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When you think of Bavaria, you inevitably end up with superlatives: It is the largest German state in terms of area, it has the most famous sights, the most vacationers, and the perceived share of Italy is also higher than elsewhere in Germany. But what is the essence of the Free State, and what is worth taking a closer look at? Our author Harald Braun cultivates his very own view of the highlights - with these seven recommendations.


The castles or: Get acquainted with the Kini!

If you want to understand Bavaria and its expansive baroque way of life, you can't get around Ludwig II. That means, on the one hand, that you have to look at his magnificent castles Herrenchiemsee, Linderhof and especially his "fairy tale castle" Neuschwanstein near Füssen should look. Because then it is easier to understand what a visionary, aesthete and Fantast was the Bavarian Sun King, who ascended the throne at the age of 18 - and yet never really wanted to be anything more than a dreamy aesthete with, incidentally, astonishingly progressive ideas. Because, and now we are on the other hand: King Ludwig II was a complex thinker with an open ear for science. He visited the Paris World's Fair in 1867 and planned a kind of flying machine with which he wanted to fly over Lake Starnberg. His nightly horse-drawn sleigh rides through the Ammergau Alps, later captured on celluloid in all their mundanity by directors Luscino Visconti and Helmut Dietl, were considered pioneering acts from a scientific point of view: Ludwig's sleigh was probably the first electrically illuminated vehicle in the entire world. Didn't you know that? Who would like to learn more about it: At Marstall Museum in Munich's Nymphenburg Palace, Ludwig's magnificent carriage is on display - along with many other magnificent carriages of the time. 


Hiking or: Go to the mountain

But remember what the famous South Tyrolean mountaineer Hans Kammerlander always kept in mind during his tours: "Never lose the rest of your childhood, the looseness. Because then the mountains belong to you, otherwise you belong to them." In other words, it's not about setting records and doggedly climbing summits - it's about experiencing Bavaria's more than 1,000 mountains, hills and elevations with all your senses. Which is not to say that you can't have a great time climbing Bavaria's three highest mountains: Zugspitze, Hochwanner and Watzmann are definitely exciting challenges. For me, one of the most beautiful hikes in Bavaria leads - no, not up to the Zugspitze - but directly to the highest church in Germany on the Wendelstein at almost 2000 meters, which takes at least three hours. If you take a selfie at every sensational view of the valley, it can take six hours. And when you then on the grandiose Mitteralm If you take another Maß plus a snack, you won't make it to the summit, but you'll be happy with your palate. Up the Wendelstein without expending your own energy? That's also possible: with the Wendelstein rack railroad it takes a slim 30 minutes to reach the top. 


Swim' in Bavarian lakes

There are so many wonderful waters in Bavaria. How, for example, could one describe the 80-square-kilometer Chiemsee not like, which is not only the largest lake in Bavaria, but with Herrenchiemsee and Fraueninsel also has two of the most popular excursion destinations in Bavaria to offer? Or are we talking about the Lake StarnbergThe city of Munich is a popular destination for day-trippers on every beautiful weekend. Gladly at the Fish master in Ambachwhere for what feels like decades actor Sepp Bierbichler has been grumbling and sitting Porsche drivers at rough beer tables like itinerant witches. Or how about the Ammerseewhich as a rather shirt-sleeved lake is Bavaria's third largest body of water - highly likeable and largely free of chichi. Disadvantage of the big three: Very active influx ... But in Upper Bavaria there are also other waters that are so wonderful, so picturesquely located, so beautifully colored - you have to give them a chance! My personal top three: Walchensee - turquoise water, crazy deep and with 16 square kilometers large enough to avoid crowds on the shore. Hintersee - lonely and idyllic in Berchtesgadener Land, set against a kitschy, wonderful Ganghofer backdrop. Wörthsee - cleanest lake in Bavaria, small, fine and the setting for the gruesome "Maussage". Ask for it ... . More about Bavaria's lakes there are here.


Go hiking in the Bavarian Forest

If nothing else works, then the person goes. Author Axel Hacke recently reported on this. In this context, he researched that "walking" comes from the Italian "spaziare", which means, among other things, "to wander around". Which brings us to the Bavarian Forest I can recommend for such activities all year round. Together with the Šumava National Park in the Czech Republic, it forms the largest contiguous forest reserve in Central Europe, covering more than 24,000 hectares. It is no surprise that such a vast area offers a wide variety of hiking opportunities: There are no less than three long-distance hiking trails: the Goldsteig quality trail offers no less than 660 kilometers of designated trails on the Bavarian side, with just under 300 kilometers added on the Czech side. The Danube Panorama Trail from Neustadt to the three-river city of Passau is 220 kilometers long and is recommended as a 10-day tour. Less well-known, but more adventurous and exotically beautiful, is the so-called Pandurensteig from Waldmünchen to Passau: nature reserves, rivers, castles - 170 kilometers of wandering at the highest level. 


