Southern Hospitality

Bavaria in southern Germany entices with beer gardens, wine cellars, and a hearty farm-fresh cuisine.

One of my favorite ways to show that I care is by cooking a feast. As it turns out, this sentiment also resonates in Bavaria, the largest of Germany’s 16 states and home to more than 12 million people. This Southern girl whetted her appetite last summer on Bavarian hospitality in the capital city of Munich, mountainous Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and among Würzburg’s vineyards.  

 

Munich

Just about a 45-minute taxi or S-Bahn (suburban railway train) ride from the Munich airport will put you right in the city’s center, Marienplatz. While there’s plenty of people watching here, there’s also shopping, museums, cathedrals, dining, and entertainment to enjoy.

Start with a visit to the “Viktualienmarkt” (or victuals market), a daily food market located in the square. Developed from a farmer’s market that’s more than 200 years old, this open-air market is a gourmand’s delight with its array of farm stands, butchers, artisans, and other craftsman. At its heart is the beer garden (biergarten).

Beer gardens are plentiful in Munich, the birthplace of Bavaria’s Purity Law of 1516. According to the decree, only water, barley, and hops are allowed when brewing beer. The fermenting agent, yeast, was added centuries later. Pull up a seat and say “prost” with a crisp lager made at one of Munich’s top breweries.

The English Garden is one of Europe’s largest urban gardens and is just a short walk from the Viktualienmarkt. Watch the Eichbach River surfers on your way to the “Chinesischer Turm’s” (Chinese Tower) beer garden, one of the city’s largest.

 Still, if beers and brats aren’t your idea of a garden party, exploring Nymphenburg Palace will do the trick. The summer residence of Bavaria’s monarchs, Prince Ferdinand Maria built the palace in 1664 to celebrate the birth of his heir, Max Emanuel. Stroll the gardens, tour the palace and museums, or ride a gondola before grabbing brunch at Schlosscafé im Palmenhaus. Savor light German fare such as “käsespätzle” (think German macaroni-and-cheese) or “schnitzelgaud“ (fried turkey with wild cranberries) while soaking up the sunshine in the beautiful solarium or courtyard, weather permitting.

 Back in the city’s center, it’s more about dinner from the garden at TIAN gourmet restaurant. Located just steps from the Viktualienmarkt, chef Christoph Mezger shows prowess in creating vegetarian masterpieces using seasonal fruits, vegetables, and grains.  

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Less than two hours via train, the ski town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen south of Munich is near Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze.  

At the Olympic stadium (the winter games were here in 1936), hop on a two-person, open-air cable car and savor a Bavarian specialty, “weisswurst” (veal sausage flavored with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger, and cardamom) during your ride up Eckbauer Mountain.

 Back in town, visit Chocolateire Amelie on Ludwigstrasse for wonderful handmade Bavarian chocolates. 

“You can see behind the glass that we don’t hide anything,” said chocolatier Franz Kiesser. Tours are offered Friday mornings.

The restaurant at Biohotel Garmischer Hof, is 100-percent-organic, where “philosophy comes together from the rooms to the table, and even the staff, who’ve been here forever,” says hotelier Florian Seiwald. Sit in the main dining room while live piano concertos serenade a symphony of modern Bavarian flavors.

For breathtaking views and more traditional Bavarian fare, such as “speckknödel auf kraut” (bacon dumplings on kraut), journey up Wank Mountain to Berggasthof Panorama. On the other side of town, the back of the mountain offers equally magical vistas. Take a 30-minute hike to the small, family-owned restaurant and dairy farm, Gschwandtnerbauer. Eighth-generation farmers/restaurateurs Hansjoig and Sabine Neuner make good use of their rare Murnau-Werdenfelser herd’s cream for the most delectable strudel and home-cooked meals over a wood-burning stove. 

Würzburg 

Travel north by train about 2½ hours and you’ll reach Würzburg, a charming city on the Main River. Würzburg also is in the center Franconian wine country region and has a popular Christmas market. 

Franconia is a region within Bavaria, and vineyards of regional varietals, Silvaner and Riesling, surround Würzburg. It’s easy to spot Franonian wine, thanks to its distinctive “bocksbeutel,” a wine bottle that resembles a flattened ellipsoid. 

Don’t miss the large wine-growing estates here, beginning with Hofkeller, the oldest documented winery in Germany; its deed dates to the 12th century. Hofkeller’s wine cellar is a labyrinth below the Würzburg Residence and court gardens.Other large wine estates to tour include Juliusspital and Bürgerspital. 

Continue your wine tour of Würzburg by popping into Vinothek Tiepolo, considered the best wine bar in town, and enjoy the live music in the cellar.

At Kuno 1408, chef Sternekoch Benedikt Faust uses local, seasonal ingredients in this award-winning restaurant. Savor the flavors of original Franconian fare at Backöfele (loosely translated, baking), a family restaurant that dates to the 16th century. Lunch and dinners here will warm your soul. 

Indeed, the Bavarian/Franconian culture is as hearty as its cuisine and never dry as its wine. It’s filled with people who are good stewards of the land and its inhabitants. Cross the Atlantic Ocean and see for yourself. 

Melissa Corbin is a contributor from Nashville, Tenn.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN AAA MIDWEST TRAVELER/AAA SOUTHERN TRAVELER

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