When the German national soccer team won the World Cup in 2014, the whole country got on a razzle-dazzle. The fans of the team were expecting the cup for many years, and it was a kind of a relief to finally become the best Mannschaft of the World for the fourth time. There was a triumph in soccer in the past that was much more important for Germany and the Germans than the last one. It was the championship of the year 1954 where the so-called “Wunder von Bern” (Miracle of Bern) took place.
The importance of the Match in Bern
It was more than a soccer game. It was an event that gave the Germans the feeling that they could reach something in the world unrelated to terror and war. Not even ten years before, World War II ended with millions of people dead. Germany was still lying in ashes, and the guilt of what happened was visible in everyday life, not to mention the country’s status inside the international community. It was an occupied country, and it wasn’t even clear what would happen to it or if it could ever be “normal” again. Also in matters of soccer, Germany had to endure the consequences of the war and the Holocaust: The German soccer association (Deutscher Fußball Bund, DFB) had been dissolved in 1940, and almost every nation boycotted the German national soccer team since then. Only the Swiss team has played some international matches against Germany.
Thus, the World Cup was an excellent opportunity for the Mannschaft to gain some international sporting experience again. In the early 1950s, Germany tended to stabilize itself. The economy was also growing. International acceptance got bigger after the foundation of the Bundesrepublik in 1949. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer tried to show the world slowly that not all Germans are evil. Also, the national team had been accepted to participate in the championship the first time after the war. Although the players had little experience, they managed to get through the tournament and reached the final game against Hungary.
A tense Final
It has been a nerve-racking final in the Wankdorfstation in Bern. Both teams scored two goals until the break. It was Helmut Rahn who scored the goal that made West-Germany world champion in minute 84. This goal was not only celebrated in Bern but also all over Germany because this world cup had been the first one the Germans could widely receive via radio or even TV. The German commentator Herbert Zimmermann became a legend because of his emotional way to describe the events and almost any German today can at least recite one of his sentences he spoke during the game.
The impact of the “Wunder von Bern”
The win evoked a sheer wave of euphoria all over Germany. The notable players traveled back in a special train that stopped in many West-German cities where the heroes of Bern were celebrated frenetic. The world cup was not only the first time a German team was allowed to participate and also not only the first time the German national anthem played on an official sports event, but it was also the starting signal for the Wirtschaftswunder. In this time started the rapid rise of the German economy that gave people prosperity and self-esteem again. Even today this event is still vivid in Germany’s collective memory.
If it can be done on ice or snow, not only have the Germans done it, but they’ve also perfected it. So, if you prefer the exciting, heart-racing challenge of winter sports to the relaxed pace of most warm-weather sports, Germany is your ideal tourist destination.
Let’s start with Alpine (downhill), Nordic (cross-country), and freestyle skiing. The best online listing of ski areas in Germany seems to be http://www.bergfex.com/, so, while I’ll list my favorites, check out this web site’s listings to see all the skiing goodies available to you.
My overall favorite is Oberjoch in Bad Hindelang-Oberjoch, about a two-hour drive from Munich or about four hours by train via Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Instructors in both Alpine and Nordic skiing are readily available and the resort offers six lifts, Alpine skiing on over 32 km of groomed trails, 16 classic Nordic cross-country runs, & 4 Nordic high cross-country skiing courses. Oberjoch also offers snowboarding, ice skating, curling, sleigh rides, canyoning, winter hiking trails, dogsledding, and a very challenging 3.5 km toboggan run.
My recommendation for the best in Nordic skiing is the Bodenmais Bretterschachten cross-country center, quite near the Czechoslovakian border, about a 2½-hour drive from Nürnberg. The center offers 114 km of 9 well-groomed classic cross-country runs and a well-groomed 60 km high cross-country run as well as 8 skating courses covering 110 km. Both rentals and ski-touring services are available. For those who want to include Alpine skiing, there are two nearby ski resorts: Grosser Arber and Bodenmais Silberberg, both of which are delightful and worthwhile.
