The Elbe - Berlin to Prague / Hamburg: Berlin has seen a lot of changes since the unification of Germany and its restoration as the country's capital city. From 1961 to 1989 the city was divided by the Berlin Wall - remnants of the concrete structure can be seen at various locations ? but now the city has been transformed by investment in modern architecture and commerce. Check out the Reichstag, the 19th Century parliament building is topped with a modern glass dome, or Potsdammerplatz a glass structure that has become a popular retail and entertainment complex. The Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of Berlin, lies at the western end of Unter Den Linden, a tree-lined boulevard leading to the Tiergarten ? one of Berlin's green spaces.
Berlin has seen a lot of changes since the unification of Germany and its restoration as the country's capital city. From 1961 to 1989 the city was divided by the Berlin Wall - remnants of the concrete structure can be seen at various locations - but now the city has been transformed by investment in modern architecture and commerce. Check out the Reichstag, the 19th Century parliament building is topped with a modern glass dome, or Potsdammerplatz a glass structure that has become a popular retail and entertainment complex. The Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of Berlin, lies at the western end of Unter Den Linden, a tree-lined boulevard leading to the Tiergarten - one of Berlin's green spaces.
Potsdam, to the southwest of Berlin, is a city of lakes, rivers, parks and palaces. It's the start point for river cruises and as one of Germany's most splendid cities, well worth exploring before embarking. The main river among several waterways in the city is the Havel, which flows into the Rhine. The city is steeped in European tradition. The Alexandrowka, the Dutch quarter and the Weaver's Quarter form the historic sections of the city. Potsdam was the residence of the Prussian royal family and is rich in grand houses built for the nobility. The Sanssouci, the summer palace of Frederick the Great, is the most impressive and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Magdeburg was one of the most important cities of Europe in Medieval times and has a history of maritime trade because the River Elbe gives it access to the North Sea. The city is also associated with Martin Luther who preached here and became a stronghold of Protestant Christianity. The Cathedral is Magdeburg's most impressive building, the first Gothic-style church in Germany when it was completed in 1520. It was damaged in the Second World War and restored in 1955. The Town Hall in the market square is Renaissance style and has been renovated. The Monastery of Our Lady, built in the 11th century, is now a museum of modern art. The city is an important center for transport, business and for scientific research, and has a bustling modern downtown. It has a major river port at the intersection of the River Elbe, the Mittelland Canal and the Elbe-Havel Canal.
A charming little town on the banks of the Elbe, with an almost complete set of town walls with fortified gates, and numerous half-timbered houses.
The castle in Bleckhede is located in a nature reserve beside the Elbe River and has been renovated and turned into a working arts centre and studio complex for young painters. There are regular exhibitions open to the public.
Located on the northern bank of the Elbe east of Hamburg, Lauenburg has well-preserved buildings dating from the 17th Century and a church built in the 13th Century. The old castle has been largely replaced by modern offices but the site has a marvellous view over the Elbe river and surrounding landscape. The Palmschleuse is a historic river lock believed to be the oldest lock in Europe.
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany after Berlin and one of the top European cities for tourist visits. It's a major port of call for cruise ships and a culturally diverse city with a vibrant nightlife. The Harbour Promenade and the old Warehouse District are popular points of interest on a city tour along with the City Hall, the Art Gallery and the Gallery of Contemporary Arts and the Reeperbahn renowned for bars and clubs and once known as the city's Red Light district. Hamburg has many landmark churches, notably the church of St Michaelis which features on the €2 coin minted in 2008. Music plays a big part in the life of the city, from Opera to rock to major stage musicals. A visit to Hamburg would not be complete without a canal boat tour of the city from Landungsbrücken in the harbour. Hamburg has no less than 2,500 bridges over its city waterways - more than Venice and Amsterdam combined.
Wittenberg is a pleasant German town located between Leipzig and Berlin, on the River Elbe. It's the town most associated with Martin Luther and the Protestant reformation, and a popular stop-over for pilgrims and history buffs. The Castle Church is where he nailed to the door his 95 Theses against the Catholic Church in 1517. The church contains the tomb of the reformer. The original wooden doors of the church were destroyed in 1760 and have been replaced by bronze doors decorated with Luther's text in Latin. Luther's home in the former monastery where he served as a monk, is now a museum dedicated to the Reformation. The Luther sites of Wittenberg are collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located on both sides of the Elbe river, Dresden is the capital of Saxony and emerged from 40 years of post-war Communist rule to become an economic and cultural center of eastern Germany. The inner city of Dresden was bombed to destruction in World War II but has been rebuilt and its grand buildings have been restored according to original plans preserved in the city archives. The result is a wonderful scene of Baroque grandeur from a bygone age that was actually constructed in the second half of the 20th century.
Restored city landmarks include the Zwinger Palace, the Opera House and overlooking the river, Brühl's Terrace. Reconstruction of Dresden's protestant cathedral, the Frauenkirche - Our Lady's Church - was completed only in 2005. The distinctive domed church dominates the Dresden skyline. The Dresden Elbe Valley is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in recognition of the stunning beauty of the landscape, which includes Pillnitz with its castle, parkland and vineyards. A landmark of Dresden is the Blue Wonder bridge across the Elbe River, a masterpiece of 19th century engineering, which links two areas of the city renowned for aristocratic grand villas and once the most expensive place to live in Europe.
Königstein is best known for its hilltop fortress which has been a home for kings and dukes, a prison, a military garrison and a site for the creation of European porcelain. The fortress has a commanding view of the town and the Elbe Valley, and its construction includes elements of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and 19th century architecture. Permanent exhibitions depict the history of the castle and several galleries house temporary displays of paintings and sculptures.
The hillsides beside the Elbe River around this sleepy little Czech town are covered with terraced vineyards. The local chateau offers wine tasting in cellars built by monks in the 13th century.
Built on the right bank of the Elbe, this German-speaking Czech city has a historic cathedral and bishops' palace and a town hall with a 15th century bell tower. The region is an important agricultural area producing fruit and hops and the finest Czech beer.
One of the main river ports of the Czech Republic, Melnik is a center of wine production, set in heart of the country's most important agricultural area, where the Elbe and the Vltara Rivers come together. The main landmark of the city is its Renaissance-style castle, which has extensive wine cellars. Melnik Square is one of the most important historic sites, lined with Gothic and Baroque houses and the Renaissance City Hall.
Prague is a much-loved and popular destination for visitors to eastern Europe. Prague Castle, the most visited historic site in the city, has its origins in the 9th Century and is still the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle has three courtyards, a picture gallery, the Imperial Stables and riding school, a toy museum, palaces, monasteries and churches - most notably St Vitus Cathedral. On the slopes below the castle is Lesser Town, where the main landmark is the Charles Bridge, a favorite meeting place for visitors and locals. Wenceslas Square in the New Town is well known for its ancient animated clock which puts on a show every hour.