Is there anywhere in the world more of a heaven for the Beer & Hike enthusiast than the Free State of Bavaria?
When I think of Bavaria (not the ridiculously named brewery and beer in The Netherlands), I think of beer, giant pretzels, lakes and mountains carrying a fairytale mystique, oompah music, and the distinctive blue and white colors on the flag. I once shared this with a German colleague from the industrial region of Essen several years ago and was swiftly admonished with a fist slammed on the table that THAT is NOT Germany! I suppose if you ask a Bavarian, they will agree.
It is Bavaria.
Bavaria is a bit like the Texas of Germany. What other state in the United States are the people referred to by the state name like Texas? When you want to refer to someone from Texas, he or she is a Texan. Hawaiian? Yeah, sort of. But we often forget they are a state. Texan rolls off the tongue as comfortable as a pair of old jeans. And it has context. Saying Texan conjures up an image of pickup truck, longhorn, larger-than-life, cowboy toughness, even if the person you are referring to is anything but that. Texans take pride in having an independent spirit and carry themselves with the attitude that Texas gives the privilege of its statehood to the United States, not the other way around.
Bavaria is the same. Bavaria calls itself the Free State because it once was ruled by a king but abolished that after World War I. But you can bet deep down in the heart of the Bavarian, it refers to their independent-spirited identity from the rest of Germany. Bavarians are Bavarians first, Germans second. But not all Bavarians are Bavarians first. Just ask the Franconian Bavarians (who are Franconians first and quite possibly Franconians second too). On my way home from Mayrhofen, Austria, I decided to stop for one night in the Bavarian part of Bavaria. Upper Bavaria to be exact. Which is south of Lower Bavaria. Is this all making sense? This is Old Europe, folks. Everything is like an oddly leaning half-timber house. It warms your heart to see it, but makes you wonder how the Hell it got that way.
Let’s set the scene.
The most dominant characteristic which impresses itself on the traveller in Bavaria, is the intense spirit of devotion which immediately manifests itself as one leaves Prussia, Baden and Würtemberg and draws within her borders. A perceptable change becomes apparent in the atmosphere. Out of the landscape, the first thing which rises up to greet one, as one approaches village or town, is the spire of some church or cathedral. The houses always nestle round the protecting walls of some ancient, monastic retreat.A Brief History of Bavaria by Gertrude Norman (1906)
Bavaria is to northern Germany what Belgium is to the Netherlands, and more or less for the same reason… The Thirty Years War from 1618 – 1648. Crossing the border from Belgium to the Netherlands, particularly in terms of the churches and cathedrals, one goes from lavish, gothic Catholic to grand but subdued Protestant. Bavaria was on the Catholic side of that conflict and today, religious symbolism is still everywhere in Bavaria like it is in Belgium, from the painted murals on the houses, to Virgin Mary iconography weaved into the architecture, to the crosses on gipfels or mountain tops. Those “monastic retreats” were abundent in Bavaria but like all the abbeys I have visited in Belgium, they also fell victim to the post-French Revolution era of Napoleon. Fortunately some still survive today, such as the Ettal Abbey which was part of Oktoberfest Weekend 2018.
As I pulled into my hotel at the lakeside village of Tegernsee, I was there to see an Abbey which took a different path since the Napoleonic days — the Tegernsee Abbey to you and I and the St. Quirinus Abbey to the historians. The Benedictine abbey was started in 746 and more or less witnessed the entire history of Bavaria until it was dissolved in 1803. It continued on as an unofficial monastic community until the property was purchased by Maximilian I Joseph, the King of Bavaria in 1817. Since then the property has remained out of the abbey business and in the hands of the royal House of Wittlesbach family. Today the property houses the… pausing to check my spelling….
Herzloglich Bayerisches Brauhaus Tegernsee, or The Tegernsee Brewery of the Dukes of Bavaria, a brewery which has been ongoing since the late 1600’s under various names and owners.
You didn’t think I chose this town because of the lake did you?
