Head out in search of snow - or hide away from the cold altogether...
Welcome to Germany Travel Picks! This collection of travel tips, inspiration, news and events will land in your inbox every other Tuesday. If you'd like a specific theme or destination covered in a future edition, please let me know!
In this issue…
Tobogganing in the Taunus • Alpine cross-country skiing • Cosy winter cabin retreat outside Berlin • Stay in a half-timbered house • Lakeside sauna in Bavaria • Sylvester Stallone retrospective •
Destination Picks: In search of snow
Depending where you are in Germany, the weather in January can fall anywhere on the spectrum between magical winter wonderland and endlessly grey and grim. Snow’s not guaranteed across most of the country, but if you fancy a spot of tobogganing or skiing, or simply fancy making a snow angel, here are some of the best spots to hunt it down.
Please check individual sites and destinations for up-to-date COVID-19 regulations.
Tucked beneath the Zugspitze, the highest peak in the Wetterstein Mountains, around 13km southwest of Garmisch-Patenkirchen, is the crystal clear Lake Eibsee (pictured top). There are winter sports and challenging trails aplenty on the nearby snow-sure pistes, but for a rather less hair-raising afternoon, enjoy views of the mountain from below as you follow the Eibsee Loop hiking trail around the deep blue lake. At this time of year, the alpine water is often frozen over.
The EIBSEE bus and the historic cogwheel Bavarian Zugspitzbahn BZB both have stops close to the lake (100m and 300m respectively) and are free to travel on with the Zugspitz Arena Bavaria Tyrol CARD.
Further information at grainau.de and eibsee-hotel.de (Lake Eibsee’s private owners).
The Harz Mountains
Winter-in-Germany listicles that don’t feature an image of a steam locomotive puffing along the narrow gauge railway between snow-covered spruce trees are far and few between, but for good reason. The scenic train ride up to the summit of Brocken mountain is truly magical, however it’s not the only reason to head to the Harz, Germany’s northernmost mountain range, at this time of year. Winter sports fans can choose between the likes of cross-country skiing and tobogganing, ice skating and curling; but if you prefer to take things at a more leisurely pace, a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh through the snowy forest from Schierke might be more your cup of tea.
Further information: harzinfo.de.
Großer Feldberg, Taunus
The highest peak in not just the Taunus mountains, but of the entire Rhenish Massif, the slopes of the Großer Feldberg are a very popular day trip destination for local skiers, winter hikers and tobogganists. Ambitious skiers and snowboarders should make a beeline for the Siegfriedschuss descent, which begins on the Großer Feldberg’s plateau and drops an altitude of 170m in around 1.5km; cross-country skiers should head to Schmitten and Weilrod, where they’ll find over 50km of well-maintained trails. The Taunus can easily be reached by train from both Wiesbaden and Frankfurt am Main - a Hessenticket is great value for groups.
Further information: taunus.info
Winklmoosalm Ski Resort, Chiemgau
Winklmoosalm in Bavaria's Chiemgau Alps is one of the few ski resorts in Germany where snow is pretty much guaranteed. There are pistes here for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities, though those in search of steep slopes might be disappointed. However, there’s seemingly endless cross-country ski trails as well as a toboggan run and guided snowshoe tours, and with the correct day ticket, you can even cross over the border into Austria’s Steinplatte resort. Open until 3 April 2022.
Further information: winklmoosalm.de
Accommodation Picks: Winter Retreats
Germany Travel Picks supports sustainable overnight accommodation and independent and family-run businesses. Please check individual websites for up-to-date COVID-19 regulations.
Remote cabin outside Berlin
Tucked amongst the fruit trees in a meadow that’s also home to a horse and and a small flock of sheep, The Orchard is one of Raus’s three water tank and solar-powered boutique cabins situated in remote locations outside Berlin. Located on the edge of a national park in the middle of the Mecklenburg Lake Plateau, also known as the land of a thousand lakes, the cabin is reachable by train and a 10-minute cab ride from Berlin. (You can explore the region by train starting in Berlin using Deutsche Bahn’s Stadt-Land-Meer-Ticket.) If the weather’s too unpleasant for hiking or cycling, it’s the perfect place to hole up and read (or write!) a book.
The Orchard costs from 170€ per night with a two night minimum. Further information and booking: raus.life.
Organic luxury in the Bavarian forest
Located in the former monastery town of St Oswald in the heart of the Bavarian Forest, the Pausnhof hotel is organic from its 2x2m beds (all of the hand-crafted furniture here is made using local wood) to its breakfasts (the land here has been farmed for 600 years and the restaurant uses both homegrown and regional products). The light-filled wellness area offers, amongst other things, a Finnish sauna, a herbal steam bath and a heated outdoor brine pool, but if you can drag yourself away from the spa, there’s the opportunity to ski, snowshoe or visit all manner of cultural museums close by. Pick up a National Park Guest Card on arrival and regional bus and train travel is free.
