by Loraine Couturier
The Bavarian forest is tucked away from city life, three hours outside of Munich. The nature is at your doorstep which is rare in Europe. The area is still very traditional and in every little village, there’s often a brewery that has stood for centuries.
There is no lack of history here with the remnants of empires gone by. The village I live in was one of many villages that were a part of the glass making industry. The forest once fueled the huge ovens it takes to make blown glass.
Recently, I went to a Gasthaus which is a nice little tavern style restaurant with an outdoor beer garden. The beer garden overlooked green rolling hills and is opposite to one of the baron’s villas. There was an apple orchard with trees that were 500+ years old.
Any beer garden in Bavaria has a large chestnut tree in it and this Gasthaus was no exception. The server brought us beer in her traditional dirndl. My fiancé got himself a pork leg for dinner with a side of kraut and dumplings.
I got goose in a mushroom cream sauce over spetzle (freehand pasta from Austria). Inside, I could hear live traditional Bavarian music with an accordion. It all set the stage for a truly traditional Bavarian dinner at sunset.
The beer, one of the highlights of Bavaria is the beer. In fact, beer is considered food for the people, like bread, so there’s no tax. The finest fresh beer you’ve ever tasted from a century old brewery for very little money makes it a slice of heaven to me.
Every village has a Volksfest in the summer that are much smaller than the grandfather of festivals, the Oktoberfest. There is live Bavarian music and beer benches you are obligated to stand up and dance on.
It’s a fantastic atmosphere with people yelling at the top of their lungs. The beer comes in one litre glasses, which used to be stone (beer stein). I have a dirndl for such events and I wish I could wear it everyday because it’s so feminine and flattering.
My favorite time of year here is around Christmas because it literally is the front of a Christmas card. The warm glow of a small village wrapped in snow with lights and children playing outside. At the church, there are choirs singing carols I have known since childhood.
We place a candle on the window sill on Christmas Eve and let it burn all night so the Christmas child can find it’s way. I love it because it’s the Christmas spirit I recall from childhood, not a commercial holiday with Santa Claus. Bavaria isn’t flashy about anything; it is modest even though it’s beautiful and full with culture.
If I could sum it up in a feeling, it’s a lot like the Sound of Music. Rolling green fields with mountains in the background and beautiful century old estates. Many of the old villas and fortresses surrounding the area are abandoned now.
The elaborate, wealthy lifestyle has declined since the glass factories have stopped running. This area was world famous for their glass making and down every dirt path, you can still find little glass pebbles from days gone by.