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Romantic Road and Bavaria Highlights

By far the most popular of Germany’s holiday routes with at least 24 million day-visitors a year, the “Romantic Road” is based on a medieval trade route stretching some 410km from historic Wurzburg in Franconia in northern Bavaria to the alpine town of Fussen in southern Bavaria (a.k.a. “Upper Bavaria” due to its higher elevation).  The route is usually traversed from north to south, starting from the Wurzburg Residenz, probably the most beautiful baroque palace in Germany and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and ending at King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle, an iconic fairy-tale castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland and Germany’s top tourist attraction, year after year.  (But if you are coming in from Austria or Italy, you will likely prefer to traverse it in the reverse direction!)

Between Wurzburg and Fussen, the route traverses through beautiful countryside, cobbled-stoned villages, medieval walled towns with arched gateways and towers.  Half-timbered houses, gothic cathedrals, baroque palaces and medieval castles are common sights along the entire route.  The quintessence of Germany, be it nature, culture or heritage, can be thoroughly appreciated along the route.  About an hour’s train ride from Wurzburg is the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a medieval gem and probably the best preserved medieval town not only along the route but also the whole of Germany.  In winter, Rothenburg’s famous Christmas market transforms the town into an idyllic winter wonderland.  The world-famous K├Ąthe Wohlfahrt “Christmas Village” in the heart of Rothenburg keeps the Christmas feeling going all-year-round!  Other beautiful medieval towns along the route include Dinkelsbuhl and Nordlingen among others.

As the route traverses further south and towards the end of the route is the village of Schwangau – the village of royal castles – at the foot of the Bavarian Alps.  The two royal castles, Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle, attract visitors from all over the world and as mentioned earlier the latter is the most visited tourist attraction in Germany.

Whilst the Romantic Road may end at Fussen, perhaps the end should be at the summit of Zugspitze (2,962m), the highest point in Germany, which is only about 50km from Fussen?!  The ascent to the summit of Zugspitze (starting from the alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen) is a treat in itself: a cogwheel train takes you through – yes, through! – the mountain and onto a glacier from where you ascend to the summit on a cable car.  The summit actually straddles Germany and Austria and there are two separate terraces – German and Austrian – connected by a walkway which was the border-crossing point between the two nations requiring a passport just to walk from one side of the summit to the other!  History and long-gone border formalities aside, the views from the summit are simply breathtaking!

Below are some other attractions along and around the Romantic Road that ought not to be missed.

Nuremberg:  Home to Germany’s most famous Christmas market and also Germany’s most famous Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer, Nuremberg (“Nurnberg”), a city in Franconia in northern Bavaria, has a sizeable old town (“altstadt”) with cobbled streets and structures reminiscent of its rich and proud medieval and Renaissance past.  For foodies, you may wish to know that Nuremberg is home to Germany’s most famous food export – German sausages and in particular the Nurnberger sausage.  Of course, there is a lot more than just sausages to savour!

Bamberg:  Not far from and to the north of Nuremberg is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bamberg, one of Europe’s largest old towns that was undisturbed by WW2 bombings.  Replete with structures reminding any visitor of its rich heritage from medieval times, Bamberg is a highly picturesque town that will have you taking countless photos and selfies!  And whether you are thirsty or not, Bamberg’s smoked beer (“rauchbier”) is not to be missed.  Smoked beer is a type of beer with a distinctive smoke flavor and character imparted by using malted barley roasted over an open flame.

Garmish-Partenkirchen/Oberammergau/Mittenwald:  All 3 towns are in the Bavarian Alps and each with its distinctive and unique features and beauty.  Garmish-Partenkirchen is in fact the starting point for the train journey that ultimately brings you to the summit of Zugspitze.  Oberammergau is an alpine town known for its beautifully painted buildings with detailed murals, mostly of biblical significance.  The once-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play dating back to 1634 is probably the most famous “passion play” in the world with the next performance scheduled for 2020 (between the months of May and October).  Honouring a pledge for having been spared the ravages of the Black (bubonic) Plague that swept Europe in the 17th century, the inhabitants of Oberammergau have been staging the passion play where the participants have to be either born in, or have lived more than 20 years in, Oberammergau.  Mittenwald, famous for violin-making, is just north of the Austrian border and is arguably the most beautiful alpine town in the Bavarian Alps.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Oberammergau

Mittenwald

Munich:  The capital and largest city of Bavaria, Munich is home to centuries-old buildings and numerous museums.  In the Altstadt (old town) is Marienplatz, a central square with historic landmarks such as the imposing neo-gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall) that features among others the reputedly most extravagant clock in the world – the Rathaus Glockenspiel whose main purpose has been more about entertainment than telling time!  Known for its annual Oktoberfest celebrations and its beer halls including the famed Hofbrauhaus (founded in 1589), Munich is as much a place for taste buds as it is for the other senses!

Proposed Itinerary

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