After ten months of strict isolation, what better place to ease back out into the world than some isolated village in the middle of the Bayerische Wald (or Bavarian Forest) in Germany. Ruhmannsfelden, a tiny hamlet of 2000 people, feels like the type of place where you wouldn’t be surprised to be met with puzzled looks when mentioning the pandemic to the local villagers. That is until you walk into a business with the wrong type of mask on. When the employees swarm on you like angry wasps, you realize how silly that idea was.

Such was my introduction to the Bavarian mask laws when I walked into a Ruhmannsfelden bakery on the first morning of a week-long Beer getaway in this beautiful, remote part of Germany. It was quite the inauspicious start to kick off my first holiday in ages with my tail between my legs, and it would only get weirder. But there is one thing for sure, when you are in Bavaria, you are never too far from a brewery. It’s just all a matter of how you get to them. As I would find out though, in small town Bavaria, time may stand still, but timing is still everything.

Ruhmannsfelden
A Ruhmannsfelden Kindergarten

They Call it Minga

Aside from my unfortunate bakery encounter (where I was turned away from a huge yummy looking brezel), I found the Ruhmannsfelden locals to be quite welcoming. This isn’t a tourist town, and the presence of any tourist is likely to be the center of gossip. There is one modest biergarten in the village center, where I spent one memorable evening chatting with curious locals, one of which was a local 19-year old sniper from the military who seemed intent on challenging me to a drinking contest. After nursing his maß (a 1-liter mug) for a couple hours, he mysteriously excused himself leaving an open tab and 1/3rd of his maß. The waitress rolled her eyes like a disgusted mother. Everybody knows everybody in Ruhmannsfelden, and for sure by the next day, half the town would know he skipped out. I could easily see her grabbing him by the ear the next time he showed his face.

A Wolferstetter Weizenbier in Ruhmannsfelden

Anyway, it wasn’t much of a drinking challenge, but I did get enlightening exposure to the Bavarian language. If you know a little of the German language, you will quickly distinguish that the Bavarian dialect is quite different. One only needs to compare the words for Munich, the capital of Bavaria. In German, it’s München. In Bavarian, it’s Minga. Now that I think of it, I regret never asking the Bavarian for Ruhmannsfelden.

Where to Stay?

Most of the towns in the area are quite rural. Bodenmais is probably the most touristy village with some nice colorful Bavarian-style biergartens and shops. But if you are looking for a peaceful escape, you can’t do much better than Ruhmannsfelden. And I highly recommend the Haus am Osterbrünnl holiday apartments.

Haus am Osterbrünnl
Haus am Osterbrünnl

The Bayerische Wald is covered with low lying mountains, forests, and farmland. It is an idyllic landscape and the views from these apartments are splendidly tranquil and offer an authentic taste of the countryside. I enjoyed waking up every morning and looking out over the hills around the Teisnach river valley and imagining the lives of the people living across the river in one of the distant houses. Meanwhile just below the apartments is a picturesque and curious chapel and cemetery.

Morning view
Osterbrünnl-Kapelle

Known as the Osterbrünnl-Kapelle, it is an official Catholic pilgrimage chapel (or Wallfahrtskapelle). The history of this chapel starts in 1660 with the story of a local farm boy who was out tending some cattle when he discovered a glowing statue of Mary floating on the river. As he was carrying the statue from the river, it suddenly became too heavy. When it dropped to the ground, a spring welled up which healed the boy of a foot ailment.

Osterbrünnl-kapelle
Painting depicting a pilgrimage to the chapel
Painting depicting the miracle of the glowing statue
Descendants of the farm boy’s cows?

Two times the villagers tried to build a chapel at this location. The first time in the early 1700’s but it was burned down by the local monastery which controlled the area. The second time was around 1810 after the monastery was abolished. But now a local judge ordered the chapel to be torn down for unexplained reasons. Finally around 1820, it was rebuilt again, and this time was finally consecrated. Nearby the chapel are provocative Tottenbretter (or death boards) which are like wooden headstones for those buried in the cemetery. There is also a 14-stage way of the cross and a path leading to a place on the Teisnach river where one can step into the river and make a circuit in the very frigid water using a guiderail. I don’t know what this will heal, but it is perfect after a long hike.

Tottenbretter (death boards)
Way of the Cross
Get your foot ailments healed here

What to Do in the Bayerische Wald

Bayerische Wald

This list highlights what you should do, but not necessarily how I did them.