Double rooms from 150€ per person for a 2-3 night stay; packages and last-minute offers available. Further information and booking: pausnhof.de or book your stay with booking.com.
300-year-old half-timbered cottage
This gorgeous, bright red medieval property is located in the peaceful outskirts of Windeck-Langenberg, some 75km northeast of Dortmund. The rather eccentric holiday apartment is a one-room setup with a separate kitchen, very low ceilings, plenty of antique decor, and views across the Sieg valley. Situated in the beautiful Bergisches Land region, the house is ideally located for hiking, cycling and various other activities, after a day of which you can come home and warm up by the roaring fire. Easily accessible by train, your host will happily collect you from Windeck-Schladern/Sieg station.
Three-night minimum stay for two people, 249€. No under 10s because of all the antiques, though you can ask about babies; and as this is a 300-year-old property with an unusual layout and narrow spaces, please check with the owner if you have specific accessibility requirements. Plentiful further information and to book: rotesfachwerkhaus.de or book your stay at booking.com.
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A Local’s Picks: Winter day trips from Munich
Rachel Preece is a British writer, editor and local producer who has lived in Munich since 2008. Here are her recommendations for winter day trips from the Bavarian capital.
❈ The monte mare Seesauna is one of my favourite places to relax in winter, and just an hour's train ride from Munich. Set on the edge of Lake Tegernsee, I love to lie back in the sauna while staring at the Alps. There are plenty of spa activities, including a Finnish sauna on a boat, plus a pretty decent café/restaurant and the option to dip your toes in the lake.
❈ You can reach Lake Wörthsee by local train then bus, which takes around an hour, and spend the morning hiking up an appetite on the 12km walk around the lake. There are some gorgeous boathouses here, and it's more peaceful than some of the other lakes in the area.
❈ If you have a car, pop a sledge in the back of it and drive the one and a half hour journey from Munich to Marquartstein. Ride the Hochplattenbahn chairlifts up to the top of Hochplatte mountain and break for lunch at the Staffn-Alm, with its panoramic views over Lake Chiemsee, before sledging back down the fast toboggan run.
❈ The romantic boat trips across Lake Königssee are full of tourists in the summer, but during winter, things are slower and more peaceful. The boats continue to run (unless the Königssee freezes over), and you can head to the pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomä, which is one of the prettiest winter sights you will ever behold. It's possible to get to Lake Königssee via public transport, but it's a three-hour trip that involves a couple of changes.
❈ In less than an hour on the train from Munich, you'll find yourself at Lake Schliersee, and from there, it's a 20-minute bus ride to Lake Spitzingsee. It always feels to me like it snows more in this gorgeous corner of Bavaria than anywhere else, and the short walk to the Albert-Link-Hütte is a pretty one. It's an ideal place to pull along young children on sledges, the playground is huge, and the mountain hut makes their own hams, cheeses, and breads.
For more food and travel tips for Munich and beyond, follow Rachel on Twitter and Instagram.
Exhibition Picks: Catch them before they’re gone
• Rembrandt in Amsterdam traces the painter's rise from young artist to renowned master through 60 of his paintings, which are displayed alongside artworks by some of his contemporaries. Staedel Museum Frankfurt, until January 30
• Curated in close collaboration with the renowned contemporary photographer himself, this retrospective of Düsseldorf-based Andreas Gursky features new work as well as well-known photographs and early work from around the region. MKM Museum Küppersmühle for Modern Art, Duisburg until January 30
• Sylvester Stallone's 75th birthday retrospective comprises some 50 paintings including self-portraits and a number of early works that are being shown for the first time. Osthaus Museum Hagen until February 20
You might also be interested in...
Deutsche Bahn are finally offering a plant-based milk alternative on board their ICE and Intercity trains (even if it is the much-critisised Oatly) • How Berlin is blazing a trail in zero-waste, sustainable food • Bavaria: The German region home to beer, brats and the Romantic Road • Four ways to travel responsibly through Germany • Podcast: What to do in Wiesbaden •
In the next issue…
A hiking trail with love seats • Overnight at a historic winery • An eco treehouse retreat • Extraordinary landmarks with remarkable views • and much more…
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Hi, I booked a trip to Munich, arriving on Easter Sunday, because the flights and hotels were cheaper but had forgotten that it might be a bit different to the UK. Any future posts about Munich will always be welcome from me but if you could include something about what to expect from an Easter trip then that would be awesome. Thank You, keep up the good work!
Dear Christie, If you ever cover the Eifel region and/or want to share the perfect getaway in that area have a look at Herrliche Aussichten in Heimbach: https://herrliche-aussichten.eu/. It’s run by a friend of mine and his husband: beautiful chalets for up to two people (adults only) with a private sauna bordering the Staubecken Heimbach and walking distance from the Rursee. I stayed in the Waldloft with my daughter for a long weekend and we loved every minute of our stay. Perfect for the pandemic because the chalets are fully equipped for a self-catering holiday/escape close to Köln/Bonn and Aachen.