Recovering From the Oktoberfest in Rural Bavaria
By Inka Piegsa Quischotte
I am slightly embarrassed to admit it, but living it up at Munich´s Oktoberfest, in the tents with the music, beer and Weisswurst comes at a price. And by that, I don’t mean money.
After two days and nights of merry-making with a bunch of friends, I was seriously in need of recovery. Given that the weather was glorious, I thought: what better way than making my way to the surrounding rural countryside, enjoying the fresh air, quiet, nature, and a great lake.
I didn´t feel like driving, so I hopped on a train in the direction of Salzburg and just over an hour later, alighted at
Prien am Chiemsee
You will be hard-pressed to find a more picture-perfect example of a rural town in southern Bavaria. Prien is quite small but has all the ingredients: a baroque church, a marketplace, a Heimatmuseum, and super friendly people who, even for a German speaker like myself, are difficult to understand. It´s located on the shore of the second largest lake in Bavaria: serene Lake Chiemsee with the majestic Alps in the background and four islands, two inhabited and two not.
A little train which is actually not a tourist attraction although it looks like one connects the train station with the port, but I preferred to make my way on foot to see more of the town.
Literally translated It means steamed noodle but it is neither steamed nor has it anything to do with noodle. It´s a big lump of sweet dough covered in vanilla and chocolate sauce and has about 1000 calories per spoonful!
I couldn´t finish the whole thing, but half of it helped with instant recovery.e it, it was market day and I got a chance to sample the typical products of the region: a great variety of cheeses, an even bigger one of sausages and ham and fabulous bread.
Some of the stalls were run by very colorful characters and finally, I gave in to temptation and my sweet tooth and order a dessert which is called Dampfnudel.
Next to the market, I found the local museum which documents the history of the place, the fishing tradition and has fine examples of furniture and Kachelöfen as well as costumes.
The curator, a very nice lady, told me that her hobby is gold embroidery which decorates many of the Sunday fineries. I was the only visitor and she let me play around with some of the clothes and try on a hat or two.
And after that, the lake was calling! The Fessler family run the fleet of several boats for well over a hundred years and I was – again – lucky to catch their flagship, a paddle steamer for my water excursion to the two inhabited islands. First stop was
This island is the biggest in the lake and world-famous because it´s where King Ludwig II of Bavaria built the last of his dream castles. Often referred to as the fairy tale king and declared, by some, quite mad, the man was in reality highly educated and in many respects ahead of his times.
He promoted electricity and telephone and was very environmentally conscious. Admittedly he was also living in a dream world, creating his castles Neuschwanstein and Linderhof as well as modeling himself on his hero Louis XIV.
He bought the island to preserve nature but that didn´t prevent him from constructing his third and last castle, a replica of Versailles called Herrenchiemsee in 1878.
But, even a king can run out of money and be denied any further credit which resulted in the fact that the castle is unfinished. It´s quite a shock to wander through the outrageously lavish staterooms, then descend a few staircases and suddenly find yourself in vast rooms with bare walls, cement floors, and nothing else.
The gardens are finished though, full of fountains, flowers and statues, a miniature Versailles indeed. The boat ticket allows you to interrupt your journey and resume as often as you want. So, after taking my time strolling around the island and castle, I boarded the next ferry in the direction of the
This is a rather small island which you can circumvent in about 1 hour. Landmark is a Benedictine nunnery that dates from 782. Small the island may be, but it’s famous for quite a few things. First, today´s nuns maintain themselves not only with spiritual seminars but also with the production of worldly things like handmade marzipan and a pretty potent herb liquor sold in decorative bottles.
The Chiemsee is a freshwater lake fed by two rivers and home to a very special fish: Renken. It´s eaten smoked and resembles trout. There are stalls everywhere where you buy a bun with Renkenfilet, sit down on one of the many picturesque benches along the shore, and indulge whilst contemplating the view.
Several artists, writers as well as painters, have made the island their home and you can visit their studios. What I liked best though were the ceramic workshops where they create fabulous sculptures, plates, etc.
As could be expected these beautiful things are very expensive so I conformed myself with watching. My last visit was to the place where they make the tiles for the Bavarian Kachelöfen, all by hand and in different colors and designs. Many of the creations grace castles, museums, and upper-crust homes in Munich.
In very cold winters, of which there are many, the lake freezes over and people from the islands walk across to Prien. It´s a dangerous enterprise though as you can´t know if the ice will hold and fatal accidents happen now and again.
I caught one of the last boats back to Prien and this time I boarded the little train to take me back to the station. Happy, restored and full of the impressions of a great day trip, I got on the train back to Munich, ready to party again.
Getting there: Having a car gives you the freedom to visit both large cities and small towns throughout Germany. We suggest renting a car from Enterprise in Germany.
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