The most-visited region of Germany has everything, great cities, rivers, vineyards, lakes and mountains.
States: Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg. It seems that, when the Creator was flying over Germany, distributing eye-candy from state to state, he emptied his basket over Bavaria as he left, which may also explain why this is the most traditionally Catholic region of Germany. Accordingly, thanks to the sheer variety of their landscapes and their more southerly climate, Bavaria and the neighbouring Black Forest (in Baden-Württemberg) are huge tourism destinations.
Bavaria is vast. A separate kingdom until as recently as the 1870s, it actually stretches all the way from the Alps practically up to Frankfurt. Almost a country in itself, it has its own north and south, with its northern part, Franconia, famous for sumptuous countryside, medieval villages, and attractive imperial cities like Nuremberg, home to one of Germany’s loveliest Christmas markets, and Bamberg, a centre for traditional beer brewing. Connecting north and south is the Romantic Road, which starts in Würzburg and travels through some of Germany prettiest towns and villages to end up in Füssen, in the shadow of one of Bavaria’s most iconic landmarks, Neuschwanstein castle.
Bavaria is vast
The Danube runs across Bavaria’s generous midriff, carving its way through Swabian limestone, ticking off cities like Ulm and Regensburg, side-stepping the Bavarian Forest and spreading across well worked plains towards Passau where it makes its exit into Austria.
Munich, host of the Oktoberfest, is a culturally rich city break, with fine examples of baroque ecclesiastical architecture and rococo palaces. It is also within easy striking distance of the foothills of the Alps, which offer skiing in winter and hiking in summer, with the Zugspitze the highest peak. Nearby lakes such as Constance and Chiemsee are the German equivalent of the Italian lakes, warming up to swimming temperature and busy with watersports in the summer.
The long low range of mountains known as the Black Forest runs for some 200km north to south along Baden-Württemberg’s western border with France. Although its actual forest cover is much reduced from the time when the Romans first called it the’Silva Negra’, its topography has prevented industrialisation, and preserved traditional villages and customs. It is colourful, scenic and well served by hiking and cycle trails.
Baden-Württemberg’s lesser-known region is the Swabian Alb, a high limestone plateau to the southeast of Stuttgart which is a hard taskmaster for farmers, and can be quite wild and bleak in the winter.