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The largest and richest state in Germany, Bavaria (German: Bayern) is also the source of most foreigners' stereotypes of Germany. Cultural icons like Oktoberfest, Christkindlmarkts, Alpen huts, pretzels, strong beer, Apfelstrudel, Dirndls, Lederhosen, Lebkuchen and those wonderful Christmastide candied almonds are all essentially Bavarian.
Bavaria shares international borders with Austria and the Czech Republic as well as with Switzerland (across Lake Constance). Because all of these countries are part of the Schengen Area, the border is completely open. Neighbouring states within Germany are Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thüringen and Sachsen. Two major rivers flow through the state, the Danube (Donau) and the Main. The Bavarian Alps define the border with Austria, (including the Austrian federal-states of Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Salzburg) and within the range is the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze. The Bavarian Forest and the Bohemian Forest form the vast majority of the frontier with the Czech Republic and Bohemia.
Lake Konstanz, (in German: Bodensee) is the largest lake in all of Germany, bordering both Austria and Switzerland. This is a great place for boating and cycling. There are several ferries crossing the lake and there is a bicycle path around the lake that can be done over several days. On the German part of the lake, there is a small island called Mainau, which is a place of interest for lovers of flowers and gardens.
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The Castle Neuschwanstein is the biggest legacy of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The construction of the castle commenced in 1868 and was completed in 1892, several years after the King died. The castle is that of a fairytale prince. It was the inspiration for Walt Disney's Castle of the Sleeping Beauty, and has been copied in some of the Disney parks. The castle itself was inspired on Opera's by Richard Wagner, especially the Opera Tannhauser, in which the Swan knight Lohengrin is the central figure. Seven weeks after the King died in 1886 the castle was opened for the public. It has become one of Europe's top attractions and is visited by around 1.3 million people every year. The Castle is situated in the Alps of southern Germany, near the town of Füssen. Visits can be done pretty easy from Munich as well. There are several tour operators offering day trips, but you can also go by train and bus. Near to the castle also lies the castle of Hohenschwangau.
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The Oktoberfest is held annualy in Munich, actually starting already in September! Although more cities have Oktoberfeste, this one is the best known and in fact is the largest fair in the world, with 6 million visitors a year. Finding a place to stay during these days can be very hard, and if you want to stay in Munich itself booking ahead (far ahead) is requiered. The festival takes place at the Theresienwiese since 1810, when it was held as a celibration for the marriage between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen Over the years there have been 24 cancellations of the fest for many reasons in this period, including wars and diseases. Since 1950 the Oktoberfest as we know it today emerged. Most of the breweries set up an own tent at the festival. Over the last few year the one from the Hofbrauhaus has been the biggest, with a capacity of almost 10,000 for this tent alone. Besides drinking beer, there is (in good German tradition) enough to eat, and enough to do. A fairground is erected at the grounds to entertain the young and the old. The beer is poured in 1 litre mugs. The mugs carry the logo of the brewery who's beer you are drinking. If you like your mug so much that you want to take it home, be warned that stealing a mug can cost you a fine of €50. It's better to buy one, and keep the receipt for the occasion that the police wants to see the receipt.
1. Munich Airport (also called Franz Josef Strauss International Airport) (MUC) is the second busiest airport in Germany and is only 28 kilometres from the city. This airport is a major hub for Lufthansa making it easy to connect to many major cities in the world.
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2. Memmingen Airport (FMM) is a small airport, mainly serving low-cost flights, for example with Ryanair, which flies to/from Alicante, Bremen, Dublin, Edinburgh, Faro, Girona, London Stansted Airport, Malaga, Oslo, Porto, Rome, Stockholm and Valencia and seasonal to/from Alghero, Palma de Mallorca, Pisa, Reus and Trapani. Several other airlines serve destinations like Kiev, Belgrade, Antalya, Heraklion, Belfast and Naples, some of them chartered and/or seasonal (summer) only. Because of its proximity to Munich, the airport is also sometimes called Munich West Airport. The Allgäu Airport Express Bus, normally scheduled to coincide with departing and arriving flights, provides service to Munich and Zurich. A local bus connects the airport to the Memmingen train station, with subsidized "Ruftaxi" service available off hours if requested in advance (cost the same as a bus ticket). A taxi from the rank to downtown Memmingen costs approximately €10.
3. Nuremberg Airport (NUE) is the 2nd busiest airport in Bavaria and the 10th busiest in Europe. It is mainly used by charter flights to Southern European destinations. The closest bigger airports with intercontinental flights are Frankfurt am Main International (FRA) and Munich Airport (MUC).
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To get to Nuremberg Airport by public transport take Underground 2 from the main train station to stop "Flughafen". It travels every 10 to 15 minutes, and takes only 12 minutes to reach the Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway Station) and the nearby Altstadt (historic old town). Just taking the bike or walking to the airport is even possible if you like, as it is not that far from certain neighbourhoods.
Deutsche Bahn (DB) is the national railway company of Germany and offers trains to and from Bavaria. The ICE line from Berlin to Munich via Leipzig/Halle and Nuremberg is one of the lines that is currently upgraded to higher speeds. Right now a direct ICE from Berlin to München takes about 6 hours, but once the construction between Leipzig and Nuremberg is finished in 2017 travel times are projected to fall to around four hours. Tickets can be had starting at €19 when bought in advance or up to €130 when bought immediately prior to departure or on the train.
There are plenty of long-distance trains (category EC, ICE and Railjet) from Vienna, Linz, Salzburg, Villach and Klagenfurt. If you travel in a group and want to save money, use a regional trains with combination of Einfach-Raus-Ticket and Bayern-Ticket.
There is one daily TGV high-speed connection between Paris and Munich, via Augsburg, Stuttgart and Strasbourg.
