Stroll through Upper Bavaria
Upper Bavaria is a region of superlatives: the highest mountains, the biggest city, the most inhabitants - and probably also the most Lederhosen and Dirndl, as this holiday region prides itself on its many customs and traditions.
Not without my Lederhosen
The first Trachtenverein (Society for Traditional Costumes) was founded in 1883 in Bayerischzell in the beautiful valley of Leitzachtal, near Lake Schliersee. It promoted the short Lederhosen as part of the traditional male image. Today this garment is still a perennial favourite and, like the female equivalent, the Dirndl, an icon of Upper Bavarian aplomb.
The world of traditional costumes and customs, which adds so much to the charm of the holiday region of Upper Bavaria, extends still further: the art of yodelling, which visitors can learn in special courses, brass band music, Gstanzlsingen (musical performances), Komödienstadl (comedy shows), Schuhplatteln and other dances, Gamsbart (chamois beards), Gebirgsschützen (mountain troops) and much more besides.
An old custom lets rip
In the foothills of the Alps, in the small historic region of Rupertiwinkel, generations of residents have driven out winter by means of Aperschnalzen, or whipcracking. The loud crack of the whip is designed to scare the evil powers of darkness and cold and awaken the seed, slumbering under the snow.
At the end of the year, in contrast, on 6 November, many villages host a horseback procession dedicated to St. Leonard. He is the patron saint of sheep, horses, cows and other farmyard animals. The Leonhardifahrt of Bad Tölz is particularly famous and magnificent. In Traunstein, St. George is celebrated on Easter Monday with the Georgi-Ritt ride. Every ten years, the world’s attention is focussed on the Passion Plays in Oberammergau, a piece of religious theatrical magic that has been performed since 1634.
Seafaring cows, dancing coopers
Proceedings are a little less devout at Upper Bavaria’s famous folk festivals. Foremost among them is the Münchner Wiesn, better known as the Oktoberfest, but beer flows freely in festival tents elsewhere, such as Rosenheim, Dachau and Erding. The traditional market known as the Auer Dult in Munich is a calmer, more family-friendly affair.
Meanwhile, in Upper Bavaria the annual cattle drive sees the cows returned from the mountain pastures to their stalls in the valley. This is especially spectacular on Lake Königssee near Berchtesgaden, where the cows are shipped across the lake in huge barges.
The Schäfflertanz is a highly unusual dance. Coopers, or barrel makers, choreograph elaborate figures to music. It probably has its roots in Munich, but the show has been performed at carnival time every seven years since 1760. Wandering coopers spread the dance across the Upper Bavarian region. It is also represented in the Glockenspiel on Munich’s Rathaus.
From summit cross to Danube wave
The landscapes of Upper Bavaria are hugely diverse. In the Alpine regions, the mountains rise up almost 3,000 metres, with the highest being the Watzmann near Berchtesgaden and the Zugspitze above Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Since 1978, the Berchtesgaden National Park has offered protection to the high mountains, deep valleys and crystal-clear mountain streams!
Another unique landscape is found in the form of the Buckelwiesen near Mittenwald, grassy, undulating hills that are a relic of the last Ice Age. Farmers here still reach for their scythes to preserve this ancient landscape. The scenery in Pfaffenwinkel around Weilheim is characterised by meadows, woods, moors, lakes and rivers. In the northeast, the largest contiguous hop growing area extends through the Hallertau.
South of Munich near Murnau, painters such as Franz Marc, Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsy brought the so-called Blue Land to the world’s attention.