Tour guide programming continues to be popular on DVD, with programs that combine music (generally classical), narration (sometimes) and video continuing to sell well and be produced. While some of these programs appear a bit "thrown together", occasionally a series comes out that offers an impressive mixture of both sight and facts. "Visions of Germany" is a 2-DVD documentary set, with the first program offering a tour down the Rhine river and the other leading viewers through Bavaria. The programs were shot on a high-defintion camera from a helicopter, and both narration and music are provided.
"Along the Rhine" provides an overhead view as the camera drifts along the river, with occasional side trips off to visit the vast Black forest and historic towns such as Freiberg, where the camera stops to admire such sights as St. Martin's Tower, which was built in the 13th century. Soon after, the camera heads to such sights as a gorgeous castle, which houses the historic (and quite striking) St. Michaels Chapel.
Back on the Rhine, we watch freighters will what appear to be thousands of crates make their way up or down the river, passing by passenger ships and ferry boats. The river, we're told, is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and that's certainly apparent from some of the scenes here. Soon enough, we arrive in Worms, one of the oldest towns in Germany and the one with a particularly unusual name. Other towns spotted along the ride are Weisbaden, Stuttgart, Bonn and Bingen. Musical selections that are played during the proceedings include Beethoven and Wagner.
"Bavaria" is the second documentary in the 2-DVD set, and this feature takes the viewer through some of the beautiful sights of Southern Germany. This documentary also uses high-definition filming, taken from a helicopter flying over the countryside. Despite the filming technique, the imagery remains smooth and graceful, as the film takes time circling around and highlighting certain spots.
The documentary starts off in the countryside, heading down the "romantic road" into the postcard perfect Landsbergam Lech and on to the important trading center of Augsberg and then to the Wurtzburg fortress, build on a stronghold so old that it cannot even be dated with any precision. Another extraordinary castle (there are many seen throughout the 2-part program, each one more striking than the last) seen shortly after is the Schloss Neuschwanstein, a breahtaking work of architecture that is one of Germany's more popular tourist destinations.
Visiting the town of Oberammergau, we come upon the Passion Play theatre, where more than 1,000 actors from nearby towns come together every 10 years to put on the passion play, a tradition that has gone on for more than 400 years. From there, we move up into the mountains and on to the beautiful Lake Chiemsee, where three islands can be found that are named - for reasons unknown - ladies (2) and gentlemen (1). The last portion of the piece heads towards Munich, but before then we visit such goregous towns as Bamberg. Once the tour arrives in Munich, the camera glides over the some of the city's landmarks, including the Deutsches Museum, the Statue of Bavaria and the Schloss Nymphenburg.
Overall, I found these programs to be informative, technically solid (great photography, editing) and even rather soothing (pleasant narration, score.) Additionally, this is one in a series, as there are also "Visions of England", "Visions of Italy" and "Visions of France" sets.
VIDEO: "Visions of Germany" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is excellent, with only a few minor concerns. Sharpness and detail were excellent throughout the majority of the show, save for a few wide shots here-and-there that looked a tad soft. No pixelation or edge enhancement were spotted, but some slight shimmering was seen. Colors looked bright and vibrant, with excellent saturation and no smearing. Aside from a couple of slight distractions, this was a beautiful presentation.
SOUND: The stereo soundtrack did a wonderful job presenting the score in a crisp, full manner. Narration was also clear and easily heard.
EXTRAS: Each DVD has approximately 20 minutes of deleted footage. Unfortunately, there is no narration for this footage, it is simply additional footage with music behind it.
Final Thoughts: "Visions of Germany" is a superb 2-part documentary series that offers a lot of information about various parts of Germany while also providing stunning photography of the countryside. The DVD presentation doesn't offer too much in the way of supplements (some additional text facts, an interactive map with pinpoints of the places mentioned or other little additions would fill out the set), but this is still recommended for those interested in learning more about the country.