What about a trip to Bavaria

In these days of cheap flights to every corner of Europe, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find places to holiday which offer good value for money and are not overrun with other tourists. If you read articles on the subject in the newspapers and on the internet, you could be forgiven for thinking that the only solution is the former Eastern Europe.

But this is not true: right in the centre of the continent lies the biggest remaining holiday secret in Europe: Germany. And an area down in the South Eastern corner offers particularly good value and few tourists, even by German standards: the Bavarian Forest.

The Bavarian Forest and its neighbour the Bohemian Forest make up the largest area of forested mountains in Central Europe which also contains the largest area of forested wilderness between the Atlantic and the Ural mountains. It runs along the old fault line of Europe, the 'iron curtain' but was always part of West Germany.

It is therefore an area of great natural beauty, with sweeping forests, mountains reaching close to 5,000 feet, moors and meadows, babbling streams and waterfalls. The air is fresh and clear. The water mainly comes from local streams or reservoirs.

It is also an area of considerable character. Its people are fiercely proud of their forest heritage and celebrate their history and customs right through the year. The use of horses to drag timber from the forest is celebrated in several major horse festivals during the summer and horse drawn sledge races in winter. Local crafts are demonstrated at many of the village festivals in summer. And from Spring to Autumn there are the medieval festivals commemorating the trading routes across the mountains from Bavaria to Bohemia and battles with invaders, as well pageants depicting more peaceful historic events.

The traditional local food and drink are a tasty reminder of the surrounding forest: pork with mushroom sauce and dumplings is the main traditional dish of the area and there is a wide variety of game dishes and river fish, soups made from mushrooms and root vegetables, and desserts based on fruits of the forest. The main drink made from local ingredients is schnaps, made from a sometimes bewildering variety of roots, herbs and fruit. Many villages also have their own breweries. There are even vineyards, in the smallest wine growing area in Germany, along the Danube, continuing a tradition dating back to Roman times.

The wide range of outdoor activities are mainly related to the forest. Walking and cycling are particularly popular, with paths criss-crossing the forests and mountains, allowing an infinite variety of walks of differing length and degree of difficulty, including crossing the border into the Czech Republic. Other activities include high wire parks, tree top pathways and the chance to try out archery, falconry and biathlon and the cable car to the top of the Arber mountain. And of course, there is swimming and golf. In winter, snow is pretty much guaranteed in the higher villages, giving ample opportunity to ski (downhill and cross country), snowboard, toboggan or try out snow shoe walking.

And if you want to venture out of the forest, you can visit Prague, Cesky Krumlov  and Plzen in the Czech Republic, Passau, Regensburg and Munich in Germany and Salzburg in Austria is mostly accessible by train, car or bus trip.

Or you can just relax on your balcony and enjoy the view!

Article written by Margaret Leach from www.bavarian- forest-holidays.com