German reunification unleashed a wave of creative energy, transforming great monuments, extensive art collections and the physical and cultural fabric of Berlin, Dresden and Hamburg. Berlin’s latest projects include the new Humboldt Forum. Museum Island has undergone massive modernisation and the Hamburger Bahnhof, the former railway station, is now one of the world’s most successful contemporary art exhibition spaces. Earlier works include Norman Foster’s Reichstag Dome and Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum. Potsdamer Platz, a war-ravaged wasteland, has been revitalised by leading architects including Renzo Piano, Arata Isozaki and Richard Rogers. Germany’s grand heritage buildings include palaces like Berlin’s Charlottenburg, Potsdam’s Sanssouci and the Saxon monarchy’s exquisite Zwinger, Dresden. These cities’ magnificently renovated museums house vast collections of ancient, European and modern art. Berlin has the Pergamon and Egyptian museums, the Gemäldegalerie, Alte Nationalgalerie, the new Berggruen Museum and Bröhan Museum of decorative art and design. Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie des Altes Meister is one of the world’s greatest art museums, as is Hamburg’s vast Kunsthalle. Travellers may enjoy Germany’s rich musical tradition at the famous Berlin Philharmoniker, Semperoper Dresden and Hamburg’s amazing Elbphilharmonie.
Germany’s Rhineland has excellent art museums, wonderful castles and fine gardens. A Rhine Gorge cruise gives views of castles, half-timbered medieval villages and vineyard terraces. The Rhineland’s garden delights include Peter Janke’s HORTUS, with over 4,000 plant varieties. Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, Weinheim, is a revolutionary experimental botanical and trial garden, renowned among the world’s plants people and garden designers. The architecturally spare Museum Insel Hombroich is set in Bernhard Korte’s magnificent 25-acre park. It displays Persian sculptures, Khmer and Han Chinese art and works by Franz Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Gustav Klimt, Henri Matisse and Kurt Schwitters. Eltz Castle sits on a rock spur high above the Eltzbach River. The Eltz family has lived here since the 12th century. Many of its original furnishings remain. Victor Hugo wrote about it and J.M.W. Turner, a regular visitor, painted it. Marksburg Castle overlooks the pretty medieval town of Braubach. Rüdesheim am Rhein is a winemaking town with medieval cobbled streets and historic buildings.
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