Discover Bavaria from a local's perspective. Here, the people who know it best share the top things to do, see and eat in this special region of Germany...
At first glance, Bavaria seems like a wholly traditional place: you’ll see folks in dirndl dresses and lederhosen; visit inns that have stood for centuries; and devour dishes whose recipes have been passed between generations. Customs are preserved, and heritage is respected – but Bavaria is no museum. Local craftsmen, entrepreneurs, chefs and artisans are continuously inspired by their strong sense of identity – with each generation adding their own twist to the traditions and trades.
Keeping the culture fresh, unique and yet deep-rooted in tradition is the Bavarian way – and what makes this region so special. Here, a group of Bavarian locals – each committed to using local produce - reveal what they’re doing to keep Bavaria’s ‘traditionally different’ ethos alive – and share their insider tips for a truly unique break….
Deep in the forest in Lohr am Main, Spessart, four young men are scouring the trees – checking the pine needles, smelling them, collecting them. They tread carefully, taking care not to disturb the wildlife – it’s clear they’ve trodden this route hundreds of times. They’re keen-eyed foragers, gathering the essential ingredient for one of Bavaria’s best-loved tipples: Snow White gin.
Our four forest harvesters are Fabian Kreser, Markus Skrobanek, Jonas Völker, and Stefan Blum – the creators of award-winning Snow White. The gin is made using only Bavarian products: spring water, juniper berries, apples from their parents’ orchards, and pine needles from the Douglas firs in the forest.
The foursome welcome guests on their foraging trips, taking them deep into the forest to find the finest pine needles... before sampling a snifter of Snow White, of course. If you want to join them, no experience is necessary – just the spirit of adventure.
“It tastes like a walk through the woods on a fresh summer morning,” says Kreser. “Imagine the dew on the leaves and meadows – this is provided by the spring water. The sweetness of the apples reflects the first rays of the sun. The scent of the forest is provided by the resinous note of the juniper berries and the pine needles.
The gin making process (bayern.by/ Bernhard Huber)
1. There are endless opportunities to enjoy our region: start with the forestry houses, which can be combined with a walk taking in the various viewpoints such as the Sohlhöhe near Lohr am Main. From this 531m hill you get fantastic views across almost the whole of the Spessart. We also have the Natural Forest Reserve of Eichhall. The oak trees there are almost 400 years old.
2. In the old town of Lohr, which dates back to the 12th century, there are special spring festivals – also known as Rambourfeste. We have regular farmers’ markets here too, where you can buy regional products.
3. And, of course, don’t miss the castle of Snow White, the Lohrer Spessartmuseum – where you can find out all about this fairy-tale character on tours led by ‘Snow White’ herself.”
The ultimate way to immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of Bavaria? Thomas Gstettenbauer has the answer: a simple wooden camping cabin, the ‘Hyt’, which is positioned perfectly to take in the woodland views of Wild-Berghof Buchet wildlife park, in the well-known Bavarian Forest. It blends into the forest so seamlessly that deer often roam right up to it, to peek through the window. Views don’t get much more magical than that.
Gstettenbauer is the third generation to manage the family hotel and restaurant, located on a farm surrounded by the Bavarian Forest. When thinking of ways to expand the business a few years ago, he was reluctant to create any lasting damage on the environment – so the idea of a mobile hut was born.
“We rent it out to our guests, and when it’s not needed we simply put it away,” explains Gstettenbauer. “That way we don’t put any strain on Mother Nature. To help it blend into the forest, we used wood from the local area.”
The Hyt won the 2018 ‘German Design Award’, but the real star of the show is its wild surroundings, says Gstettenbauer: “It’s the combination of nature, forest and the proximity of the animals that makes the experience so unique.”
The area of the Wild-Berghof (bayern.by/ Gert Krautbauer)
1. Egg Castle and Metten Abbey are both well worth a visit. If your interests are more focused on nature, the Bavarian Forest National park or the Haus zur Wildnis [Wilderness House] are both good choices. You should also visit the Crystal Road. There you will see various works of art made from glass – it’s beautiful.
2. Unique to us in this region at Whitsun are the Pfingstritt [Whitsun Ride] in Bad Kötzting and the Rauhnächte [Smoke Nights] – with whipcracking and witches in December and January. There’s always something to experience round here. It never gets boring!”
As a vegetarian, eating in Bavaria can be tricky – after all, meat dishes are the pride of most menus here. But Silvia Beyer, the pioneering owner of Hündeleskopfhütte mountain hut, is trying something fresh: an all-veggie menu which reinvents Bavarian classics for her health-conscious guests.
Beyer has been vegetarian since she was 12, but is not out to convert her guests: “Everyone should be free to eat and live in the way they think is right”, she says.
At 1,180m high in the Alps, Hündeleskopfhütte occupies an utterly magnificent spot – with panoramic views of the Allgäu Alps and the Zugspitze (Germany’s tallest peak). Despite its wild views, the walk to the hut is well-maintained and even suitable for pushchairs: and of course, when you arrive, you can be assured of a warm welcome, cosy atmosphere and fantastic food. It’s a real treat, whether you’re vegetarian for life or just for lunch.
Hündeleskopfhütte is the first hut in the Alps to have a meat-free menu – and it’s already proving a recipe for success. “As well as hikers and cyclists passing through, we have many local regulars meeting here,” says Beyer. “The time is right for a vegetarian mountain hut!”
The menu is laden with hearty, hike-fuelling fare – think roast beetroot soup with fresh bread, and courgette lasagne with almond cream – and features many family recipes which were passed down from her vegetarian mother and grandmother. Some traditional Bavarian dishes have always been meat-free, such as krautkrapfen (cabbage rolls) and spätzle (pasta-style noodles) – so these have pride of place too.
1. Here in the Allgäu you really can do everything. We have lakes and mountains. We have beautiful spas and saunas in the region… I suggest you try them all!
2. For a really local – and rejuvenating – experience, I would particularly recommend the Königliche Kristall Spa in Schwangau and the sauna in ABC-Bad in Nesselwang.
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