Freestyle skiing is something special: it can be simultaneously dangerous and artistically magnificent because it blends Alpine (downhill) skiing with acrobatics. One might as well combine gymnastics with skateboarding! Freestyle skiing’s mélange of acrobatic elements include 2-4-meter jumps that can end in a vertical-drop landing of as much as 20-meters, giving the skier a chance to twist and somersault before landing. Breathtaking! Other elements that are added to or substituted in the freestyle skier’s repertoire include mogul skiing, ballet skiing, cross skiing, half-pipe skiing, and slope-style skiing. All elements of Alpine skiing are employed and pressed to their limits. If you want to learn how to ski freestyle or if you want to get professional help to hone and improve your skills, contact Skischule Thoma; Dr.-Pilet-Spur 13; 79868 Feldberg im Schwarzwald; telephone 49 7676 92688; www.thoma-skischule.de. The ski school is about two hours by car from Stuttgart and about one hour by car or train from Freiburg (a city on the edge of the Black Forest and well worth visiting on its own!). It has all the equipment you might need and the village is invitingly romantic for couples of all ages.
If you delight in snowboarding, head for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, mentioned above. Only an hour and a half by train from Munich, this ski area gained worldwide renown as the venue for the 1936 Winter Olympics. First and foremost for snowboarders is the Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort, which averages 2,360 meters above sea level. It now offers more than 19 kilometers of well-groomed trails for snowboarders. The neighboring Garmisch Classic Ski Area comprises three linked mountain ski areas: Hausberg, Kreuzeck, and Alpspitze maintains 17 ski lifts, including two gondolas and two tramways, all feeding into 40 kilometers of well-groomed trails as well as four downhill runs with artificial snow-making equipment.
Bobsledding is a rather specialized sport for enterprising adventurers who enjoy the rush as much as they enjoy the accomplishment. To indulge this urge, go to the bobsled track at Königsee near Berchtesgaden, where you can ride with an experienced pilot on the World Champion 1,200-meter ice track down Watzman mountain. Here’s an excerpt from a recent participant’s thrilled comments: “We took a bobsled ride down the world cup track at Konigsee . . . in a 4-man bobsled with a professional driver. . . . The 1 minute . . . was amazing! . . . 120km/hour and . . . 4-5 Gs around the bend. . . . What a rush!” Contact Berchtesgadener Land Tourismus GmbH; Bahnhofplatz 4; 83471 Berchtesgaden; telephone 49 (0)1805 865200; e-mail: email@example.com. Other bobsled sites include Altenberg bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track at http://www.wia-altenberg.de/; Oberhof bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track at Rodelbahn Oberhof; and Winterberg bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track at Veltins Eisarena. Gute Reise!
Bear in mind that ice climbing is one of the most exciting, risky, and intoxicating endeavors one can undertake. Proper training is an absolute requirement; one mistake can doom the individual as well as companions. Probably the foremost ice climbing school and venue in Germany is in Ohlstadt, a quite small town (fewer than 3,500 residents) in Upper Bavaria, about two and a half hours by train or car from Nürnberg; an hour by car or train from Munich. You first stop in Ohlstadt, if you’re interested in learning ice climbing from true professionals, is die Bergführer; Hauptstraße 20; 82441 Ohlstadt; telephone +49 (0)8841 627 08 52; firstname.lastname@example.org. As a bonus, you can take advantage of ice climbing instructions and experiences in both Germany, on the Zugspitze glacier and in the area around Lenggries on the Isar, and into Austria, specifically to the Pitztal and Sellrain valleys. Ice climbing courses include a single day for groups of at least two and no larger than seven people, weekend courses, or intensive courses in the Karwendel range in Germany or the Jochberg Nordwand (Austria). The more experienced you are, the more ice climbing opportunities can be made available to you.
Winter sports are an excellent cure for those of us who go all out in the warm months, particularly those of us who want to exercise for health reasons, with tennis, soccer, bicycling, swimming, etc., but, when the cold weather sets in, we shut down. From daily exercise to no real exercise. That’s unhealthy and a shock to our system. Consider winter sports as an alternative to wearing out the television remote and the electronic games.
The Hamburger Sportverein or short HSV is a very special club indeed. It is the only founding member of the highest German soccer league, the Bundesliga, that has never been relegated to the second division in its 53 years of existence. And for a while, the Goliath of Hamburg’s largest soccer clubs, HSV and FC St. Pauli, celebrated this fact with counting the days of the clubs stay in the first division on a display in the stadium. But after the “Rothosen (Red Shorts is one of the HSV’s nicknames)” came very close to being relegated into the second division in the last couple of years, the club board decided to take the display down. In two of the last three seasons, the Hamburger Sportverein ended up 16th on the Bundesliga table, then having to play two relegation matches against the team placed third in the second division, the 2. Bundesliga. In both cases, the HSV came very closely to losing their unique attribute as the oldest member of the Bundesliga.
