The blue and white heart beats even more strongly here. Mountains and lakes, monasteries and castles, traditional costumes and customs, cities with international flair. It’s all there. We reveal everything you need to know. Text: Markus Stein
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.
Traces of Royalty
The holiday region of Upper Bavaria is also famous for its lakes. Popular holiday destination in the Alpine region include the lakes of Königssee, Tegernsee, Schliersee, Kochelsee and Walchensee. The foothills of the Alps are home to the lakes of Chiemsee, Starnberger and Ammersee. The Inn-Salzach region extends out in the east of Bavaria, alongside the Unterinntal with its natural river landscapes.
The beautiful landscapes of Upper Bavaria were also much loved by the Fairy Tale King Ludwig II, who crowned selected places with castles and palaces: Linderhof in the Ammergau Alps, Herrenchiemsee on the island of the same name and the Schachenhaus high up in the Wetterstein mountains.
Old cities, young at heart
Upper Bavaria has its share of characterful cities. Above all, the state capital of Munich, with its museums and theatres of international renown, its diverse shopping options, architectural highlights, restaurants and nightlife scene, and rustic inns such as the Hofbräuhaus or the Schneider Bräuhaus. Very nearby, to the west, is Fürstenfeldbruck with its Baroque abbey.
In the north, Dachau has its Concentration Camp Memorial Site, but was formerly also a renowned mecca for artists. In the northeast lie the old Bishop’s City of Freising, the old Bavarian ducal town of Erding and Moosburg an der Isar, the oldest town in the district of Freising. Neuburg an der Donau is proud of its magnificent Renaissance castle, the Baroque town of Eichstätt of its historic old town, and Ingolstadt of its Asamkirche church and Alte Anatomie.
Abbeys and traditional costumes
Southwest of Munich lie the town of Weilheim, the centre of the Pfaffenwinkel with its many religious buildings, the winter sports destination of Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the foot of the Zugspitze, and the town of Mittenwald between the Karwendel and Wetterstein mountains.
To the east, this is followed by Bad Tölz with its historic market street, and Miesbach, known for its traditional costumes. The Inn towns can be found in the east: the pilgrimage town of Altötting, Wasserburg, whose historic old town was built on an island in the River Inn, and Rosenheim with its southern flair. In the far south-east, Berchtesgaden boasts a fantastic mountain backdrop with the Watzmann and Lake Königssee.
"Highnoon in Bavarian: Weißwürste had to be eaten before 12".
Gourmet pleasures – morning, noon and night!
High noon was once the magic time - Munich’s Weißwürste (veal sausages) had to be eaten before this point, originally due to their short shelf life. Even today, they are still mainly eaten before the clock strikes twelve! A particular speciality is the sweet-and-sour Münchner Voressen, a stew made from calf lung, tripe and sweetbreads served with Semmelknödel (dumplings), as well as Böfflamott, a braised beef recipe dating from the time of Napoleon called “Boeuf à la mode”.
Other perennial favourites include roast pork and pork knuckle with dumplings as well as Bavarian Kraut (white cabbage with bacon). A typical Biergarten snack may consist of Obazda (a cheese delicacy) and Wurstsalat. To finish on a sweet note, there is a choice of Auszog’ne (a pastry) or Germknödel (sweet yeast dumplings).
In more sophisticated settings, diners can enjoy the Crème bavaroise, also known as Rahmsulz, which is made from milk, egg yolk, sugar, whipped cream and gelatine. It was first mentioned in cookery books in the 19th century.
More about Upper Bavaria (only in German)
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