Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eins, zwei, drei, BAVARIA!

Home of awesome beer, great food, fairytale castles, and a party so EPIC it's still being celebrated a couple hundred years later. Yes, my friends, its the Bavarian region of Germany.

Bavaria Photos

This photo of Bavaria is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Headed by it's crowning glory, Munich, Bavaria is a wealth of European history at all parts. Home to many Germanic tribes of millenia past, Bavaria was part of the subjugation of Europe by the Romans. After they finally retreated, Bavaria was ruled by alternating tribes, like the Lombards, Franks and Carolingians, it established its own identity with its distinct culture and language.
When most people think of Germany, they think of stereotypes that are actually unique to the Bavarian region: Oktoberfest, lederhosen, and strong beer. The Bavaria region even speaks German with a distinct sound and style. So now that you've chosen to holiday in Bavaria, what are you going to do?
The best starting point would be flying into Munich (Muenchen for the Deutsch speakers!). I specifically picked a two week time frame that includes Oktoberfest (last week Sept thru first week of Oct). If you're flying round trip from LAX, its going to cost you about $1120. From NYC you'll pay about $965, and from London its 163 GBP (You lucky Brits!). Now the British even have the option to train tour to Munich for 108 GBP, which is about 17 hours. I think seeing mainland Europe this way would be kinda cool. But then, I like road trips and not many people do.
All right, we've landed in Munich (Wilkommen!). The first thing you'll notice is the airport is one of the best rated in Europe. Germany's rail system is also top notch. The Germans also run a website for looking at all of Europe's rail systems, in case you'd like to make this region your base point for parts unknown.
The picture above is actually Munich. Notice all the classical and baroque architecture along the skyline. Take the s-bahn from the airport right into the city center at Marienplatz.

Munich Photos

This photo of Munich is courtesy of TripAdvisor

That building on the right is the city hall, called Neus Rathaus, with the giant glockenspiel that everyone stops to stare at. The large building to the left is the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). A couple blocks north is the Residenz, where the former royal families of Bavaria lived. Visit all the museums, see the zoo, see an opera, and eat! My mother comes from a Germanic background so when I was growing up, along with the Italian food she cooked for my dad, we also had fried potatoes and onions, bratwurst, weisswurst, and her homemade strudel. HECK YEAH! Throw in some weinerschnitzel and sauerbraten and I'm a happy girl. I never got into saurkraut, though. And beer. Oh yes, Bavarian beer. Which leads me to.....
Oktoberfest. Americans in particular think the whole of Germany is one big party zone the entire month of October. Not so much, ya'll. It actually starts the last week in September and goes for about two weeks. It's also pretty specific to Bavaria in particular. You see, this whole tradition started with a royal wedding in 1810 that the residents of Munich were invited to celebrate with the happy couple. The festivities ended with horse races and a festival to celebrate all of Bavaria. Nowadays the two week long festival also encompasses the holiday for German unification (Oct 3), and generates big business and massive crowds in the beirgartens of Munich. Think you're up to it? Try a mass of beer. That's a full litre of beer, just in case you didn't know. And we here in America are sort of amateurs compared to the Germans when it comes to this. I think one is my limit!
Well we've seen the pretty city of Munich, so what's next? Let's get in the car and drive! First on the list is a rather somber site. The remains of the concentration camp of Dachau sit not too far, about 45 minutes. Its 18 euro fee to enter the site and is open every day except Monday. The site is a memorial to the people who suffered here through its use from 1933-1945. Its well signed in English but you may want to grab a tour for some extra insights.
Munich PhotosAnother popular destination outside of Munich are the fairytale castles of "crazy" King Ludwig II. Neuschwanstein castle is about one hour on the autobahn from Munich. (And really, who doesn't want to drive on the autobahn!) This castle was the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle. The views out from the castle across sitting at the edge of the hills going into the Alps are dramatic. There is also a day hike opportunity to see all natural beauty surrounding it. You can buy tickets to the castle from the village of Hohenschwangau and even take a horse drawn carriage to the castle for 6 euro. How awesome! They also have a museum all about the Bavarian king who built the castles in Schwangau. Its worth a look!   This photo of Munich is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Now that we're back in the car, it's back on the "Romantic Road" , which is a 261 mile road through Bavaria, including wine country and the German Alps. There are many places to stop on the way, including the towns of Rothenberg ob der Tauber, which is in the Franconia wine district. This little Bavarian town is 1200 years old, and has many gothic buildings to check out, mainly churches.You can also stop for the night in Colmberg and spend the night in a 1000 year old castle. All right, Germany, you're speaking my language now!
Back on the road we can also stop in Wurzburg, also in the Frankonia wine region. There is also a Residenz palace here and a couple of nice churches. Keep in mind if your goal is to drive the entire Romantic Road, then you should fly into Frankfurt and rent a car from there. Click on this link for a driving plan and more information.
If you've had your fill of yummy German food, tasty fresh Riesling and Gerwurztraminer wines (who can get enough of that stuff, not me!), and decadent chocolate, then it's time to come home.
Auf weidersehen!!!

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