TYPE ‘Munich’ into Google and it’s no real surprise that Oktoberfest is one of the first items to come up.
It’s not difficult to see why when six million people from all over Europe descend on the city every year for a month-long beer bonanza.
But although Oktoberfest was at the top of our ‘to do’ lists at the start of our trip to Bavaria, by the end we realised that there is so much more to the region which is now easily accessible thanks to Lufthansa’s new routes from Manchester.
Even Munich airport will impress you - it’s an oasis of calm and serenity and boasts a fine array of shops and its own brewery - well it is Bavaria. Located 45 minutes from the city centre, there is a remarkably efficient rail service.
Before we go any further, I have to say that alcohol will feature prominently but that doesn’t prevent Munich being an excellent location for a weekend break for tee totallers (although you may want to steer clear of Oktoberfest).
Our trip was a whirlwind introduction to Bavaria and our first stop was the pictureque town of Altotting. It’s best known for being the home to the statue of the Black Madonna, which attracts pilgrims from all over the world.
In the Fifteenth Century legend has it that a mother lay her child who had drowned in the nearby river in front of the statue and that her son breathed again.
The Chapel of Grace in the town has become a shrine as a result.
Waking up to the church bells in a luxurious suite at Hotel Zur Post in the heart of Altotting was a magical experience but there was plenty more to come.
Our next stop was Lake Chiemsee which with the mountains towering above it can only be described as breathtaking.
It’s worth taking a boat trip out on the lake and its two islands. Herreninsel (or gentleman’s island) was the home of King Ludwig II who planned to build a replica of the Palace of Versailles there but lack of funds meant the project was never completed. You can still walk around the palace and it’s easy to see why Ludwig, known as the crazy king, ran out of money.
The neighbouring Fraueninsel gets its name from the Bendictine nunnery which is still there today.
Having enjoyed the mountain views from the lake, it was now time to head up into the rarified atmosphere and our next stop-over point, the Hotel Ortnerhof nestling in the Chiemgau mountains in the village of Ruhpolding.
Even at the hotel, we were in danger of neck strain as the peaks rose above the village.
The village is almost picture postcard perfect with a wonderfully welcoming feel, but it’s worth taking a detour to the nearby stadium which hosted this year’s world biathlon championships (ski-ing and shooting in case you’re wondering).
Having explored the countryide our next destination was Munich itself.
The state capital is worthy of your attention at any time of year but has a unique atmosphere during Octoberfest.
Traditional lederhosen and girdles appear to be the dress code of choice for many, along with some less traditional fancy dress and if you are of a sensitive disposition then Oktoberfest will not be for you. It is a celebration of beer and drinking and you will find visitors of all nationaliities in various states of intoxication.
But the atmosphere is friendly and everyone is there to have a good time.
Large marquees lined with trestle tables are everywhere and trays of steins are carried about by bar staff with amazing skill.
Oktoberfest is a great place to meet people of all nationalities letting their hair down and if you are the sociable type you’ll love it.
But I’d also love to return to Bavaria once all the empties have been cleared away - there is so much history and charm, you certainly don’t need alcohol to enjoy it.
Flights Lufthansa flies to Munich from Manchester three times daily (LH2505/01/03) Prices start from as little as £99 economy class return including taxes. To book your flights, you can either use the online booking system http://www.lufthansa.com/uk/ or contact via telephone on +44 (0) 871 945 9747* calls cost 10p per minute.
- Hotel Zur Post, Kapellplatz 2, 84503 Altotting. For reservations, ring 0049 (0)8671 5040 or www.hotelpostaltoetting.de
- Wohlfulhotel Ortnerhof, Ort 6, D-833324 Ruhpolding. For reservations, ring +49 (0) 8663-8823-0 or at www.ortnerhof.de
- Maritim Hotel, Goethestrasse 7, 80336 Munich. For reservations, book online at www.maritim.com/en/hotels/germany/hotel-muenchen