Eurolines connects to several German cities, including Munich. There are now several domestic bus routes in and out of Bavaria, as well as a couple of international routes.
Trains are the main mode of transport for visitors since they easily connect towns with larger cities.
If you're travelling within Bavaria, you can purchase the Bayern-Ticket, which will give you all-day travel in regional trains (categories S, RB, RE and IRE) within Bavaria and even to the border towns of Salzburg, Reutte or Ulm. You can use it also for private trains and most of local buses and city transport. On working days the ticket is valid 09:00-03:00 the following day. On weekends it is valid from midnight.
Bavaria is well served by the German autobahn network. The main grid is made up by the north-south autobahn A 9, and the east-west autobahns A 3, A 6 and A 8. Going by car is sometimes the only way to get around, especially deep in Bavaria's rural and mountainous areas. In the countryside, roads are winding, tricky, and sometimes cut dramatically through farmland, but are otherwise EU-standardised and generally well-paved.
Intercity buses are mostly limited to longer distances than you'll commonly find in Bavaria, but they are a good option along the Romantic Road or for airport transfers.
Bavarian cuisine is the stereotypical German cuisine, famous for roast pork (Schweinsbraten), Bratwürstl sausages, Nürnberger Bratwurst (probably the smallest sausage in Germany), veal sausages (Weißwurst) eaten for breakfast, Leberkäse (a type of meat loaf), grilled pork knuckle (Schweinshaxe), as well as a variety of different dumplings (Knödel/Klöße) and potato salad (Kartoffelsalat). In the Oberallgäu, the south-westernmost part of Bavaria, the traditional food is Kässpatzen made with much Bavarian cheese.
Also, some restaurants have various seasonal specials based on what is available locally at that time. There can be specials like truffle dishes in the southern mountain areas, specialty mushrooms in the Upper Palatinate area, seasonal salmon dishes on the Danube and Altmühl area, local trout specials in all small villages, seasonal asparagus dishes, and occasional fresh wild boar and venison dishes during hunting season - Bavaria is a gastronomic wonderland, especially for the meat aficionado!
Bavarians love their beer. One of the most beloved is wheat beer (Weißbier), a cloudy, top-fermented beer brewed with malted wheat, which is commonly consumed earlier in the day with a Weißwurst and sweet mustard. It's good to know that there exists a special ritual with this beer: Normally it will be served in a special glass, called Weißbierglas. But if you get the empty glass and the bottle of beer, you have to fill it by yourself: in one step without dropping the bottle. Weissbier is more carbonated than most other beers and produces a lot of foam so it is not easy to fill without spilling something.
Bavaria could easily opt for the title of "Promised Land of Brewing". Not only is it home to Oktoberfest, the world's biggest beer festival, but also the highest brewery density in the world is in the north of the state, in Franconia. There, you can find a brewery in almost every village (it is sometimes very small and maintained among a few families). You can find a lot of local beer specialities, as for instance the Bamberger Schlenkerla (a beer with a taste of smoked bacon). So always try to stick with the local beers - especially tasty (and supposedly healthy) are the unfiltered beers (served only in pubs, because they don't store well for a long time).
In summer, you can generally find beer festivals everywhere: not only in the bigger cities but also in the smaller villages; be warned, however, that the beer there is normally served in 1 L ceramic glasses called Maß. The biggest beer festival certainly is the Munich Oktoberfest, followed twice a year by the Nuremberg Volksfest and Gäubodenfest in Straubing. Also very nice is Bergkirchweih in Erlangen. If you are touring Upper Bavaria in August, you shouldn´t miss Barthelmarkt in Oberstimm, next to Ingolstadt, which is one of the oldest traditional beer festivals in Bavaria. It´s still kind of a local insider tip. You will hardly find foreigners there. On Monday there is a big horse market and the beer tents open already at 05:30 and they are packed with people at 06:00.
Bavaria's beer garden (Biergarten) season starts in mid April and runs right through well into October. The shade of ancient horse chestnut trees become a rendezvous point for both young and old, white and blue collar workers, rich and not-so-rich, and locals and visitors alike: a place to enjoy a convivial glass of cold local beer and some tasty Bavarian snacks. You can even bring your own food (but not drinks).
Franconia is known as the home of beer cellars. What is called beer gardens in the south are called beer cellars (Bierkeller) in the north. But rather than sitting in the beer cellar you actually sit on top of it. The ancient underground cellars, that are just perfect for storing beer, are usually located in idyllic rural settings. So it really was a natural step to set up a few beer tables and serve the beer to people right on site. As many Bierkeller are too far away from town to walk and driving there presents obvious DUI problems, Franconians like to visit them with a bicycle (the DUI limit being notably higher at 0.13% and less strictly enforced). It is perfectly okay in the great majority of them to bring your own food, as long as you order at least one drink (alcoholic or not). A common choice in drink is Radler (literally cyclist, so called probably because it is an ideal refreshment for cyclists that leaves them sober enough to drive on) a mix of roughly equal parts lemonade (Sprite or 7up or a generic clone) and beer. The selection of food in a Bierkeller includes mostly cold foods like Kellerplatte (mostly different types of sausage and bread) or Obatzda (a type of cottage cheese) or Handkäs mit Musik (literally hand-cheese with "music" the "music" being caused by the onions). More and more Bierkeller also offer warm food including all the Franconian food listed above and in the Franconia article. Breweries in Franconia lists breweries, beer cellars, brewery museums.
The north of Bavaria is famous not only for its beer but especially for its (white) wines that come in special bottles called Bocksbeutel (bottles with a big round yet flat belly). For a sweet treat, try ice wine (Eiswein), made from grapes that are allowed to stay until the first severe frost and then pressed and made into a very sweet wine.
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