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12 beautiful German cities that survived WW2 almost untouched

When traveling through Europe is still very easy to see in many places the trail left by the wounds of World War II. The conflict wiped out centuries of art, treasures and history, that time had gathered across the geography of the old continent.

Germany received its share, and saw how most of its urban centers were reduced to a pile of rubble. Luckily, human stupidity didn't took it all. A handful of small cities were left standing, to remind everyone what we missed out on.

This list is a selection of the biggest and most important cities that were spared during the Second World War. They were little or never bombed. A wise surrender on time, without a fight to advancing allied troops, left many of these fortunate towns untouched by the ravages of the war. It is not to be forgotten that once the peace was signed, the historic buildings had still to fight not to be torn down, to be replaced by newer ones:

German cities that survived WW2
The nearly unscathed medieval centre of Goslar is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the old mining industries of the area. The city survived the conflict without major damage thanks to a capitulation, that handed over the town intact to the Americans. Image by Goslar Marketing GmbH / Stefan Schiefer


German cities not damaged during WW2
With its historical monuments set in a romantic environment and the prestige of be considered as the German Cambridge, it is easy to see why Heidelberg is such a popular tourist destination. The civilian population surrendered without resistance, one day after retiring Wehrmacht's combat units had left the city. Image by Till Meinhof




German cities not bombed in WW2
Regensburg is a remarkably well-preserved medieval town, one of the oldest of the country. It also holds the UNESCO World Heritage Status. The Bavarian city suffered comparatively little damage, almost only having to regret the loss of the old monastery of Obermünster in an air raid. Image by Karsten Dörre


German cities not destroyed in WW2
Tübingen is a vibrant university town with superb medieval architecture that remained practically undamaged. On the initiative of the German garrison doctor, the city surrendered without a fight to the French troops.
Image by Marlene Bitzer


Which German cities were not destroyed in WW2
Bamberg is a small town of beautiful timber-framed houses, also declared UNESCO World Heritage. It experienced no heavy ground fighting when it was occupied by troops of the US Army.
Image by Bamberg Tourism and Congress Service


WWII German surrender city
During WWII, Lüneburg was almost completely spared allied bombings which destroyed many of its neighboring cities. Since them, the beautiful Altstadt has been gradually restored. Historical fact: Nazi Germany signed the unconditional surrender that brought the war in Europe to an end in the outskirts of the city. Image by fRandi-Shooters


Which German cities survived WW2
Göttingen is another university town in the very center of Germany. It spared massive bombing as well, as it did not present a target of opportunity. Only about 1% of the city was destroyed, including the Junkernschänke, a historic and popular house. Image by Göttingen Tourismus e.V.


German city not severely bombed in WW2
Celle is well-known for its magnificent ducal palace, and its well-preserved old town. The city suffered only one serious bombing attack in World War II. Destruction rate: About 2.2%
Image by Celle Tourismus und Marketing GmbH


Which German cities were not bombed in WW2
Wolfenbüttel is home of the world-famous herbal liqueur Jägermeister. This is an attractive and historic town, with half-timbered houses and buildings in the Renaissance style, that survived the conflict more or less intact.
Image by Stadt Wolfenbuettel H.D. König


German cities to visit
Seven lakes surround the historic old town of Schwerin and its romantic palace, that still has a whiff of aristocratic charm. The damage suffered in World War II was relatively minor, as it only had to endure four air attacks. This is partly because almost no major war industry was settled here. In total, a 3% of Schwerin was destroyed. Image by Harald Hoyer


German cities that were not bombed
During World War II Konstanz was an important industrial center, but it was never bombed by the Allied Forces. The city of Kreuzlingen in Switzerland is just at the other side of the river Rhein, and it left all its lights on at night. In Konstanz they just did the same, blurring further the non-obvious boundary between both towns. Thus they fooled the bombers into thinking it was actually part of the neutral country. Image by LenDog64


German city not damaged
And finally Görlitz, the jewel of the crown. This is the largest city in Germany that survived WW2 without damage. With scarcely a scratch on its medieval old town, surrounded by gorgeous 19th century architecture, this place is truly unique. It is interesting the story of a mysterious anonymous donor that gives a large sum of cash every year; They are only two conditions: his identity has to remain secret, and the money has to be spent on renovation work of the historical heritage. Also many movies have been filmed here in the last years (like Grand Budapest Hotel), so now the town is also known as Görliwood. Image by Atlas of Wonders

Do you know other German cities that should be included in this list? Which ones?






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Where was Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation filmed?


The new installment of the action spy films Mission Impossible, it's already the fifth from a franchise that travels a lot in every episode of the saga. It's been almost 20 years since the first movie of the series was released, in 1996. The last one, nicknamed Ghost Protocol, happened to be the most international part of all of them. It included spectacular scenes from different places around the globe. We could see from Tom Cruise climbing the tallest building in the world in Dubai, to the Kremlin blowing up in Moscow.

