A Bavarian winter wonderland

A Bavarian winter wonderland

by Amanda Palumbo
Stripes Europe

There is not a bad season to visit Bavaria but Bavaria in winter? Well, that’s a sight words will do no justice. While Zugspitze and Garmisch-Partenkirche seem to get all the winter wonderland headlines, and rightfully so, the area is a frozen fairytale come to life. But, if you’re looking for a new, less traversed winter excursion, head east to Bayerischer Wald, the Bavarian Forest.

Germany’s first park

Bavarian Forest National Park is a 94-square mile mix of forest, mountains and wildlife. It bleeds into the Czech Republic, where the forest is called Šumava, or the Bohemian National Forest. It holds a special place in German hearts, as it was the country’s first national park and amasses more than 700,000 visitors each year.

The forest is filled with towering spruce and fir trees, providing the perfect scent of evergreen. Those gorgeous trees lead right up to the peak of each mountain. The park is full of rare wildlife, such as the Eurasian Lynx, a wildcat that nearly went extinct due to excessive poaching. It’s also home to 1,800 different species of beetles, which by no means is a tourist draw, but I bet you found that interesting.

Not your average hike

Unfortunately, due to gravity, hikers are normally anchored to the ground, weaving through tall trees on trails where you often can’t even see the sky above you. That is not the case in the Bavarian Forest. You can hike along the treetops! The Treetop Walk is a 1,300 meter (.8 mile) trail that takes you between 25 and 80 feet off the ground. You can walk through the tops of the beech, spruce and fir trees. There are stations throughout the trail including rope bridges, balance beams and even trapezes.

The trail leads up to the “Baumei” or “tree egg.” This winding egg-like structure takes you to the height of the trail, giving you a 365-degree view of the forest. No matter when you go, you will get a breathtaking view. In winter, you’ll get to see a still and snowy paradise as wet snow clings to the branches of the evergreen trees. Just over the tips of the trees you’ll see the rolling hills and meadows snuggled in front of snow-capped mountain tops. The best thing about this trail is it is very family-friendly, so the younger kids will get to experience this incredible view.

Snowsports abound

For a much more intense hiking experience, and if you really want to work those quads and glutes, snowshoeing is very popular in the Bavarian Forest. Everyone should snowshoe at least once in their life. With each step, the snow makes this cathartic crunching sound, as the warm sun falls over you and reflects off the microscopic angles of each individual, unique snowflake.

Ski bums can really get a lot of bang for their buck in the Bavarian Forest. One hour ski passes are just 11 euros and 24 euros for the entire day. There are discounts for children, families and seniors and gear can be rented or purchased on-site. They even offer something I’ve been dying to do: night skiing. Imagine soaring down a mountainside with the moon in your view and the snow in front of you glistening in the moonlight.

Where to crash

There are places to stay for every style and budget through the park itself and the neighboring villages. From quaint bed and breakfasts that provide the full Bavarian experience to four-star resorts with every amenity imaginable, there is no shortage of places to stay. There are even private cabins and apartments you can rent for a quiet weekend away.

2020 has been nothing short of ridiculous, mentally taxing and, at times, even heartbreaking. As Elsa said herself, it’s time to “let it go.” What better way to do that, than spending time in a silent and secluded winter wonderland forest where you can easily kick back, relax and socially distance your troubles away.

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