Germany: Adventures in the Heart of Bavaria

One for the road

There are few more iconic Bavarian sounds than the clink of beer steins. The area takes pride in its brewing – not for nothing was the Bavarian Beer Purity Law once the oldest food law on Earth – and some of its recipes have remained practically unchanged for centuries.bavaria-beer

Zoigl is among the region’s oldest beers, made only in the Upper Palatinate of Eastern Bavaria where a handful of its traditional ‘community breweries’ survive. Its story dates back to the 14th century and it was once brewed across 75 towns and villages. Today, that number has diminished to just five, with around 20 Zoigl brewers still active between Mitterteich and Eslarn.

The beer itself is unfiltered, which many argue gives it a purer taste. Local families have held the rights to use the community breweries for generations, and each has their own recipe. After four-to-six weeks a fresh batch is served in pop-up taprooms known as zoiglstube, where locals and visitors alike gather in celebration (check online for upcoming serving times).

What’s more, in recent years the 115km route between them has found fame as a beautiful, if unlikely, cycling trail. From Mitterteich, its route passes through Falkenburg, home to the area’s oldest active brewing houses and the ruins of its namesake castle. From there, it then traverses the river valley and heads up to Neuhaus and Windischeschenbach, the heart of Zoigl brewing, before finishing in in the village of Eslarn.

Hikers can get their beer kicks on the three-day Goldsteig Trail. It starts from the Wiesau train station and ends at Weiden. The highlight comes in Neuhaus, where Zoigl brewers – identified by the brand’s six-pointed star logo – often throw open their doors for tastings. A true ale trail!

Mountain high

While Bavaria touches just a sliver of the vast expanse of the Alps, the Alpine Road (or Alpenstrasse) is the perfect way to absorb it all in a short time. For a closer look, stop off at Oberaudorf. Lying deep in the Inntal Valley, this small town makes an ideal base for exploring the surrounding Alpine foothills.

The town is packed with lazy trails that branch off and range alongside myriad pastures and lakes. Treks up its peaks are also a tempting option, with the towering 1,634m-high Brünnstein offering one of the most scenic views. Visitors are able to follow the path all the way to its summit.

Brünnstein
Brünnstein

While you’re in the area, check out Germany’s first mountain rack railway (built 1910-1912), which chugs its way up Wendelstein mountain (1,838m). At its summit the views stretch for miles, offering a wonderful reminder of the raw natural beauty of this stunning part of Bavaria.

River deep

If heights aren’t to your taste, try Bavaria’s fabulous lakes instead. Head to Ruhpolding, which lies just a stone’s throw from Munich and Salzburg.

Often dubbed ‘Little Canada’ for its stunning scenery, the valley is a great location for hikes. Its 240km of paths wind along the River Traun before soaring up past Alpine huts, lush pastures and into mountains dotted with crystal clear becks.

Just a few minutes’ drive from the valley’s main village lies the area’s most popular attraction: a trio of beautiful lakes. All three are linked by a single bike trail that veins through the surrounding nature reserve. Their waters are also pretty warm (for the Alps) and make for a refreshing dip.

From fishing to swimming, walking to cycling and access to the great outdoors, Ruhpolding is the perfect base for an active break. But, in the end, no one would blame you for just taking it easy…

Ruhpolding
Ruhpolding

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