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Culture

Germany's Top Five

Full of energy and ready to face the new year? From 24-hour swimming in Munich, trekking through Berlin's underworld, feeding penguins in Hamburg to watching an ice show in Frankfurt, we've drawn up an eclectic list.

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The "holiday on ice" show is a dizzying spectacle

Want to melt those extra kilos you gained over Christmas? You could try the 24-hour swimming offers at Munich's indoor heated Olympia Swimming Hall. Along with a full day and night swim ticket, you can also infuse some fun into your fat-burning laps: Entertainment options include watching movies on a massive screen from the comfort of the pool, viewing a synchronized swimming show or actually competing in teams for a best swimmer prize. For fitness freaks, a grueling bout of weight training and gymnastics is also to be had. The "long night for swimmers" is on Saturday, Jan.15, and Sunday, Jan. 16.

AEG Tunnel in Berlin Quelle. Berliner Unterwelten

If you're looking for adventure and don't mind cramped spaces, the Berlin Underground Association offers walking tours in the bowels of the history-riddled German capital. From the subterranean foundations of Berlin's subway and suburban train mechanisms to graves, secret air raid shelters, bunkers, sewers and even an aviation factory, most of the city's historic underground sites are still intact to this day. Founded in 1997, the association probes Berlin's subterranean architecture and documents its interesting aspects. The next tour takes place on Saturday, Jan.15.

Walross Antje

If you're in Hamburg with the kids, no visit is complete without a trip to the famous Hagenbecks zoo. With over 2,500 different animal species and elaborately landscaped gardens, the zoo will delight both animal-lovers and botany-enthusiasts. You can catch a glimpse of the big cats in the African steppes, marvel at the profusion of birds at the watering hole, climb over mountains to meet some gazelle or simply say hello to Antje, the walrus (pictured). Braver souls can also consider stroking some friendly pythons. In January, the zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland as polar beers and mountain goats wander around the icy slopes.

For the dreamer in you, the famous "holiday on ice" show in Frankfurt takes you on a dizzying journey through the romanticism of a Parisian café, the blinding colors of Indian palaces and the mysteries of the otherworld. And all that on slippery terrain. A team of professional ice-skating artists whirl and twirl and scintillate in this new version of the classical revue that has been touring the world for six decades. From a cramped classroom to the liveliness of the sixties complete with minis and flower power, the new show boasts spectacular effects, dazzling outfits, a tight storyline and lots of dramatic music. The extravagant spectacle is on until Jan.16 at Frankfurt's Festhalle.

Weihnachtsidyll in Seiffen

If you missed out on Germany 's Christmas traditions, you can still catch up with some at Hamburg's Ethnological Museum, which is showcasing the best of Christmas crafts from Germany's northern Harz mountains. The region is famous for its woodcarvings of nutcrackers, smokers, angels and colorful wooden lanterns. But few know that the origins of the Harz mountains' woodcarving abilities lies in the area's once booming mining industry which fell into decline at the beginning of the 18th century. The unemployed miners turned to woodwork and it's said that their need for light while laboring away underground for days is reflected in the many brightly-lit figurines and decorations famous in the region. The exhibition is on until Feb. 2.

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