Past success and actual reality
In general, one has to state that the heydays of the Hamburger Sportverein are long past, even though they are still very much coining the self-image of the club and its fans. Athletically speaking, the HSV constantly has to struggle with its aspirations, fueled by past success, and the actual reality on the scoreboard. The heights of the clubs athletic triumph can be dated back to the 80’s, when the HSV managed to win national and international championships. From the late 90’s to the late 2000’s, the club was actually quite successful, but a sense of satisfaction could not be felt. Since then, everything pretty much went downhill athletically as well as financially. Numerous unsound investments had been made and the Hamburger Sportverein gave up some of its integrity to begin recuperation from these circumstances.
A billionaire’s DYI-Club – TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Even if you have never heard of Hoffenheim, you might have heard of SAP. It’s one of the biggest software companies on the planet and its applications are used in countless offices worldwide. No what do SAP and the soccer club 1899 Hoffenheim have in common? One man has been a crucial part of their success. Dietmar Hopp was raised in the small town of Hoffenheim, close to Heidelberg, and became one of the most successful businessmen out of Germany. He co-founded the SAP Company and financed the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim with millions of Euros from 1990 to 2008. Hopp, who played for the club as a child, took on a role that is comparable to a club owner in the English Premier League, even though the German soccer system doesn’t allow this type of ownership. With Hopp’s reign and money, the club rose through the ranks from the nether regions of amateur soccer to the Bundesliga in a very short amount of time. The TSG relegated to the first German division in 2008 and has not left it since – even though the club’s efforts have been subject to strong fluctuations.
1899 Hoffenheim, which operates a stadium fitting more than thrice the population of its hometown, is seen by many of the more traditionalist soccer fans as something that doesn’t belong in soccer. In that aspect, it is somewhat the opposite of the HSV, a club with one of the longest traditions there are. In Germany, many soccer supporters are caught between the ideas and ideologies of a team sport as well as the narratives of teams that are successful by working together and overcoming the odds and the harsh reality of soccer being a highly profitable product, where money does indeed score goals. 1899 Hoffenheim is a prime example of the latter and thus being disliked by many.
Germany has more than 750 golf courses and more under construction or near completion. Many of these courses are part of various pro golf tours, e.g., the “European Tour” (highest level), the “Challenge Tour” (second level), and the “Pro Golf Tour” (third level). Germany has produced some of professional golf’s top touring pros, e.g., Martin Kaymer, currently on the PGA tour and was ranked #1 at one time, and certainly Bernhard Langer, who was a great PGA Tour player when he was younger. Langer is clearly one of the top Champions Tour players and a justifiably favorite son of many German golfers. Germany is truly a golfing nation and that makes it an ideal destination for amateur golfers worldwide to set their sights on a long-term golfing holiday in Germany. It’s one more reason in a long list of reasons to visit Germany.
Golf´s Magic: The struggle
Many casual onlookers scratch their heads in bewilderment when they see colorfully dressed golfers in electric carts or walking 6,000 meters, on average, over a 60-hectare patch of land linking 18 holes and trying to hit a small white ball (e.g., a 42.7mm-diameter dimpled golf ball) into a large blue-green ball (the 12,742km-diameter Earth) in as few strokes as possible. One or more of the three elements that has driven mankind since the dawn of time drives every dedicated golfer, i.e., the struggle of man against man, the struggle of man against nature, and the struggle of man against himself. Each of those internal contests plays a role in every golfer’s urge to return to the links. It should be no wonder that German golf courses need to be part of every good golfer’s experience. There is, of course, an umbrella of experiences and aspects that shelter every golfer’s internal struggles. Regular rounds of golf (1) provide practice; (2) surround one with well-maintained, beautiful nature; (3) furnish good company with fellow golfers; and (4) are ideal ways to get healthful exercise. When one adds the experience that is Germany to that umbrella of experiences and aspects, the endeavor expands geometrically, for it brings out the common ground of all golfers: it sharpens competitive instincts to play with and against unknown quantities, it tests skills to deal with a natural environment that is possibly quite different from one’s usual experience, and it enables each golfer to summon inner strengths to excel. It’s more than the game, it’s the playing of the game.
Here are some of the German golf courses that will meet the needs of any golfer, from a par-three duffer to a scratch golfer, whose goal it is to improve all aspects of his/her game.
Hamburger Golf-Club e.V. Falkenstein: This par 71, 5,763-meter/5092-meter (men’s/women’s), 18-hole heath-land course was designed by Henry Colt and it will soon celebrate its 110th birthday. Greens fees are €80 weekdays. The address is In de Bargen 59, D-22587 Hamburg, Germany; telephone 49 40 812177. Reviews praise its beauty, particularly in the fall when the heather is in bloom, course playability, its rolling landscape, and its technical challenges. The closest commercial airport is Hamburg. Nearby hotels include Golf hotel Haus Rissen Gästehaus and Golf hotel Hotel Süllberg Karlheinz Hauser.
