There can’t be many places that, when you glance quickly at them on a map, immediately communicate a feel for their inner qualities. Eastern Bavaria is one of them. Even to the casual observer, the resemblance to a furled leaf is obvious: through the midst runs the stalk and central vein - the river Danube – dividing this 20,000 square kilometre large chunk of green into a smaller, flatter left side and a bigger, right section that rears up in mountainous crumples. Embedded like nodules on the surface amongst the lighter patches which denote clearings and the darker speckles that represent the forests, nestle eight towns and cities. And just like Nature, Eastern Bavaria spoils both the visitor and its 2,25 million inhabitants with varied landscapes, changing colours and century old traditions all the year round.
Situated in the very heart of Europe, flanked to the north East by the Czech Republic and to the south East by Upper Austria, Eastern Bavaria is easily accessible by plane from Munich or Nuremberg by a net of intercity and regional trains and good roads for the motorist. In fact, why not start with some town-hopping? From Munich it is only a short drive to the four towns in Lower Bavaria and four in the Upper Palatinate, which together form the district of Eastern Bavaria.
With their unique, medieval city centres, pastel-coloured houses, cobbled squares and winding lanes, quiet corners and pavement cafés, museums and art galleries, all of these historical cities are delightful to explore. Landshut with its majestic streets – scene every four years of the famous Landshut Wedding – and St.Martin’s church with the highest brick steeple in the world; Passau, a peninsular surrounded by three rivers on the border to Austria; Deggendorf, the gateway to the Bavarian Forest; and Straubing, the erstwhile residence of the House of Wittelsbach.
In the middle, but with the same Mediterranean flair as the southern sisters, the cathedral city of Regensburg, which is UNESCO-world heritage and erstwhile political centre of Eastern Bavaria points the way north to Neumarkt, green with its newly created park and ruins of Wolfstein, then a little further north to charming little Amberg concealed within its city walls, and from there to Weiden, with its heritage of textile and china production. Not far from here is the Glass Road - a trail parallel to the border mountains leading through 250 kilometres of unspoilt countryside still steeped in the tradition of glassblowing.
For those hankering after a romantic holiday, Eastern Bavaria is the place to go. From individually tailored tours alongside quiet streams and pathways to winter hikes in guided groups with flaming torches, there is plenty to choose from.
In need of a some pampering? Eastern Bavaria is renowned for its excellent facilities that combine picturesque scenery, sports such as golf, with health programmes. The “Bavarian Spa country” with five spas offers classic massages as well as innovative treatments, and dotted around the countryside are many hotels happy to provide guests with everything from an Indian head massage to a mud bath, perfect when you have just returned from a day skiing down those snowy slopes.
Families are spoilt for choice: no less than 100 places, many farms, cater explicitly for young children and babies. Of course the needs of the busy business person have not been forgotten either. What better environment for organising a congress or conference in one of the well-equipped hotels, often in historic buildings, than in East Bavaria, close enough for easy travel and yet sufficiently remote to provide a tranquil setting for constructive meetings.
And when the work is done, well, Bavaria wouldn’t be Bavaria without a pint or so of beer! Treat yourself and at the same time, discover some of the world’s oldest breweries, but also culinary and architectural delights: the Beer and Baroque trail appeals –literally - to all senses.
Even if your grasp of German is a mite shaky, you will still enjoy a visit to one of the region’s many outstanding historical theatre productions, staged outdoors in the summer months by amateur actors and resplendent with colourful costumes - the annual Slaying of the Dragon in Furth im Wald and Dragon Museum never fail to attract thousands of visitors.
Eastern Bavaria - a wonderful place to live and a great idea for a holiday or break-away weekend. Give it a try – turn over a new leaf in your book!
© Sue Grant 2008; überprüft Monika Mirosavljevic 2015