Magdeburg the Beautiful

The Green Citadel in Magdeburg, Germany.
The Green Citadel in Magdeburg, Germany.

Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board (GNTO), Sandra Yvonne Stieger, managing director of the Magdeburg Marketing Kongress and Tourismus GmbH and representatives from across the German National Tourist Board welcomed more than 1,100 delegates from 45 countries at this year’s 42nd GTM Germany Travel Mart in Saxony-Anhalt’s capital city of Magdeburg. One theme that carried throughout the entire event was growth on a local and countrywide scale.

According to the German Federal Statistical Office, Germany’s inbound tourism reached almost 79.7 million overnight stays in 2015, making it the country’s sixth record-breaking year in a row. “In 2015, Saxony-Anhalt recorded more than 550,000 overnight stays by visitors from abroad—an increase of 5.6 percent that reflected Germany’s overall performance in the international market,” said Hedorfer in a press release statement. This January and February alone, Germany saw an increase of 6 percent in the volume of overnight stays by international guests. And who is the country’s largest overseas market? If you guessed the U.S., you’d be correct. For those who have been charmed by Germany’s half-timbered buildings, historic sights and breathtaking scenery, it’s easy to see why North Americans are so captivated by this vast and diverse land. If you didn’t know, U.S. travelers have been (and are still) very much interested in Germany. So the next time your clients come seeking a new destination to discover, surprise them by recommending Magdeburg, a gem in east-central Germany located by the Elbe River.

Olympic gold medalist Andreas Ihle showing a group of journalists how canoers train in the winter at the Sports Club Magdeburg. 
Olympic gold medalist Andreas Ihle showing a group of journalists how canoers train in the winter at the Sports Club Magdeburg.

The City of “Otto”
To promote the many alluring facets of Magdeburg, the local tourism board created the catchy “Otto is…” slogan in honor of the city’s most notable residents, Otto the Great and the famous scientist Otto von Guericke. Drawing upon its more than 1,200-year-old history equally as much as its contemporary achievements, Magdeburg offers a wide range of cultural venues steeped in history, including 11 museums, 10 theaters and comedy venues, five libraries, a wide range of leisure activities, 168 sports clubs and a diverse selection of cafes and restaurants making “Otto” expressive, creative, cosmopolitan and unique.

During a daytime press tour, a group of journalists and myself discovered Magdeburg’s sporty side on a bike ride visiting Elbauenpark and its Millennium Tower—the tallest wooden building in Germany housing an interactive exhibition hall exploring 6,000 years of scientific and technological history; St. John’s Church, the oldest parish church in the city, rebuilt after WWII; and Sports Club Magdeburg, the successful canoeing division of SC Magdeburg. Here, we met with German sprint canoer and Olympic gold medalist Andreas Ihle who challenged us to a friendly race on the Elbe River. Needless to say we, in our 20-person dragon boat, lost to Ihle, in a spectacle that made the local paper. To see more from my bike ride and time in Magdeburg, check out my Eye on the World: Magdeburg, Germany photo flip book here.

And if you’re looking for a funky hotel stay in the city, consider the eye-catching Green Citadel. The brainchild of Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, this architectural novelty is actually a bright pink building housing offices, 55 flats, a day care, shops, cafes, a theater, and a hotel. The Green Citadel received its name from its lush rooftop gardens and Hundertwasser’s desire to create harmony with nature. Even if your clients don’t stay here, it’s definitely a sight to behold.

Bauhaus University in Dessau. (Photo credit: Jochen Keute)
Bauhaus University in Dessau. (Photo credit: Jochen Keute)

In addition to Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt is also home to the city of Dessau known for Bauhaus University, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not to be confused with the Bauhaus University in Weimar, the Dessau school came about after the original school lost funding from the state government due to its unconventionality and was forced to move. Between 1925 and 1932, Bauhaus Dessau brought together architects, artists and designers who rejected the elaborate detail of the popular late-19th and early-20th century Art Nouveau style for their simpler Bauhaus style, which you can see in the picture above. Think functional furniture, cubic-shaped buildings and plain façades. Guests can take a look back to see how the trends, thinking and technical inventions of the time impacted the entire country in the field of arts, architecture, education, business and society in Dessau’s Big Plans! Modern Figures, Visionaries, and Inventors. Applied Modernism in Saxony-Anhalt 1919-1933 exhibit running through Jan. 6, 2017.

All Saints' Church, Wittenberg, Germany. (Photo credit: German National Tourist Board)
All Saints’ Church, Wittenberg, Germany. (Photo credit: German National Tourist Board)

Looking Ahead
“Next year, we will be using our ‘Luther 2017 – 500 years since the Reformation in Germany’ campaign to focus our global marketing activities on towns, cities and regions in Saxony-Anhalt that are associated with the great church reformer Martin Luther,” said Hedorfer in a press release statement. In addition to information available on the GNTO’s website, visitors can find content on the eight Luther routes that connect important locations in the Reformer’s life in the company’s A Luther 2017 e-brochure, and through its social media channels. These routes include the three official Luther towns of Wittenberg, Eisleben and Mansfeld, the famous Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, plus destinations such as Torgau, Schmalkalden, Erfurt, Augsburg, Coburg, Worms and Heidelberg. Upcoming events include the Luther 1517 Panorama by Yadegar Asisi, a 360-degree panorama in a rotunda constructed in the heart of Wittenberg’s old town center (autumn 2016); Against the Emperor and the Pope – Magdeburg and the Reformation, a special exhibition at Magdeburg Cultural History Museum (Sept. 3, 2017 to Jan. 28, 2017); and the Heinrich Schutz Music Festival-Out of Love for the Truth in Weienfels, a town in southern Saxony-Anhalt (Oct. 6-15).

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