This time, Morocco is the star country where Mission Impossible was filmed. The other main shooting locations, though less exotic, are located in the United Kingdom and Austria. As usual, this post no contains spoilers:

Where was Mission Impossible filmed
It's always a good idea to enhance outdoor scenes with iconic monuments, like the Mosque Hassan II in Casablanca, the largest in Africa. Image by Laura


Mission Impossible Filming Locations
Two different scenes from the trailer, with the mosque in the background.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures





Mission Impossible Casablanca
The production team was filming around Old Medina and Derb Sultan districts of Casablanca.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Mission Impossible Film Location
We move to Rabat, where a chase scene was shot near the walls of the Kasbah of the Udayas.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Mission Impossible Rabat
The fortified old town of the Kasbah is the main tourist attraction of the capital city of Morocco.
Image by Luiz Barucke


Mission Impossible Morocco
Tom Cruise himself was driving the BMW M3 in most of the scenes.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Mission Impossible Marrakesh
Also some shots were filmed in the narrow streets of Marrakesh. The Grand Stadium of the city was closed a couple of days for filming purposes. Atlas of Wonders


Rogue Nation Filming Locations
View of the Djama El Fna square in Marrakesh, a fabulous setting for promotional posters.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Mission Impossible Vienna
We continue to Austria. The Vienna State Opera was the location for several scenes. In one of them, Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson are jumping from the roof of the building. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Where was Mission Impossible Rogue Nation filmed
Also a few shots were filmed in the Vienna Metro.
Image by Olaf Eichler


Mission Impossible England
We are now in UK, in the Fawley Power Station near Southampton. Here is where Tom Cruise sneaks in for a risky dive. To film this scene, he was trained by a top specialist to hold his breath underwater for up to... six minutes!
Image by Npower


Mission Impossible shooting locations
Also the streets of London were chosen to film some scenes, around the Middle Temple society. The Blenheim Palace, in Woodstock, served as location for a ball scene. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Mission Impossible Plane scene location
But no doubt, the best stunt of the movie will be the one of the plane, filmed in the RAF Wittering station in Cambridgeshire. Image by Paramount Pictures / Christian Black


Mission Impossible Rogue Nation Filming Locations
It seems to be that Tom Cruise is a real adrenaline junkie, who likes to do his own stunts.
Image by Paramount Pictures / Christian Black


Mission Impossible Movie Locations
In Rogue Nation he put himself in serious danger, hanging on to the side of a plane as it takes off!
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures




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Siwa Oasis in Egypt: Alone in the Sahara

In these times of turmoil, Egypt is perceived as an unsafe country to travel to. It seems as if the masses of tourists that were overflowing his most famous attractions, had fled in disarray. In the Egyptian Museum, before the revolution tourists had to queue to enter Tutankhamun's room. Nowadays, you will share a close view of the glittery mask of the Pharaoh, only with a few bunch of people. In this state of things, if you get yourself to a remote oasis, it's almost guaranteed that you'll have it all for you.

Siwa oasis is half a day's journey by bus from Cairo, and it takes nearly eight hours from Alexandria. This didn't stop backpackers and tourist in general from filling up cheap hostels and air conditioned villas. But the area is only at 50 kilometers from the border with Libya, and when I went there, the last news from the neighboring country were quite gloomy.

But we are looking at the bright side of this situation. Now we can enjoy a country that has so much to offer to the visitor, without the excess of visitors. So let's see what awaits us after passing like six or seven military checkpoints on the way to Siwa:

Siwa Oasis

The new UNESCO World Heritage sites

...in 2014. Yep, last year we failed to publish this post on time, but all good things are worth waiting for. Also the qualities of these new 26 inscriptions (plus 4 extensions) are -supposedly- timeless.

You know that no one makes UNESCO lists look as good as we do. You can also review the places that achieved the recognition in 2011, 2012 and 2013 following these links.

Including these new properties, the list has already more than a thousand sites, 1,007 in total:

Grand Canal China

White Pocket, Arizona (psychedelic) dream

The geography of the USA is presenting yet another unique and twisted landscape to discover. White Pocket is located in a remote area of the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. Due to the difficult access to the area, it doesn't receive many visitors yet. Also it has been a bit overshadowed by other famous neighboring attractions, like The Wave in Coyote Buttes.

You can find all the practical stuff about how to go to White Pocket and a map, in the link included at the end of this post. Now we just sit back and enjoy these selected photographs:

White Pocket

Hormoz, the island of colours in Iran

The small ferry from the regional capital landed in an instant. Passengers rush to go back to the shade. Once the stampede of mopeds has delivered everybody home, it's only me and a scorching sun of 40 degrees. It's summer, it's midday, and there's no turning back: Today I left my shelter in Bandar Abbas, to explore an extremely arid island in the south of Iran. There's not much info about how to do it, and at this hour I can only ask for directions to some goats sitting in the shadow.

The only visitable monument highlighted in the guides, is an old colonial Portuguese fort in serious decay. There's no sign of life around the crumbling walls, and I'd say that the entrance door has been closed for business since the Persians took over. It doesn't matter. I'm looking for the geological features that make this island a unique place in the world. They are somewhere into the 16 sq miles of Hormuz.

Very soon a taxi driver, blessed with an excessive tanning and a modern air-conditioned van, locates my position. He will drive me through the unpaved road that encircles Hormuz. Negotiations to agree the price start soon. First we are visiting a young lady that has been appointed as translator. Her English is as good as my Farsi, but I get a more than fair quote. Vehicle and driver will be at my exclusive service for a couple of hours.

Hormuz Island carpet

The biggest monument in Europe: Völkerschlachtdenkmal

Leipzig October 1813. More than 600.000 soldiers from almost all the corners of Europe are about to clash in one of the bloodiest battles in history. 100,000 killed and a century later after the massacre, a massive landmark was erected on the battle field, not far from the place where Napoleon once issued his orders. The famous French Emperor suffered here a severe defeat that had to change the fate of the continent, forcing him to abandon his control over Germany.

The colossal structure of concrete and granite is 300 feet high (91 meters). In German it received the long and intimidating name of Völkerschlachtdenkmal, but it's also known as the Monument to the Battle of the Nations. At first it was designed as a memorial to commemorate the end of the battle, viewed also as a victory of Germanic people. This was part of the process that had to help creating the spirit of the country, to establish the future state of Germany.

But the winds of the times were blowing in a slightly different direction. The temptation was too obvious, and when they emerged, the Nazis put their hands on the pantheon. The monument soon became the meeting point for Hitler's rallies in Saxony:

Monument to the Battle of the Nations

 
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