  • Beer & Bike: There are enough breweries around that it is possible to visit up to 5 within a 60 km roundtrip from Ruhmannsfelden. However, Beer & Bike in the Bayerische Wald is easier said than done. Because of this, I won’t specifically recommend any although in my next blog post, I will recount two of them. There are three things to consider when planning one:
    1. What day is it? Many of the brewery biergartens are closed multiple days of the week or have limited opening hours. Research carefully. More on that in the next post.
    2. Expect about 500-600m of elevation changes for any ride of considerable length
    3. What kind of bike are you riding? One of the interesting things I observed during this trip was how few road cyclists I saw. In fact, I am not sure I saw a single one. That would be unheard of in Belgium. Maybe there is a reason for that. What I did see were a lot of electric bikes. I have always lauded e-bikes as only for commuting. For leisure activities, they are cheating. However, I realize now that someone living in mountainous or hilly areas who isn’t training for the Tour de France wouldn’t make such a ludicrous statement.
  • Beer & Hike: There are two such hikes which are must do’s
    1. Adam Bräu to Großer Arbor – the Groser Arbor (1456m) is the highest mountain in the Bayerische Wald and Adam Bräu is a nice brewery with a biergarten located in the village of Bodenmais.
    2. Sittler Bräu to The Three Country Point – Germany, Austria, and Czech Republic meet in the middle of the forest which has some busy hiking trails. Most people on the Germans side start from a parking lot near the top, but the pure beer hiker should start from Sittler Bräu, the in-house brewery of the Bier- & Wohlfühlhotel, a beer-themed hotel and spa.

  • Berggasthof Zottling: Have a meal and some local beers with a great view
View from Berggasthof Zottling
  • Day Trip to Passau: This beautiful Baroque city is reasonably close to the Bayersiche Wald. Less than a 2-hour drive from Ruhmannsfelden.
  • Relax: I struggle to relax on these kind of holidays. It shouldn’t have been difficult since this part of the world doesn’t move so fast. Taking a couple days just to lay on the hammock and read a book under the shade of a tree (available at the apartment) should have been planned but was not.
Should have done more of this

Beer in the Bayerische Wald

One of the most valuable beer tourism resources you will find anywhere is the Brauerei Atlas which has a map showing all the breweries in Germany. Most of the breweries in the Bayerische Wald are local breweries with distribution within a small region. The two main types of beer in this region are the Helles, a light golden beer similar to a pilsner but slightly sweeter, and the Hefeweizen (or Weisse/Weizen), which comes in a Helles (golden) or Dunkel (darker maltier) form.

When I am in Bavaria, the goal is to find the best hefeweizen helles. In my opinion, the quality of the hefeweizen comes in the presence of the “banana” flavor, which is derived from the yeast. Any hefeweizen without this is totally forgettable. Two such standouts during the trip were from Brauerei Falter and the Stockbauer Weissen from Löwenbräu Passau.

The Falter Weizenbier

Final Words

Over the next three blog posts, I will recount the stories of my bike rides, hikes, and visit to Passau. It was week full of cautionary tales, lessons learned, and rip-roaring fun. After a long period of isolation, it might have been a bit too hard, too soon. The relaxing moments were fleeting. In the late afternoon, the sun would blanket the hillside behind the apartments, and the wildflowers growing there would dance with butterflies; butterflies at the peak of their energy level this early in the summer. Attempts to photograph them with a cellphone became an exercise in futility. They fluttered, flapped, and weaved chaotically thru the air, never landing long enough to focus, and on the rare occasion that they almost did, they defiantly kept their wings pulled back. There was a message from the universe in there somewhere. Maybe it’s time to start letting holidays breathe a little bit rather than constantly seeking the next high. But chilling doesn’t make for good stories, and everyday the adventure became symbolic of the chase for a good butterfly pic.

The best of a series of frustrating shots of energetic butterflies
M.G.G.P.

7 thoughts on “Adventures in the Bavarian Forest: A Beer Holiday

  1. Looking forward to the upcoming posts. This is something I want to do – go visit small breweries in small towns!

    I was wondering if this is zoigl beer territory – something I want to visit some day as well.

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  2. Banana flavor?! How fun! Butterflies are fast! I am an avid follower of them and have plenty of blurry winged photos to show for my efforts. 😄. But, the dance done alongside them in those moments is a joyful memory, whether there’s a picture to show for it or not. Yours is lovely. ☺️

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  3. Reading your blog posts soooooooo makes me want to travel back to Europe. But for the moment, I’m traveling vicariously through your posts. Didn’t know about the ‘banana flavor’ but the next time I try one of those beers, I will see if that comes to mind. Thanks for your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

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