Golf & Country Club Hohwachter Bucht: This is a par 72, 5,946-meter/5,217-meter (men’s/women’s), 18-hole course. There is also an adjacent 9-hole course. Greens fees are €44 on weekdays and €54 on weekends. The address is Eichenalle, D-24321 Hohwacht/Ostsee, Germany; telephone 49 4381 9690. Reviews comment positively on the well maintained, diversified course, the wide fairways, delightful playability, excellent lake view, excellent service, fast greens. All-in-all, a “classy operation.” The closest commercial airport is Lübeck Airport. Nearby hotels include Golf hotel Apartments Golden Tüffel and Golf hotel Das Hotel Ostseeblick.
Golfclub Bodensee Weißensberg e.V.: This is a par 71, 5,848-meter/5,185-meter (men’s/women’s), 18-hole heath-land course. Greens fees are €65 on weekdays and €80 on weekends. The address is Lampertsweiler 51, D-88138 Weißensberg, Germany; telephone 49 8389 89190. Reviewers describe the course as fastidious, well-maintained, and prestigious, and the accommodations are top-notch with a superb restaurant. “One of the most beautiful spots in Germany!” The closest commercial airport is St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport, just across the border in Switzerland. Nearby hotels include Golf hotel Humboldt-Haus and Golf hotel Haus Sonne.
Golf Club Lauterhofen e.V.: This is a par 72, 5,960-meter/5,291-meter (men’s/women’s), 18-hole course. Greens fees are €50 on weekdays and €60 on weekends. The address is Ruppertslohe 18, D-92283 Lauterhofen, Germany; telephone 49 9186 1574. Reviewers include fast greens, with many interesting fairways; a truly praiseworthy course; a challenging varied course; breathtaking architecture. The closest commercial airport is Nuremberg Airport. Nearby hotels include Golf hotel Hotel-Gasthof Anni and Golf hotel Gasthof-Pension Brauner Hirsch in Alfeld – Mittelfranken.
Golf Club St. Leon-Rot: This is a par 72, 6,047-meter/5,329-meter (men’s/women’s), Hannes Schreiner-designed 18-hole parkland course. Greens fees are €85 on weekdays and €120 on weekends. There is a second 18-hole course and a 9-hole course adjacent to the main course described above. The address is Opelstraße 30, D-68789 St. Leon-Rot, Germany; telephone 49 6227 86080. Reviewers glowingly mention that it is a magnificent course; provocative fairways and greens; superb amenities; one of Germany’s “top 5” courses; unparalleled quality. The closest commercial airport is Baden Airpark. Nearby hotels include Golf hotel Fairway Hotel and Golf hotel Flairhotel & Restaurant Erck.
Golfclub Rickenbach e.V.: This is a par 70, 5,290-meter/4,680-meter (men’s/women’s), 18-hole course. Greens fees are €80 on weekdays and €95 on weekends. The address is Hennematt 20, D-79736 Rickenbach, Germany; telephone 49 7765 777. Reviewers note the course’s splendid challenges and daunting, hilly landscape; well-maintained; ideal golf holiday venue; wonderful amenities. The closest commercial airport is Zurich Airport, just across the Swiss border. Nearby hotels include Golf hotel Schwarzwald and Golf hotel Pension Sonne.
A thorough list of the top German golf courses, by region, is available here. Plan and book as soon as you can.
An example for golfer´s devotion to the sport
Many readers might not appreciate how devoted to the sport some players are. Here is a true story; judge for yourself. On a crisp Saturday morning in mid-September, four golfers who regularly played together made the turn from the ninth hole to the tenth tee on the outer edge of the course. A nearby road led to the local cemetery. Just as the men approached the tenth tee, a funeral cortege slowly made its way to the cemetery. One of the men stopped in his tracks, pulled off his golfing cap, bowed his head, and stood respectfully in reverent silence as the cortege passed. Afterwards, when the man donned his cap and rejoined the group, one of his colleagues turned to him. “I’ve never been so impressed by anything you’ve ever done. You’r
e the most competitive golfer I know, yet you stopped to show your respect as that funeral cortege passed. That was extraördinary and quite moving.” “It’s the least I could do,” said the man. “We would have been married 34 years in December.”