Before I would reward myself with an evening of Tegernsee beers, however, I wanted to do something to earn it. A quick glance at the tourist map in the hotel lobby revealed a hiking route to nearby Baumgartenschneid peak. After a week in the Zillertal Alps, it’s 1444m height and 720m ascent seemed like a relaxing stroll.
|Starting Point||Tegernsee Lakefront|
|Moving / Total Time||2h38m / 4h13m|
|Eating Place||Galaun/Berggasthaus Riederstein|
Baumgartenschneid Hike Highlights
Along the trail, you pass by the Berggasthaus Riederstein where it is possible to have a meal and beer. I stopped on the way down. By this time, ominous clouds were rolling in.
With the hike finished, I was starving for a schnitzel. I followed the lakefront to the abbey, just a couple hundred meters from my hotel, Seehotel zur Post. There is a pier directly in front of the hotel where a boat charters tourists and locals around the lake.
A great place to shop for Tegernsee beer souvenirs is just across from the abbey.
The Tegernsee Abbey dominates the town of less than 4000 residents. The St. Quirinus church is magnificently baroque and worth a short peek. But I was famished and quickly snatched up an outside table at the Bräustüberl.
The Bavarian colors of blue and white are used by the brewery, as do most breweries in this part of Bavaria. The HTB monogram resembles that of Hofbräu which also uses the HB and crown. There are four types of Lager beer produced by the brewery, each with a different alcohol content. The Leicht (2.8%), Helles (4.8%), Max. I Joseph Jubiläums (5.2%), and the Spezial (5.6%). The 5th beer is a Dunkel (5%). The lagers all have the typical fresh crisp taste that epitomize good German beers. Just something about the water here. Untappd lists a few others, a Kellerbier, pils, and bock, but none of these were available at the restaurant or shop.
The gloomy clouds which hurried the last segment of my hike consumed the blues and greens of the lake leaving a grey hue which lay like an autumn blanket over this final breath of summer. The pastel yellow of the abbey gave a dull glow against the oddly comforting premature evening darkness as I sat there at my table sipping a Tegernsee beer. A surge of wind ripped at a few of the lightly anchored umbrellas sending the waitstaff into an ant-like frenzy to secure them from the coming barrage. Half way thru my schnitzel, the drone of surrounding conversations was interrupted by a pitter patter. First a pleasant tapping against the awning, followed by an increasing clangor, and then a maelstrom sending evening strollers running for shelter.
Safe from the deluge, the refreshing wind and the sight of discordant weather after a week of relentless sunshine brought an awakening to my senses. Like the feeling you get when you miss someone. Somehow this was the universe putting things in balance. Sunshine, rain. Summer, Autumn. Holiday beginnings, holiday endings. The thread holding all universes together, love eternal. Here I was, sitting just out of reach of the pouring rain, a solitary organism in a vast incomprehensible ordered chaos. St. Quirinus warped into abstract shapes thru the beer glass each time I brought it to my lips. My eyes scanned the architecture, the people’s faces, the aprons of the scurrying waitstaff, the lake rippling with the impact of the raindrops, the trees billowing in the wind, a biker whizzing by oblivious to the torrent. Each filling a sensory catalog in the annals of my Appreciation library.
Blue. It was blue that finally rose to the surface thru the discordant stimuli. Like the blue on the Tegernsee beer coaster, the lettering on the beer glass, the lozenges on the Bavarian flag. That particular blue that you see everywhere in Bavaria is what seems to connect my soul to the concept of Bavaria. Blue. Like my beloved blue butterfly. But not your everyday blue. What blue is it? Sky blue? Powder blue? The rush of curiosity led me to the Bavarian anthem and the lyric die Farben Seines Himmels, Weiß und Blau (the colors of the heavens, white and blue). I found it poetic that there is no official code of Bavarian blue on the RGB scale. Like the blue, the heavens are open to interpretation, to the wonder of our imagination, not mapped to an exact color or idea. For this pilgrim, Bavaria felt like heaven at that moment. As I gazed into the distance, my mind’s eye suddenly took the form of a butterfly fluttering thru fields of green, covered in yellow poppies. This led me to crystal blue lakes with lakeside villages appearing like giant flower boxes in their reflections while proud mountains stood around whispering of ancient lore. I was snapped back to the moment with the scrape of my fork and knife against my empty plate. Yes, I was missing something, and I am pretty sure it is going to draw me back into a universe of blue.