Bavaria Road Trip of a Lifetime: 8 Must-See Places (Part 1 of 2)

Bavaria is the largest state in Germany and, in my opinion, the most diverse, rich and charming one as well. I feel like the whole world kn...

Bavaria is the largest state in Germany and, in my opinion, the most diverse, rich and charming one as well. I feel like the whole world knows what Bavaria is famous for - King Ludwig II’s castle of Neuschwanstein, BMW, Oktoberfest, pretzels and of course the best beer in the world! And if you're a soccer fan, FC Bayern Munich definitely tops your list of the best soccer clubs. But Bavaria is also infamous for sheltering the national socialist German workers party led by Hitler which gave birth to nazism and mass killings of millions of innocent people. I purposely added Dachau, the most notorious death camp in nazi Germany, to my itinerary as I felt the trip would not be complete without visiting this disgraceful place where thousands of victims, mostly Jews, would starve, suffer and eventually die in a gas chamber. We must never forget. Ready to see Bavaria? I hand-picked those 8 not to be missed places that should definitely be on everyone's bucket list. 

The second part of the article can be found here - Part 2.

1. Neuschwanstein Castle. 
Hands down, Neuschwanstein Castle is arguably the most photographed castle in Germany. But what makes it so special? Every 5-year-old girl can tell you - it looks like the Cinderella Castle from Disney World in Orlando, Florida!
But the opposite is true - Walt Disney got his inspiration here, at Neuschwanstein Castle. 
If this castle looks old to you, I can assure you that it is not. Well, at least relative to other castles in Germany - the construction was completed in 1886. King Ludwig II of Bavaria travelled quite a bit in Europe and developed a good taste of an architectural style that would combine romanticism and the rigour of the Middle Ages. 
As a big admirer of medieval architecture in general, he envisioned his castle with gigantic turrets, big windows and fancy arches. The location was a long-time favourite for King Ludwig II where he spent much of his summer time as a child and grew to love the scenery of this place.
Neuschwanstein Castle is no doubt a true gem, but I somehow liked the view from it even better. I won't lie if I say that it is probably my favourite view in the whole of Germany. 
You can't miss the bright yellow hues of Hohenschwangau Castle built by King Ludwig II's father - King Maximilian II of Bavaria which occupies another hill on the opposite side of the valley. Together with the spectacular emerald blue lake Alpsee and granite peaks at a backdrop, the whole scene will leave you speechless.
Make sure you spend some time by or on the lake. Renting a pedal boat was pretty cheap (EUR 6 / hour) compared to what I'm used to paying here, in North America. 
Or perhaps hike one of the trails in the area nearby - away from tourist crowds.

2. Munich Beer Garden.
Beer in Bavaria is not only an extremely popular alcoholic drink, but a source of national pride. 
No wonder beer was invented in Bavaria. Arguably the oldest operating brewery in the world - Weihenstephan - is located in the town of Freising just outside of Munich. In 20 years, they will be celebrating their 1000th anniversary!
Germans being Germans - very organized and perfectionist in everything including beer - even came up with the beer purity law that has been serving Bavaria for over 500 years. The law is very strict and only allows hops, barley, water, and yeast in beer. While definitely played its historical role, some people say that the law has prevented Germany from staying competitive in a modern beer market where more and more people choose craft beers from North America over traditional lagers and pilsners brewed in Germany. 
Many people associate beer gardens (Biergarten) with Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival in the world held annually in Munich for almost 200 years now. 
Beer gardens came out of necessity in Bavaria. According to the beer purity law, a specific type of yeast must be used. That type of yeast only ferments at cold temperatures (4-8 C / 39-46 F) which simply means that beer could only be brewed during winter months. Not only that but storing beer in the summer would also be very problematic without beer going bad. To cool beer down, brewers used deep cellars with chestnut trees planted on top of them to bring some cool shades. 
However, soon brewers realized that they could just put tables and chairs out under the chestnut trees and sell beer to their thirsty customers. That's how beer gardens were born. 
Beer gardens can be found anywhere in Germany and even out of the country, however, you should still visit Munich to experience the lure of traditional beer gardens. 
Beer gardens are good for social gatherings (a big "No" during the COVID-19 pandemic). It's not rare to be seated with a stranger. Beer gardens usually allow customers to bring their own snacks, although one can be purchased on-site, too. 

