Blue skies, green meadows and majestic mountains.
It doesn’t take too many words to capture the essence of the Bavarian Alps. Bavaria expert Barbara Geier from Bavarian-Alps.travel introduces ten things to do in this magic corner of Germany.
Go right to the top: Zuspitze
This is a highlight in the truest sense of the word since the Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain at 2,962 metres tall. You can climb up, but you don’t necessarily have to; mountain railways and cable cars make for a more leisurely ascent to the summit. From here, the views over more than 400 peaks and the surrounding scenery are simply breathtaking. Take your time and enjoy.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the beautiful Barvarian scenery is by exploring the region on one of the many hiking trails. They come in different levels of difficulty for everyone from the leisurely rambler to the ambitious climber.
While the Zugspitze region features 1,200 km of hiking trails, the Allgäu in the western part of the Bavarian Alps boasts an impressive 7,000 km. Trails are divided according to their altitude level: valley walks, mid-altitude trails and summit hikes.
Travelling further south-east, the Chiemgau and its marvellous Chiemsee Lake invite visitors for guided hikes plus the opportunity to try some of the local seasonal game and fish.
Oberstaufen Plus Card
Nowadays, most travellers are on a budget. The small community of Oberstaufen in the Allgäu has come up with a real value for money scheme leaving visitors with more pocket money left to spend during their holidays: more than 300 accommodation providers take part in the Oberstaufen Plus Card offering their guests free travel on all mountain cable cars, guest buses or free entry to museums.
Visit Neuschwanstein Castle
It’s kitsch, it’s over the top and it’s absolutely stunning. Walking up the steep ascent to Schloss Neuschwanstein is breathtaking, but the site of this fairytale castle just above the village of Füssen will leave you lost for words for more than one reason. King Ludwig II asked his architects to build an idealised version of a knight’s castle of the Middle Ages, and this is “castle romanticism” style at its best.
Originally intended as his refuge, the castle was opened to the public only a few weeks after Ludwig’s death in 1886. Over 1 million people visit it now every year and the place definitely has a very special allure that draws you in. There are tourist traps worth visiting and Neuschwanstein Castle is definitely one of them.
Learn how to make cheese
The Bavarian Alps are a land of plenty and its people are rightly proud of their specific food specialities. In the Allgäu, where the grass, they say, makes cows particularly happy, visitors can dive into the local food culture and learn how to make cheese.
Apart from the fact that a cheese making session is really good fun with participants sporting silly hats and big aprons, you also learn a lot. Take the recipe away with you and try it at home.
It would be a crime not to mention the region’s most famous dish – Kässpätzle – a cheese “Spätzle” which is a type of noodle. It’s very filling indeed but if you’re worried about the calorie intake, simply head out for a hike the next day.
Inzell – something for the family
Another hidden gem of the Bavarian Alps is Inzell. Located in the Chiemgau region between Salzburg, Berchtesgaden and Lake Chiemsee, this municipality is perfect for family holidays. As one of about 350 destinations and hosts in Bavaria featuring the special “Kinderland” label, it is full of family-friendly facilities.
The local “Kids Club” ensures that, first of all, children are not bored, and secondly, parents get a bit of a breather on their holiday as well. Children can help out on a farm and learn how to milk a cow, go on climbing and adventure tours or try out some of the traditional handicrafts of the region.
Take part in the “Viehscheid”
The Viehscheid, which means the ‘descent of the cattle’, takes place every year in the Bavarian Alps and is a fantastic spectacle.
In September, thousands of cows are brought down from their summer alpine pastures high up in the mountains and are treated like celebrities on their return to the valley. Oberstdorf, for example, is a good place to witness this colourful Bavarian tradition. Join in the festivities with a folk fair, ‘oompah’ music, beer, food and lots of happy locals, dressed in the traditional costume of ‘Lederhosen’ and ‘Dirndl’.
Tour the Bavarian Alps by camper van
Be as flexible as possible and see the Bavarian Alps on your own agenda by hiring a camper van. Vehicles can be rented locally and idyllic sites abound. Head for the Chiemgau region, for example, and find a spot near the beautiful Chiemgau Lake where you can explore the famous Fraueninsel Island or simply enjoy swimming and sunbathing.
Visit Kloster Ettal
You may have heard of Oberammergau, a town famous for its production of the ‘Passion Play’ which takes place every ten years (and 2010 is one of those years). But have you heard of neighbouring Ettal and its abbey?
Ettal Abbey, a baroque structure, is one of the most significant Benedictine abbeys in the Alpine region, and dates back to 1330. Stepping through the gate, visitors are confronted with the impressive facade of the Gothic church and guided tours introduce the abbey, church and monks’ working quarters. The abbey has its own brewery since the 17th century and the schnapps produced here is well known.
Get off the beaten track at Memmingen
Memmingen is your first port of call if you take a plane to the local Allgäu airport and as the gateway to the Bavarian Alps it’s well worth exploring. The historic town has managed to keep the Middle Ages alive in its centre with enchanting spots and numerous al fresco places to enjoy a coffee. Only a few kilometres away the large baroque abbey of Ottobeuren and its impressive basilica are not to be missed either.
__ __For more in-depth information on the Bavarian Alps, visit the new English-language website www.bavarian-alps.travel just launched by Bavaria Tourism. The site features a competition for a four-night trip for two including flights from London to Memmingen and car hire.