Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bavarian Alps, Germany

executive summary by darmansjah godjali

For many, the Bavarian Alps represents the picture book Germany of yore – mountain villages, glittering lakes and spectacular castles. While hikers and skiers are in their element, there’s as much to be said for idling in a biergarten with lederhosen-clad locals.

Garmich-Partenkirchen hosts its Richard Strauss festival in June, while the town of Bad Tolz hosts the Leonhardifahrt horseback procession in November.

To get to the Bavarian Alps, fly Singapore Airlines to Munich via Frankfurt. Visitors from Malaysia can fly with Lufthansa to Munich with a stopover at Fraankfurt. From Munich Hauptbahnhof, trains run south to Garmisch Partenkirchen in 90 minutes (from US$24).

The Berchtesgadener Land is perhaps the most beautiful corner of Germany – famed for its jagged mountains, fir-lined valleys, onion-domed churches and the Konigssee lake. Take the bus from Berchtesgaden to the Kehlsteinhaus, for some of the best views on your way to the site of Hitler’s infamous Eagle’s Nest residencme.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria ordered the construction of Schloss Neuschwanstein in the late 19th century in homage to composer Richard Wagner. The spirit of operatic excess also extends to the lavish interiors (US$16).

The ski resort of Garmisch Partenkirchen is also the gateway to many of the best walking trails. Wander the Alpspitze slopes or stroll the narrow Partnachklamm gorge. The local tourist office has information on routes.
The mountain-fringed Chiemsee is the biggest of the many lakes across the region. In summer, people flock here to swim from the beaches. Don’t miss another of Ludwig’s flamboyant palaces on Herrenchiemssee island (fares from US$6).

In 1634, the folk of Oberammergau swore they would stage a passion play every 10 years if they were spared from the bubonic plague. They were saved, and while the next performance isn’t due until 2020, a theatre and museum trace the history of this tradition (US$8).

A 300-year-old Bavarian pub, Braustuberl in Garmisch-Partenkirchen certainly looks the part, with a painted façade, waitresses wearing dirndls (traditional Alpine dresses) and an ernormous enamel coal-burning stove. Choose from a formidable section of beers (Furstenstrasse 23; pints of beer from US$4).
Isi’s Goldener Engel is an abiding favourite with the residents-the hunting lodge décor mixes and matches frescoes, stag heads and a gilded stucco ceiling. The operation focuses on such hearty local fare as roast pork, dumplings, schnitzel and spatzle (Bankgasse 5; mains from US$12)

Gasthaus zum Hirschberg in Kreuth gives home cooking the gourmet treatment – antlers bear down on diners feasting on local venison, trout and veal (Nordliche Haupstrasse 89; mains from US$14).

Muhlberger Restaurant is the shooting star of Chiemsee, with traditional dishes deftly blended with international influences (Bernauserstrasse 40; mains from US$24).

Auberge Moar Alm is an emphatically Francophile restaurant outside the town of Bad Tolz. The repertoire swings between Med brio and heart-warming dishes from northern France, including foie gras, duck confit and crème brulee ( Holzkirchner Strasse 14; mains from US$32).

The area is best explored by car, with car hire available at Munich airport (from US$96 per day) garmisch-Partenkirchen, Berchtesgaden and Bad Tolz all have train stations – the Bayern Ticket allows unlimited travel in Bavaria (US$42).

Owned by the same family for 100 years, Hotel Bavaria in Berchtesgaden offers traditionally decorated rooms, some fitted with beamed ceilings and sturdy four-poster beds. It’s worth paying a bit more for a balcony that looks out to the mountains (Sunklergasschen 11 from US$80).

Murnau’s Am Eichholz Galerie & Art-Hotel takes its cue from the artists who made this small town famous – notably wassily karndinsky and Gabriele munter – with splashes of colour and original artwork throughout. There’s also an expansive garden that accommodates sculptures and installations (Am Eichholz 21; from US$144).

Inselhotel zur Linde is a 600-year-old hotel on the island of Fraueninsel in the Chiemsee. Its comfortable rooms have views of the lake, while its great restaurant serves fresh fish. Also, bear in mind that you’ll need to catch the ferry from Gstadt to get there (Fraueninsel im Chiemsee; from US$160).

Reindl’s Partenkirchner Hof is an institution in Garmisch partenkirchen, with flowerboxes adorning the ebalconies and an acclaimed restaurant that’s popular with après skiers. Well-appointed rooms are a study in folk-themed elegance and some enjoy gobsmacking mountain views (Bahnhofstrasse 15; from US$168).

Feng shui meets Bavarian rusticity at Romantik Hotel Landhaus Wilhemy, an eco-friendly hotel on the shores of the Tegernsee. The green ethos extends fro morganic meals to green cleaning products (Freihausstrasse 15; from US$192).

Views to Gorge on with walking distance of Garmisch’s ski-jump stadium, the Partnachklamm is a 700-metre gorge sandwiched between high limestone walls. Accessible via a series of tunnels carved through the rock, the whitewater river thunders by with deafening velocity. Look up to catch sunbeams bouncing off the many waterfalls. Paths lead drom here to the Reintal valley and Sugspitze mountain. (US$3).

ALPINE VERSAILLES forum users rate the pocket-sized palace of Linderhof, another of King Ludwig II’s whimsical creations. Set in an idyllic valley, this retreat was inspired by Versailles and hugs the hillside in a romantic setting of French gardens, fountains and follies. Visits of the palace are by guided tour only and garden buildings are open from April to October (palace open daily; US$11).

Rococo Beauty forum users rate the Wieskirche, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near the southern end of Bavaria’s Romantische Strasse. This church, begun in 1745, is a masterpiece of Bavarian Rococo, with a triumphant ceiling fresco and gleaming white pillars topped by capital stones that look like leaping flmes against the white, gold and pastel stucco (Steingaden; admission only by donation).

The website is a good resources for activities in the region. Read Christoper Mcintosh’s biography of mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria – the Swan King (US$19; Tauris Parke).

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