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One in every three Germans is a member of a sporting club, so it's not surprising that the great outdoors is accessible to travellers too. Cycling is a favoured recreation, with many western German cities and the countryside boasting super-smooth cycling trails. Eastern German back roads can be great for cycling too. Lightly travelled and more interesting than the main highways, you could spend weeks wending your way from town to town. Hikers are well catered for with marked trails in the Black Forest, the Harz Mountains, the Bavarian Alps and elsewhere. The Alps are the most popular area, but the trails get crowded, especially during holiday periods. In winter, skiing, both downhill and cross-country, dominates the area. The Black Forest, although vertically challenged, is also popular for skiing, while the Harz Mountains are popular for cross-country skiing. Germany's rivers and lakes are great for boating, with cruises operating around Berlin and Potsdam, the huge lakes in southern Germany and the Baltic Sea. Sailing and windsurfing are popular leisure pursuits, especially on Lake Constance in the south.
From pagan harvest romps to black tie opera galas, Germans are keen to party. The Winter Carnival (Fasching) season occurs throughout Germany, with big cities such as Cologne (Köln), Munich and Mainz erupting into commotion just before Ash Wednesday. Germany's rich musical heritage is showcased in a plethora of festivals. Some towns concentrate on a particular composer, such as the Thuringian Bach Festival in March or the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth each July, whereas others focus on a particular style. The jazz festivals in Stuttgart (April) and Berlin (November) are lively and popular. Autumn is a great time for harvest-inspired mayhem, especially in the Rhineland, where the Rhine in Flames frolics feature barges laden with fireworks. Mention must be made of Oktoberfest, Munich's annual lager frenzy, but it's a bit like being stuck in a nightmarish soccer crowd and is more an example of tourism at its lowest ebb than a display of German culture. Most towns in Bavaria have festivals devoted to beer and they're much nicer than Oktoberfest. Christmas fairs are embraced wholeheartedly by German families, including those in Munich, Nuremberg, Lübeck, Berlin, Münster and Heidelberg.
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