History
by Hagen Schulze
In one concise volume, Hagen Schulze conveys the full sweep of German history, from the days of the Romans to the fall of the Berlin Wall. A story two thousand years in the making, it rings with battle, murmurs with intrigue, and hums with the music of everyday life. This richly various legacy, often overshadowed and distorted by the nation's recent past, offers a hopeful answer to the perennial question of what kind of country Germany is and will be.
Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich
by David Clay Large
The capital of the Nazi movement was not Berlin but Munich, according to Hitler himself. In examining why, historian David Clay Large begins in Munich four decades before World War I and finds a proto-fascist cultural heritage that proved fertile soil later for Hitler's movement. An engrossing account of the time and place that launched Hitler on the road to power.

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