Difference between revisions of "Bavaria"
Revision as of 14:04, 17 November 2012
Bavaria (German: Bayern) is the largest federal state ("Bundesland" or shortened to Land) of Germany, situated in the south-east of the country, and extends from the North German Plain down into the Alps. Bavaria is what many non-Germans probably have in mind when they think about Germany. Ironically, much of southern Bavaria has more in common culturally with neighbouring Austria and Switzerland than with the rest of Germany. This stereotype includes Lederhosen (leather trousers), sausages and lots of beer - Bavaria, however, has much more to offer to the traveller. Along with the Rheinland and Berlin, it is Germany's most popular tourist destination.
Bavarians are the proudest of all Germans. Locals are loyal to their roots and traditions. Bavaria is also the most autonomous of German states, and many Bavarians see themselves as Bavarians first and foremost, Germans second. The German stereotype of beer drinking, sausage-eating and Lederhosen, is found only in rural Bavaria and mainly in the south and east towards Austria and the Alps or the thick forests that border the Czech Republic and Bohemia.
About 60% of Bavarians are Catholic and are usually more conservative than the rest of Germany (or Europe for that matter). Munich, however, is a quite liberal city with a huge number of people from other parts of Germany, Europe, and the world, and it has a large English-speaking community. It can be quite hard to find someone with truly Bavarian origins in the city, as most people come to work there and stay only for a short time.
International travellers wishing to visit Bavaria should have no problems to book a flight to Munich, which is home to a large international airport. Alternatively, if there is no direct flight to Munich with your airline, you could book a flight via Frankfurt or Nuremberg and travel to Munich with the ICE high speed train. Furthermore the Airport Memmingen is a low-cost alternative. From there you can get by bus to Munich and Augsburg.
From the rest of Germany
From the Czech Republic
German railways offer a non-stop bus between Prague and Nuremberg, operating every 2 hours and using the German domestic railway rate.
Single tickets are quite expensive when bought at train station. For direct trains you can buy cheaper e-tickets , but at least 3 days in advance.
If you travel in a group or you travel to other destination than Nuremberg or Munich, the cheapest variant is a combination of Czech domestic ticket to the border (Furth im Wald Gr., the Gr. means border point) and Bayern-Ticket for the German section (see Get around by train). The fast trains from the Czech Republic are considered as regional trains in German tariff.
There are plenty of long-distance trains (category EC, ICE and Railjet) from Vienna, Linz, Salzburg, Villach and Klagenfurt. If you travel in a group and want to save money, use a regional trains with combination of Einfach-Raus-Ticket and Bayern-Ticket.
From other European countries
Trains are the main mode of transportation for visitors since they easily connect towns with larger cities.
If you're travelling within Bavaria, you can purchase the Bayern-Ticket , which will give you all-day travel in regional trains (categories S, RB, RE and IRE) within Bavaria and even to the border towns of Salzburg, Reutte or Ulm. You can use it also for private trains and most of local buses and city transport. On working days the ticket is valid from 9AM to 3AM the following day. On weekends it is valid from midnight.
There are variants of regional Bayern-Ticket :
For general info about network tickets see Germany#Network_tickets.
Sometimes, this may be the only way to get around, especially deep in the Bavarian countryside. In rural areas, roads are winding, tricky, and sometimes cut dramatically through farmland, but are otherwise EU-standardised and generally well-paved.
Travelling around the smaller cities in the countryside by foot can be a rewarding experience, and is easily manageable.
Most Bavarians speak standard German; however, in southern Bavaria, outside of Munich, Austro-Bavarian (east) or Swabian (west) is the native language of many. In the north Franconian is the traditional language but few speakers remain. In the cities (including Munich) standard German is the local language, but Austro-Bavarian-, and Swabian-speakers typically do speak standard German as well (except possibly older people in the far south).
Most people speak at least some English or other foreign languages (particularly French), especially the younger generation.
Bavaria has many family-friendly places, as well as those for the younger generations. Places to see include the walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Rothenburg o.d.T.), Schloss (palace) Herrenchiemsee - Ludwig II's unfinished castle based on Versailles on its own island in the beautiful lake Chiemsee, the historical cities of Nuremberg (Nürnberg) and Regensburg (visit St. Peter's cathedral, which you can't miss as it is the biggest building in Regensburg), Bodenmais (known for it's fine crystal and known as the "Switzerland of Bavaria"), and of course the legendary Neuschwanstein Castle often called the "fairytale castle" - the role model for the "Magic Kingdom" of Walt Disney.
Of course, for kids, there is the Playmobil park near Nuremberg, an indoor Trampoline funpark in Regensburg, and the town of Riedenburg on the Altmühl river that has a castle with daily falconry shows.
