The German Alpine Road

Those ornate castles, picturesque abbeys, and clear mountain lakes don’t just exist in fairytales. They live in the Bavarian Alps. Just two hours from Munich, the 300-mile German Alpine Road winds along the Germany-Austria border from Berchtesgarden at Lake Königssee to Lindau at Lake Constance. Meadows, forests, and farm villages set the scene for this region’s old and enchanting way of life. Not to mention the 20 mountain lakes and 25 castles, palaces, and abbeys.

Kampenwandstraße 85, 83229 Aschau im Chiemgau, Germany
Sixteen apartments—plus a library and wine cellar—owned by German furniture designer Nils Holger Moormann sit at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. Inside a 17th-century estate, Moormann’s modern interiors are fashioned from brick, clay, and untreated wood. The cable car near the property leads to the Kampenwand ski area. But serious skiers should head 30 miles south to the higher-elevation Wilder Kaiser–Brixental ski resort in Austria. On the night of the full moon, snowshoe about two hours to the Riesenhütte mountain chalet for a Bavarian meal served around a campfire. From $144. 49/(0) 805-290- 4517. This appeared in the November/December 2012 issue.
Innsbrucker Str. 13, 82481 Mittenwald, Germany
Some friends had been hiking in Austria in May and had to cut the trip short because of an unexpected blizzard. After all day hiking in the snow and not prepared for it, we came to a hut that was open to guests run by a woman named Helga. Helga didn’t speak a word of English, but she served us some delicious Mittenwald beer, that tasted like the best in the world. So a few days later, we decided we had to go to the source of this magical elixir, the town of Mittenwald in Bavaria. We went to the brewery and met the proprietors of the restaurant associated with the brewery, Postkeller, where we thought we would have a couple of tastes. Instead, it turned into an all-day affair. We tested the many different varieties of Mittenwald, and our hosts cooked up a roast for us, and we had a great evening of laughs with them.
Linderhof 12, 82488 Ettal, Germany
Schloss Linderhof might be the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II, but it is nothing short of extravagant. Inspired by France’s Palace of Versailles, this “Royal Villa” is the only palace that King Ludwig II lived to see completed, and it’s the one that he spent most of his time at. Tours of the palace and gardens are said to take approximately 2 hours. When you’re done head on over to the nearby Ettal Abbey. Photo by François Philipp/Flickr
Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany
The most famous castle in Germany—and one of the best known in Europe—Neuschwanstein is renowned not just for its fairy-tale architecture (which directly inspired the Disney Castle) but also for its creator, “mad” King Ludwig II. Begun in 1868, it wasn’t completed until four years after Ludwig’s death, in 1892, but was very advanced for its time, with larger-than-usual windows, central heating, an elevator, telephones, and indoor plumbing. However, it’s the castle’s mountaintop setting and soaring towers that really impress. When visiting, be sure to check out the paintings inspired by the operas of Richard Wagner—Ludwig’s friend and the person to whom he dedicated the castle. Also take in the stellar views from the Marienbrücke, and if you want to visit in style, consider a horse-drawn carriage ride back to your car. There’s a restaurant on-site, but plenty of cheaper options are in the town below.
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