3. Fairytale Painted Houses.
Bavaria largely exceeded my expectations. No matter where I would go - a popular tourist place or off the beaten path - everything looked pretty, tidy and eye-filling. 
Yet my biggest admiration and respect was for the painters, architects and florists - all those who create masterpieces out of ordinary houses.
It seems like everyone who lives in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Oberammergau participates in an unspoken competition for the prettiest painted house, that's how nice and neat every house looked in those towns.
While gingerbread houses are pretty widespread anywhere in Germany and even in neighbouring countries, Lüftlmalerei, a form of mural art, can only be found in the villages and towns in Upper Bavaria, Tyrol Austria and northern Italy. 
Literally translated from German as an "air painting", lüftlmalerei uses a technique called "fresco" that can be found in baroque churches. This method involves applying watercolours of a mineral basis to a freshly laid coat while it's still wet. As the colours dry, they become a fixed layer of colour, insoluble in water. 
Look at our guesthouse - façades like this are pretty common in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 
Bavaria has some unique traits that make it distinct from the rest of Germany - people speak their own language Bayerisch, go to Catholic churches while the rest of the country is Protestant, and still wear their traditional costumes. 
Like most Catholics, Bavarians are pretty devout. You can easily see this in the number of churches and biblical statues across the state. 
No wonder, wall paintings often portray biblical stories in addition to what people have been doing for centuries - farming and hunting. 

4. BMW Welt.
BMW is not the oldest brand in the automotive industry, and definitely not the largest one by sales or production. It's also often seen as too conservative when it comes to its design and playing catch-up in the electric vehicle market, reluctant to leave its famous gas-powered internal combustion engines behind. But there is something in BMW that attracts and retains so many loyal fans throughout the world, so I decided to visit its headquarters in Munich, Germany and take a plant tour to see how legendary BMW cars are produced.
BMW business started in 1916 by producing airplane engines, then motorcycles, and only in 1923 - cars. The plant in Munich has been in operation since 1922, and despite what many people (myself included) have thought, it only produced 3 series and M4 cars. All other cars are produced elsewhere with the largest plan (5,000,000 sq m / 1,150 acres) being in South Carolina, US.
Normally, each plant has 2 stories, however, the one in Munich has 5 to 6 stories as the space is very limited. In 1922, the plant was on the city's outskirts, but now it's very close to its core. The plant produces about 1,000 cars per day, non-stop 24 hours 5 days a week, with absolutely all vehicles made on a prior order from clients (no inventory). 
The workflow at the plant is designed with German precision and punctuality in mind, so that each worker, whatever he or she is doing, spends between 58 and 64 seconds per car. The car manufacturing includes a press shop, a body assembly shop, a paint and a finishing shop. Each shop has its own distinct smell. Do you know what BMW uses to blow dust away before painting? A roller with emu feathers! They replace it every 6 months.
33% of a car's price goes back to R&D (Research and Development), one of the largest proportions in the industry. This allows BMW to keep on being innovative and relevant to its clients.
Quality control uses image recognition to identify defects by comparing an actual result with a benchmark. 
BMW hasn't always been as successful as it is now. In the 1950s, in the aftermath of WWII, it was in deep trouble with a huge debt. A small car called Isetta was meant to change the situation but was of little help. 
The recession continued until 1961 when BMW introduced a compact sedan 1500 which would later become a legendary 3 series.
The second part of the article can be found here - Part 2.

You Might Also Like