Luther all year long: Germany celebrates anniversary year
Antje Splettstoesser, GNTO Canada

Luther all year long: Germany celebrates anniversary year

Luther all year long: Germany celebrates anniversary year

Antje Splettstoesser, GNTO Canada

Five centuries later and Martin Luther is still as popular as ever, especially in Germany where the 500th anniversary of his Reformation is being celebrated throughout the year. To get a better idea of what’s in store for travellers in 2017 – both Luther and non-Luther inspired events – we sat down with Antje Splettstoesser, Director, German National Tourist Office, Canada for this week’s edition of Friday Five.

1. The big news in Germany this year is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation. Tell us, what does this event mean to Germans? And how much of a draw do you think the anniversary will have on tourists?

The Reformation was a major historic event that shaped the western world as we know it today. We expect a marked increase in visits from Canada. We are seeing trips being be booked by church groups along with individual tour itineraries that touch on Luther sites across the country.

2. Of the many celebrations and special events taking place this year, what are the top three that visitors should save the date for?

Many events take place this year commemorating the Reformation anniversary and Luther’s life throughout the country. Highlights include the three major national exhibitions, which under the umbrella theme of ‘The Full Power of the Reformation’, explore the Reformation’s different aspects:

  • April 12-Nov. 5: ‘The Luther Effect. Protestantism 500 Years in the World’ (Berlin, Gropius Building) puts the events of the Reformation and their impact into a global context
  • May 14-Nov. 5: ‘Luther and the Germans’ (Eisenach, Wartburg Castle) examines the reformer’s complex relationship with the German people
  • May 13-Nov. 5: ‘Luther! 95 Treasures – 95 People’ (Wittenberg, Luther House) presents Luther, the man, and the world he lived in

Also, the annual Luther wedding re-enactment takes place again in Wittenberg (June 9-11), a colourful addition to this year’s many other Lutheran celebrations. Visitors may want to hike parts of a 2,000-km pilgrimage trail or along one of the eight scenic Luther Routes, each offering a wealth of perspectives on the reformer’s life and work. And while en route, there is always Germany’s delicious cuisine, and our beer and wine, when taking a break from visiting all these beautiful places.

3. GNTO has launched a new VR platform with XplrVR, specifically about the anniversary. Why did you decide to use this medium as part of promotions?

Virtual reality is allowing viewers to ‘virtually’ immerse themselves into Martin Luther’s world without actually having been there in reality (yet). It will help travel agents better understand the product before selling it to their clients. The production of a miniature Martin Luther Playmobil figure as a marketing tool was so well received that the GNTB had decided to also make him the main character in the Virtual reality movie in which Luther is introducing you to all the spectacular places not to be missed while also learning about Luther’s intriguing life in an engaging way.

4. There’s no doubt that Germany will welcome a higher volume of visitors this year due to the anniversary. But what do you think will be the anniversary’s lasting impact on tourism, beyond 2017?

The Reformation movement left many marks across the country, many historic sites, and many of them in such beautiful settings. Anyone interested in history will have lots of reasons to visit for years to come. Many will want to come back, I think, realizing you can’t take it all in in one trip.

5. What other exciting tourism offerings do you want to highlight for 2017 that are not Luther-related?

Two major international sporting events take place in Germany this year. The International Ice Hockey Word Championships, the semi-finals and finals are taking place in Cologne on May 20 to 21, plus some of the prior matches leading up to the semis and finals. Also, The Grand Départ of the 104th Tour de France launches its time trials in Dusseldorf on July 1.

The city of Kassel will again welcome curators, artists and art lovers from around the globe when the 14th documenta 100-day exhibition of contemporary art takes over the town, as it does every five years, from June 10 to Sept. 19. And Berlin will host the IGA International Garden Show (aka World Horticultural Exhibition), which takes place every 10 years in a different city around the world. Entitled ‘An Ocean of Colours’, this prestigious show aims to define the interaction between city and open public spaces, from the periphery right to a city’s centre.

I should also point out that we are promoting new flight routes between Canada and Germany this year, including the brand new direct service between Toronto and Berlin with Air Canada Rouge. This is a great addition to the many flights offered by Star Alliance partners Air Canada and Lufthansa along with those by seasonal carrier Condor, making Germany ever more accessible.

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