The scope of Germany’s offerings extends far beyond the country’s most popular exports. From its sweeping vistas to its unique and regional gastronomy, Germany is comprised of regions just waiting to be discovered, which is why we were honored to delve deeper into German culture and cuisine at a recent event in partnership with the German National Tourist Board, sharing traditions and honoring new connections.
Known for its striking castles, vast forests, and traditional beer gardens, Bavaria showcases many of Germany’s finest offerings. Located in the country’s southeastern corner, where it borders Austria and the Czech Republic, Bavaria is easily the largest state in Germany, and nearly 13 million people call it home.
Bavarians are extremely proud of where they come from, given their state’s vibrant culture, gorgeous mountains, and crystal-clear lakes. In fact, it’d be hard to find a group that’s more enthusiastic about their scenery, heritage, and history. From Bavaria’s establishment as a duchy around 555 A.D. to its inclusion in the Holy Roman Empire and its tenure as a kingdom in the 19th century, this German state has an illustrious past (and the castles and medieval cities to prove it).
Most Bavarian communities have their own folk festivals, where they celebrate their towns with traditional costumes, dances, food, and music. The long-running festivals (some of which date back to 1,000 years ago) take place at various points in the spring, summer, and fall, and are centered around various themes. In the winter, Christmas markets take over the streets, making the coldest months a little more festive.
But the region’s best-known — and most appreciated — tradition is, without a doubt, Oktoberfest. At this lively festival, millions gather in Munich to listen to live music, watch parades, eat traditional Bavarian foods, and drink a lot of local beer (seven-and-a-half-million liters in 2017 alone). I guess it’s only fitting that the most common phrase heard during the festival is Prost! — or, “Cheers!”
While Oktoberfest draws hoards of seasonal visitors, Bavaria is more than just booze and brats — in fact, its natural and architectural wonders are a major draw to the region. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the beauty of the Bavarian Alps, whether they attempt to scale their summits or simply enjoy the view of the stunning snow-capped peaks from a cozy country cottage below. The region is also home to Zugspitze (the country’s tallest crest, which measures at 9,717 feet/2,962 meters tall), as well as a host of glacial valleys, shockingly blue lakes, and countless locales that are made for hiking, mountaineering, and skiing.
For visitors who’d rather trade natural beauty for man-made opulence, however, Bavaria’s eclectic offering of palaces, castles, and fortresses is sure to attract any architecturally minded traveler. Whether it’s the unique Rococo charm of the gardens at the summer palace of
Veitshöchheim, the gilded glory of King Ludwig II’s Linderhof palace, or the understated elegance of the royal chalet at Schachen, there’s an architectural marvel for everyone.
And, of course, there’s the food. Bavarian food is complex, rich, and regionally nuanced, and its cuisine reflects just that. Drawing from Franconian and Swabian influences, these dishes may incorporate elements and flavors from neighboring countries, but they maintain a distinctly “Bavarian” character that can be seen and tasted.
Because of its agricultural exports (grains, rye, and flour), Bavaria is the natural birthplace of everyone’s favorite doughy snack — pretzels. The region serves up thick twists of dough studded with salt crystals alongside sweet mustard. If you’re looking for a heartier meal, consider trying schweinshaxe, a popular evening offering consisting of a roasted pig knuckle, a portly potato dumpling, and a small lake of gravy. In the 19th century, this dish would have proved too costly for many Bavarian residents but has since become a regional staple. For those who favor lighter fare, schnitzel — meat that has been thinly hammered, battered, and fried — is the preferred dish.
There’s no region that embodies the German word gemütlichkeit (meaning “a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer”) more than Bavaria does. With its countless folk festivals, seasonal fairs, and wine-oriented celebrations, this southeastern state knows how to spread good cheer and delicious food.
This sentiment was evident at our events in both New York and Los Angeles, where visitors sampled traditional fare alongside modern takes on old favorites while sampling wines and beers from various regions.
To honor traditional Bavarian cuisine, Chef Erik Fischer concocted the following recipe, which we invite you to try at home.
As one of our attendees noted, “I had no idea Germany was home to so many unusual products and varied cuisines, let alone such visually compelling regions.” For Bavaria, at least, that’s only the beginning.
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This content was produced in partnership with German National Tourism.