- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2006

BERLIN — More than a million visitors will marvel at world-class play next month in Germany during the World Cup soccer championship. They also will be able to admire great art, stroll medieval town squares and savor some of the world’s best beer.

The World Cup offers great tourism as well as sport, with the 12 host cities including perennial travel favorites Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Nuremberg and Hamburg.

With as little as two or three spare hours before a game, visitors can take in Albrecht Durer’s “Self-Portrait” in Munich’s Alte Pinakothek art museum or try a crisp-roasted schweinshaxe, or ham hock, with sauerkraut and a cold pilsner from a centuries-old local brewery.

Visitors during the World Cup won’t even need tickets to plug into the soccer excitement. Games will be shown live on big screens in public places such as Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and Munich’s Olympic Park, and thousands of people are expected to take part in fan festivals around the country.

Berlin alone is expecting 300,000 overnight guests, but tourism authorities say there will be room. “Whoever comes will always find a hotel bed,” promises Hanns Peter Nerger, head of Berlin’s tourism marketing operation.

As with Athens and the 2004 Olympics, the week after the event ends might be a good time to visit because some hotels are raising hotel prices on game days.

Here are leading attractions for quick visits in the top cities:


The museums clustered on Museum Island in the Mitte district are superb, led by the Pergamon Museum with its second-century B.C. altar from the Greek city of Pergamon and the blue-tiled Ishtar Gate built during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II around 575 B.C. in ancient Babylon, now in Iraq. In the nearby Altes Museum, you can see the exquisite 3,300-year-old bust of Egypt’s Queen Nefertiti.

For more recent history, the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie recalls Berlin’s four decades as a divided city. A replica of the guard shack from Checkpoint Charlie, the East-West crossing point, stands on Friedrichstrasse; the real shack, hauled away after the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, can be found in the Allied Museum in the Zehlendorf district, which focuses on the Berlin Airlift and the U.S. occupation of part of Berlin after World War II and is free of charge.

In the city center, one can climb the glass dome of the historic Reichstag, home of the Bundestag lower house of parliament — also free, but go early or late to beat the lines.

Between museums, stop for Berlin’s trademark fast food: currywurst, or succulent chunks of pork sausage with curry-spiced ketchup, available all over at snack stands but especially well done at a stand on Friedrichstrasse underneath the train station overpass of the same name.

Berlin will host several early matches and the World Cup final on July 9.


The World Cup begins here June 9 with Germany’s match against Costa Rica.

For non-soccer sightseeing, duck into the Alte Pinakothek museum, stuffed with works by Durer, Van Dyck, Rubens and Rembrandt. Or stroll the English Garden (warning: nude sunbathers); visit the Deutsches Museum technology exhibits, or watch the Glockenspiel statues — animated figures on the Rathaus, or city hall — ring the hour at 11 a.m., noon and 5 p.m.

The Hofbrauhaus, dating from 1589, is the epitome of a Munich beer hall, with long benches and big mugs of suds. Locals like hefeweizen, or wheat beer, naturally cloudy with yeast, just slightly sweet and perfect on a hot day.

Touring the Dachau concentration camp, about 20 minutes from the central station by S-Bahn, or local train, is a worthwhile break from mere tourism.


Stroll the old town, restored after World War II to near its medieval splendor, and head up to the Kaiserburg fortress atop the hill, residence of German rulers for about 500 years beginning in the 11th century.

The city has sobering reminders of the Nazi past; the Nazi parade grounds remain, with a documentation center. At the Nuremberg Palace of Justice in the north part of town, you can tour Room 600, where the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal tried Nazi leaders.

The U.S. team plays Ghana here June 22.


The magnificent Cologne Cathedral, with its twin Gothic spires soaring 518 feet, stands next to the train station. Leave at least an hour to roam the inside, home to a gilded sarcophagus holding what tradition says are remains of the Magi. The Roman-German Museum a few yards from the cathedral has spectacular floor mosaics and other archaeological finds from the city’s days as a Roman outpost.

The taverns clustering the cathedral area offer Cologne’s trademark Kolsch, the frothy, faintly bitter beer served in what look like large shot glasses.

Portugal plays its former colony Angola in Cologne on June 11.


Walk two hours around the Aussenalster lake for pedestrian-only views of the city and its parks. A $13 boat tour of the harbor connects visitors with the great northern port’s maritime role and history.

You can go to the famed Reeperbahn red-light street in the St. Pauli district, but it’s jammed with tourists and has lost much of whatever charm it once had.

Labskaus — a sailor’s stew of potatoes, corned beef and beets with a fried egg on top — is said to have been served aboard ship because the ingredients would keep.

Teams from the Czech Republic and Italy, two of the strongest contenders, face off in Hamburg on June 22.


The Romerberg, the medieval town square rebuilt after its destruction in World War II, provides a lovely break from the city’s skyscrapers and is ringed by restaurants with local fare such as Frankfurt’s green sauce, a creamy herb sauce served with potatoes or hard-boiled eggs. If you order a frankfurter, you’ll get two long, thin sausages with mustard and a hard roll instead of an American-style hot dog.

The traditional brew here is apfelwein, a tangy apple wine that goes straight to your head.

Walk it off by hiking across one of the two pedestrian bridges spanning the Main River to a row of museums on the south riverbank, just a few blocks from the main train station.

Frankfurt will host a quarterfinal match July 1.


Not a major tourist stop, K-town, as the thousands of American soldiers stationed nearby call it, will host the U.S. team’s opening game against Italy on June 17. The city center and Renaissance castle make a pleasant stroll, but the best move might be to drive to Trier, home to the Porta Nigra, or Black Gate, built by the Romans — some of the best Roman ruins north of the Alps.

• • •

The U.S. team’s first match is June 13 against the Czech Republic in Gelsenkirchen. Other scheduled U.S. matches include Italy, June 17 in Kaiserslautern, and Ghana, June 22 in Nuremberg.

Tickets allotted to the U.S. Soccer Federation for sale to American fans are sold out, but some tickets may be available through ticket brokers and tour operators.

For tourism information, go to www.germany-tourism.de or www.fifaworldcup.com or call 800/651-7010.

Associated Press writers Matt Moore, Dave Rising and Claus-Peter Tiemann contributed to this report.

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