When an Aussie thinks of Christmas, you'll usually conjure up images of backyard cricket, Santa visiting the local kids in a fire truck and a selection of non-roasted items for dinner. So imagine this Sydney-siders joy at living out the White Christmas dream.
We didn't have so much luck in the Christmas of 2016 of finding snow in Scotland, so we sought out somewhere in continental Europe that seemed like a sure-thing. Bavaria. And, as you'll see in the photos that accompany this post, we were blessed with a huge dumping of snowfall in the days before our arrival.
Bavaria is a region in Germany known well for Octoberfest, steins of beer and a good helping of bratwurst with sauerkraut in the south-east of the country. As you head south from Munich toward the Austrian border, you'll be treated to the beauty of the Alps. Alps = snow, so it seemed like a no-brainer this was the place to go.
This was my second visit the the region in 2017, having visited in May on a solo adventure. I knew it was beautiful, and couldn't wait to see what winter had to offer. Also wanting to fit quite a bit of Austria into our trip, we only spent a few days in Bavaria, focussing on the Berchtesgaden area, or that little nook that looks like it was actually meant to be part of Austria on the map.
Whether you're into hiking and adventure, or something a bit more relaxing like a boat-trip across the lake, Berchtesgaden is a must-visit any time of the year.
WHERE TO STAY
Using the town of Berchtesgaden as your base will make for easy exploring of the region. Close to the Austrian border, Salzburg is easily incorporated into your trip, little more than 40 minutes drive away.
This is definitely a trip I would recommend a car for. Transport connections to the area are limited, although accessible. You will see and experience a lot more, making the most of your time if you hire a car and travel by road.
Germany gets me when it comes to food. I like carbs, and I like meat, so that's pretty much a match made in heaven when almost every dish is of the pork and potato variety. From pork knuckle to mega schnitzels, you'll surely find something to suit your taste. I can recommend Seealm Königssee for a local bite and some traditional Bavarian yodelling. The servings are usually quite substantial, so be sure to leave a little room for traditional apfelstrudel and custard at dessert!
Bavaria is also the home of beer. So grab a stein or two of weissbier and get comfortable in front of the fire for the evening.
WHAT TO DO?
Visit St Bartholema by boat
Königssee is Germany's deepest and cleanest lake. Surrounded by craggy mountains, the lake is given a fjord-like feeling as you glide across the surface in an electric, wooden boat. Take to trip across the lake to St Bartholema, where you can explore the lake-side and church. In summer there is also a second stop available at the far-end of the lake, Obersee, which offers up stunning vistas over a smaller lake, and the path leads you to a homestead on the other side. Try to purchase your tickets for your boat trip early, as at peak times and weekends, lines can become quite long.
Hike around the alps
I don't need to tell you twice that there are some incredible hikes in the alps around the Berchtesgaden region. In winter your options will be more limited, but the ring walk around Hintersee is a walk for all fitness levels, or for something bit further afield, you can take the path from the tourist office just past Hintersee up to the swing bridge. Taking around 1.5hrs for a round trip (photos included) it makes for the perfect afternoon activity. And if you're as lucky as we were, you can finish up at Hintersee for a cotton candy sunset!
Visit Neuschwanstein Castle and Lake Eibsee
If you begin your trip in Bavaria from Munich, you can start by heading south west for approx. 2hrs and you will find yourself at Neuschwanstein castle. Many of you have likely seen Disney's iconic castle, which was modeled off the design of Neuschwanstein. Unfortunately the wooden suspension bridge at the top of the trail was closed for maintenance during our winter trip, but there are some great opportunities to see the castle from every angle.
As you head east toward Berchtesgaden, it is absolutely worth stopping off for a stroll around Lake Eibsee which is situated at the foot of Germany's tallest mountain, the Zugspitz. Unfortunately for us, we had fog that prevented us from seeing further than about 10 metres. I will share some photos in a separate post from my visit in May that will show you just how spectacular this place is.
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