Also, many towns have some historical features in their limits. There are castle ruins, full castles still being used as residences, local museums, caves, and old mines that most tourists will never see. Some of these are better than the €20 fee to see a boring guided tour at one of the more famous cities in Germany. Why pay a fee for seeing only a small part of the castle when you can find an old castle in the countryside that you can explore on your own and maybe discover something new that has not even been documented?
It's sad to see tourists who pay too much money to see "tourist castles" when the price of a rental car and the will to explore can yield many free or cheap sites, which are sometimes better than the overpriced attractions, that limit what you can see or do.
Bavaria has very good ski and snowboard resorts in the Bavarian Alps and in the Bavarian Forest. They are much smaller than the resorts in neighbouring Austria or Swizterland, though. They are always well maintained and usually cheaper. The most famous and crowded are in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Oberstdorf.
Bavarian cuisine is famous for “Schweinsbraten” (roast pork), “Bratwürstl” sausages, “Nürnberger Bratwurst”, probably the smallest sausage in Germany, “Weißwurst” sausage made from veal, “Leberkäse” (a type of meatloaf), “Schweinshaxe” (grilled pork knuckle) as well as a variety of different “Knödel” (dumplings) and “Kartoffelsalat” (potato salad). Also in the Oberallgäu, the southwesternmost part of bavaria, the traditional food is “Kässpatzen”, made with much Bavarian cheese. Also, some Gasthaus's have various season specials based on what is available locally at that time. There can be specials like Truffle dishes in the southern mountain areas, specialty mushrooms in the Oberpfalz area, seasonal Salmon dishes on the Donau / Altmuhl river area, local trout specials in all small villages, seasonal asparagus dishes, and during hunting season there are occasional fresh wild boar and venison dishes - Bavaria is a gastronomic wonderland (especially for the meat aficionado)!
Bavarians love their beer. One of the most beloved is the "Weißbier", a cloudy, unfiltered beer brewed with wheat, which is commonly consumed earlier in the day with a Weisswurst and sweet mustard. It's good to know that there exists a special ritual with this beer: Normally it will be served in a special glass, called "Weißbierglas". But if you get the empty glass and the bottle of beer, you have to fill it by yourself: in one step without dropping the bottle. Weissbier is more carbonated than most other beers and produces a lot of foam so it is not easy to fill without spilling something.
Bavaria could opt for the title of "holy grail of brewing". Not only is Munich home to Oktoberfest but also the highest brewery density in the world is in the north of the state, in the Franconian region. There, you can find a brewery in almost every village (it is sometimes very small and maintained among a few families). You can find a lot of local beer specialities, as for instance the "Bamberger Schlenkerla" (a beer with a taste of smoked bacon). So always try to stick with the local beers - especially tasty (and supposedly healthy) are the unfiltered beers (served only in pubs).
In summer, you can generally find beer festivals everywhere: not only in the bigger cities but also in the smaller villages; be warned, however, that the beer there is often served in 1 L ceramic glasses called "Maß". The biggest beer festival certainly is the infamous Oktoberfest  in Munich, followed by the biannual Nürnberger Volksfest . Also very nice is the Erlanger Bergkirchweih. If you are touring Upper Bavaria in August, you shouldn´t miss the Barthelmarkt in Oberstimm, next to Ingolstadt, one of the oldest traditional Volksfests in Bavaria - it´s kind of an insider tip. You will hardly find foreigners there. On Monday there is a big horse market and the beer tents open already at 5:30 am and they are packed with people at 6:00 am.
Bavaria’s beer garden  season starts in mid April and runs right through to October. The shade of ancient horse chestnut trees become a rendezvous for both young and old, rich and not-so-rich, and locals and visitors alike: a place to enjoy a convivial glass of cold beer and some tasty Bavarian snacks. You can even bring your own food (but not drinks).
Germans generally make brandy out of everything; most common are the fruit brandies (Obstler) and the herb liqueurs (such as Sechsämtertropfen from northern Bavaria). For a real Altbayerisch feeling, try Bärwurz, Kräuterwurz, or Blutwurz.
The north of Bavaria is famous not only for its beer but also for its (white) wines that come in special bottles called "Bocksbeutel" (bottles with a big round yet flat belly). For a sweet treat, try Eiswein (Ice wine), made from grapes that are allowed to stay until the first severe frost and then pressed and made into a very sweet wine.
Statistically, Bavaria is one of the safest regions (if not the safest) in Germany and Europe. The biggest threat to your wallet is the (perfectly legal) high price level.
Be aware that there is a big difference between the Bavarian police and the police from maybe Hamburg or Berlin. In Berlin, it might not be a problem if they find a few joints in your pocket (because you may carry it for your personal use). In Bavaria, it definitely is a big problem for you. Still, you won't have any problems if you drink alcohol in public as in the rest of Germany and Central Europe. Beer or wine is permitted if you are at least 16, spirits at least 18, but the law is loosely enforced - you might find a preschool child sipping from his father's beer mug.