5 places I love (and why I think you’ll love them too)

Photo credit: Belle NRW

Photo credit: Belle NRW

Seeing everything there is to see in the NRW would be fun impossible.

How do you narrow it down?

Well, first there’s the obvious – go places that interest you.

Then there’s the next option – go places that interest people you know.

And now I’m going to throw a third option into the mix – check out one of these places that I highly recommend because they were so much more than I imagined them to be and chances are I left each and every single one of these places thinking “everyone who lives here needs to take a moment to visit x.

So – let’s solve for x.

Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Photo credit: Belle NRW

Why I loved this museum

We live in Germany. This museum presents us with our host country’s history from 1945 onward. And that was a controversial time here. So controversial that when Helmut Kohl proposed the idea of having a museum dedicated to post-war West Germany, people didn’t it. But, he did it anyway.

Yes, I’m biased. I studied German history in college. I encourage people to know more about where they live. These together make the museum a perfect fit.

However, put those two things aside and we’re still left with a fact-filled, bring-you-back-to-the-old-days, artifact-driven museum. The place is filled with fascinating stories. The pieces of history that made Germany what it is today. Anyone in Germany, not just in our state, should visit the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik. But if you live in the NRW, there’s no reason to skip it – it’s right here!

Cancel your weekend plans and head to Bonn. Go to the museum, and tell them I sent you. (Don’t worry, I don’t make money off of that, they’re a free museum!)

Here’s more information about Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublic Deutschland.

Heimat-Tierpark Olderdissen

Photo credit: Belle NRW

Why I love this zoo

I swear not every place I’ll list on here will be free. But, the Heimat-Tierpark just outside of Bielefeld is. And it’s open 24 hrs. And it’s just a really nice animal park.

Everything feels natural and unexpected at the same time. Almost immediately we saw buffalo. Then donkeys. And, oh look, a beautiful garden. A large playground. A petting zoo. Some woods. Oh, a bear. Right there. Foxes. Huge pigs playing in the mud. A small lake. With a dam. And the beavers that built the dam.

Maybe it was because we entered the park with no fanfare – no lines, no signs, no ticket-checking – and walked right in, but if the zoo’s goal is to make visitors feel like they’re protected while finding animals in as close to their natural habitat as possible – this zoo accomplishes their goal.

Here’s more information about Heimat-Tierpark Olderdissen.

Gruga Park, Essen

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Why I loved this park

Gruga Park was the place repeatedly mentioned to me when we first decided to live in Essen. We’ve held an annual pass continuously since we moved here.

I love this park. And I know I would love it  even if I didn’t live in Essen. (In fact, Gruga is one of the draws that keeps me here.)

There’s always something going on, always an unexplored area, always a previously explored area that now has something new, and always reliable favorites.

Some of my favorite Gruga events are any of their flower festivals and their light festival. I like the biergarten, the waterfalls, and the owl and bird areas. There’s plenty of spots for picnics. If you’re not up to it, grab a snack at one of the several restaurants, cafes, or kiosks located throughout the park.

And that’s just a glimpse of what Gruga offers.

Here’s more information about Gruga Park.

A river cruise on a warm sunny day

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Why I loved boat tours

There are a ton of river cruise options in the NRW. The one I took was the Weisse Flotte in Essen. I remember the day clearly. After living here for a year, we took a spontaneous trip to Essen-Kuepferdreh and boarded one of the boats to take us around Baldeney See and the Ruhr. The trip wasn’t too long, maybe an hour.

In that hour I saw a completely different side of my home-city. There were people sailing, people camping, a small beach area, and an in-progress water sport competition. There was all this activity so close to home, and I never even knew it existed.

Through this short cruise I experienced my city anew, learned of different things to do locally, appreciated the relaxation and views, and had a good time. My guess is that most cruises in the NRW will give you a new perspective, so try one close to home or far away, just do it.

Aachen’s Cathedral

Photo credit: Belle NRW

Why I loved this UNESCO World Heritage site

There’s something special about the cathedrals in our state. Two of them are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Cologne’s Cathedral is the most visited tourist attraction in Germany.

Let me say that again: Cologne’s Cathedral is the MOST VISITED TOURIST ATTRACTION in Germany. Think of every popular site in Germany: Neuschwanstein, the Berlin Wall, or Munich’s Marienplatz – more people go to Cologne than any of those. And because of that, I’m sure you may have already been. But don’t let the fact that you saw one big NWR UNESCO cathedral stop you from seeing the other.

The other UNESCO World Heritage Site cathedral in the NRW is, you may have guessed from the heading, Aachen Cathedral. The importance of this particular cathedral is emphasized in the fact that not only did it make the list in the first place, but that it was actually on the very first list.

Every year since 1978 UNESCO has added (and removed) sites around the world onto their list. There are now over 1,000 inscribed places. Their first list, however, only had 13 place listed. Three of those first 13 were in Europe. Only one of those three were in Germany. That one was the Aachen Cathedral.

Take some time and visit the Aachen Cathedral and surrounding area. You won’t be disappointed.

Now it’s your turn.

These are some of my favorite places. What are some of yours?

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2 Comments
  • Farrah
    Farrah
    August 28, 2014 at 8:26 am Reply

    Great pics! Literally- and ‘picks’ too.

    A 24 hour zoo? I didn’t know that existed. And being so close to Essen I have got to see that park. I can only imagine how pretty everything is in the fall. Time to get a plan together.

    1. Ann
      Ann
      August 28, 2014 at 9:15 am Reply

      The zoo is awesome for many, many reasons. It’s probably one of my favorites.

      And you definitely have to go to Gruga Park. It’s just a really nice place and so many different activities. Perfect for a Sunday.