The largest state in Germany, Bavaria (Bayern) is well endowed with natural riches: snowy Alpine peaks, rushing streams and velvety forests that stir the romantic soul. Bolstering Bavarian pride yet more is a wealth of historic buildings, arguably Germany’s best art museums, and an economy bigger than Sweden’s.
The old banking powerhouse, Augsburg, lies in Swabia. To the north the fabulous bishops’ cities of Nuremberg, Bamberg and Würzburg are part of Franconia, where locals don’t regard themselves as Bavarian. In the east, the Danube flows past the medieval stronghold of Regensburg towards the Italianate Passau, close to the rugged wilderness of the Bavarian Forest. The most popular route through Bavaria is the Romantic Road, a trail of walled towns and ancient watchtowers culminating in the world’s most famous castle, the sugary Neuschwanstein, near Füssen in the Bavarian Alps. The mountains have first-class resorts for hiking and skiing, incredible scenery and a wealth of beautiful frescoed villages. But Munich is Bavaria’s real heart and soul. It’s a stylish metropolis, a vortex of art and culture, yet a relaxed place that manages to combine Alpine air with Mediterranean joie de vivre. Wherever you go, be prepared for oceans of beer served with legendary, thigh-slapping hospitality.
Staunchly conservative, but with a flair for innovation, Bavarians see themselves as separate from the rest of Germany although, Bavaria actually embraces three peoples – the Bavarians, Franconians and Swabians. They still pine for an odd 19th-century monarch, Ludwig II, whose opulent palaces draw millions of visitors each year. Traditions are relished and earthy, and lederhosen-clad men still exist, quaffing frothy steins of beer to the strains of an oompah band.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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