Squat in original Bavarian beer gardens

Of course, there are also so-called beer gardens in other German states from time to time. Just as they celebrate Oktoberfest in Australia, the same, same, but (very) different ... The truth is: nowhere else in the world do people sit together in beer gardens in such an original and cozy way as in Bavaria. Their history goes back to the year 1539, when it was officially forbidden in Bavaria to brew beer even in summer - for fire protection reasons. However, since breweries did not want to forego their lucrative business even during the summer months, a somewhat stronger beer was brewed in advance for the summer months and stored in cellar dungeons. To keep these cellars cool and shady, they planted sturdy, shady chestnut trees around them and set up a few chairs and benches for guests. The idyllic principle of the "beer garden" had already been invented. Bringing food was expressly permitted back then - a tradition that is still cultivated almost everywhere today. 

Note: A real beer garden is by no means a cozy spot with five tables and a waitress, not at all. The most popular open-air pubs in Bavaria are the size of soccer fields. The largest and one of the most popular beer gardens in Munich, for example, is the Hirschgarten, and in it 8,000 guests can find a seat at the same time. Hardly fewer people can fit into the beer garden at the Chinese Tower in the English Garden.

The most beautiful beer gardens in Bavaria? My top three: The Hospital Garden in Regensburg, the Old villa in Utting am Ammersee and the Forestry Großhesselohe in Pullach with its famous jazz beer garden. A dream.


Watch soccer ...

The heart of German soccer beats in Bavaria! And why? No, not (only) because of FC Bayern: This also has to do with the big heads from Säbener Straße in Munich-Harlaching, but with FC Augsburg another Bavarian club plays in the first Bundesliga - and with Regensburg, Würzburg, Greuther Fürth and FC Nuremberg four more clubs in the second division. And the fact that 1860 Munich, the true traditional and scandalous Munich club, is now back in the third division, is a source of joy for the many traditionalists in Munich who have only one wish: That the time-honored Grünwalder Stadium on Giesing's heights be awakened from its Sleeping Beauty slumber. Now, on match day in Giesing, the blue masses gather again in front of the stadium and are happy to be able to return to their old home. (My tip: Instead of stadium sausage, better enjoy the best kebab in town on nearby Humboldtstraße. The "Turkitch" is for connoisseurs! 

In general, stadium romance: The architectural work of art "Olympiastadion" by Günter Behnisch, where FC Bayern played until 2005, before they moved to a kind of inflatable boat to Freimann in Munich's north, is definitely worth a visit, even without soccer. Especially since the adjacent Olympic Park in Munich is one of the city's most popular local recreation spots, including the Tollwood Festival and BMW Museum within sight. 


Just drive through Upper Bavaria!

(Almost) around every bend lies a highlight: For example, the pilgrimage church of Maria Gern in Berchtesgaden © Adobestock/Andrew Mayovskyy

I know: car hiking is not necessarily a popular suggestion when you want to explore a region. In the case of Upper Bavaria, however, I make an exception because two things come together. First, the region is sooo big and the chance to get to know as much as possible of the scenic splendor and quaint villages is greatest with such a car - preferably one without a roof. Secondly, you can then do what I would like to recommend to each of you: Forget about fixed goals, don't make any plans, but just let yourself drift for a day or two. It doesn't matter where you end up on your trip through the Berchtesgadener Land, the Chiemgau or the region around Garmisch-Partenkirchen: At the end of a long sweeping curve on a supposedly godforsaken gravel road, you're very likely to come across a homey settlement that usually has a picturesque village church and an inn called "Zur Post," with at least 50 people squatting together in its beer garden in good weather. Such magnificent inns as the "Hammerwirt"Shortly before Inzell, you'll find a lake for swimming and barns that are open to your own vehicle, because they're prepared for classic cars and other car hikers here. While driving through the Zugspitz region of the Ammergau Alps, you will discover a postcard panorama for your Instagram account every 30 seconds. In Altötting, you will be surprised by the absurd number of souvenir stores selling things like Benedict candles or Pope's beer. Or in the EFA Mobile Times Museum find more than 250 beautifully restored classic cars in Amerang, whose elegant forms have never had to compete in a wind tunnel. 

And if you'd like to glide through Bavaria in one of the sleek vintage cars yourself - it's possible. Look here.

Cover photo: The Zugspitze is Germany's highest mountain © Adobestock/ Sina Ettmer

Geschrieben von Harald Brown

Travel and culture journalist Harald Braun, a native of the Rhineland, lives in the countryside of Schleswig-Holstein, regularly escapes to Australia in winter, likes FC St. Pauli, South Tyrol and, increasingly, selected corners of Germany that he has recently discovered - such as the "Greif" harbor crane in front of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, where you can spend an excellent night.

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