I like to call Bavaria a Kingdom as a joke, even though it isn’t one anymore. I once asked a local here where he was from. He raised his arms in the air as if he was a gladiator preparing to launch a battle, looked up to the sky, and boomed: “The Kingdom of Bavaria!” Bavarians do have a reputation for being extremely proud of their state, and many I have met seem to think they are above other Germans. There’s even talk of Bavaria gaining independence from the rest of Germany. But if you read on then you’ll understand why Bavarians are so protective of their corner…
Land of fairy-tales and sausages, quaint cobbled streets and endless tall forests, The German state of Bavaria is often described as one of the most beautiful parts of Europe. And it’s easy to see why. The natural scenery boasts rolling green countryside with turquoise Alpine lakes, snow-capped mountains and imposing trees. And unlike many other areas blighted by the man-made, Bavaria has retained a historic charm that is evident from its cute, colourful and picturesque towns and villages.
Bavaria is one of Germany’s richest states. It covers an area of almost 70, 549 sq km and has a population of around 12.4 million. Its main city is Munich, which maintains a small-town atmosphere and can even feel deserted at times. Of course this all changes when Oktoberfest rolls into town. The world’s largest beer festival and Germany’s most famous event turns the well-mannered city into scenes of drunken debauchery. You have to see it at least once.
In some rural areas outside of Munich – particularly in the south – time appears to have stood still. Old men stroll around in Lederhosen and green-feathered hats, while women food shop with woven baskets and sweep the street outside their houses with old-fashioned brooms. On Sundays all shops are closed (except bakeries and petrol stations.) Making too much noise is also frowned upon on this holy day – this is an area with a strong church-going population, with chapels and other places of worship rarely more than a mile apart. Catholics and conservatives are in the majority.
King Ludwig II is the eccentric, late royal behind Bavaria’s stunning castles, such as Schloss Linderhof and Schloss Neuschwanstein. The latter is believed to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Tourists are also drawn to Bavaria’s cosy Christmas Markets, held throughout December in almost every town and village. The medieval city of Nuremberg hosts one of the world’s most famous.
Germans are a sporty bunch, and there are plenty of activities in Bavaria for them to get their teeth into. Gorgeous cycling and hiking routes, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, sailing, kite-surfing, wind-surfing, ballooning…no wonder they don’t care much for television.
To top it all off, the air is also so clean and the tap drinking water so fresh you feel like you have been detoxed simply by existing here.
Unfortunately the local food will undo that. Think plenty of meat, potatoes, these huge, heavy dumplings called knödel, cake, cake and more cake, and a distinct lack of vegetables. Throw in some Bavarian beer and you can see why I like to call it heart attack food.
The seasons here are extremely distinguished, with spring and summer being a riot of colour thanks to the warm, blue skies, clear lakes and fields of bright flowers. Autumn is beautiful too, as the green trees turn into gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows. By December there is often a nice blanket of snow. However, as winters here tend to be very long, cold and grey, January and February can be testing if you live here all year. But don’t feel too sorry for me, as at least we can head to the Bavarian Alps or beyond for some winter sports.
Another major plus point is Bavaria’s destination in the heart of Europe. Bavaria borders Austria, the Czech Republic, and almost Switzerland (across Lake Constance). You can also drive to Italy and France in a few hours and travel easily to Central and Eastern Europe. It’s a great base from which to explore when you need a break from the Germans. Only joking Germans. You know I love you, Crocs and all.
Then of course there is the Nazi legacy. With Munich once the capital of the movement, the chilling haunts of Adolf Hitler are never far. I guess even areas this beautiful have a dark side.
And now we can turn off the cheesey italics.