Bookshelf Diaries - Claudia Dey
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A perfect long weekend in Southern Germany

It sprawls across Germany’s southeast, appearing to grasp at Austria and Liechtenstein.

Yet Southern Bavaria seems to share more with farther neighbours Switzerland and Italy. With the former it shares clean timber-framed towns, a hearty, wintry cuisine and a dignified sophistication of its people, descendants of dukes and aristocrats.

With the latter? Its ancient history, dating back to a flirtation with the Romans 2,000 years ago. The architecture in and around Munich nods to Rome – behold the amphitheatre in Oberammergau, on the edge of the Ettaler Forest – and its art is indebted to the Renaissance. Romantische Strasse, the “romantic” 350-kilometre road linking Bavaria’s most charming towns, may skim the border of Austria, yet just over the Alps is a kindred spirit.

Most long weekends begin and end in the cosmopolitan regional capital, heir to an outsized cultural legacy. Start your adventure with the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege Card in hand, designed for travellers seeking rich and novel experiences.

Munich pulls together the region’s lengthy, complicated history with pomp and circumstance. Villas built by the Bavarian dukes and littered with important artworks from the Renaissance through the Belle Époque, peek over the banks of the Isar River.

Whimsical baroque churches lord over medieval squares once inhabited by Tyroleans and actual Bohemians. Beautifully maintained Art Nouveau gems, like the Müller’sches Volksbad swimming pools and Roman baths, line the wide, gracious boulevards.

Yet ultimately what Germany has made of Bavaria is decidedly liveable. The locals have a characteristically elongated name for it: Gemütlichkeit, that northern knack for coziness, wellbeing and good cheer. In Munich, you sense it the moment you arrive, in restaurants that retrofit modern detailing into ancient structures and museums like Alte Pinakothek, newly refurbished to welcome in more natural light. A thick greenbelt snakes through town, absorbing flora from across Central Europe.

You’ll find that same gemütlich down near the Austrian border. The dramatic mountainscape and tremendous Gothic design around Füssen belie a friendly, laidback country town. And the comfort food, pulled from the abundant natural landscape, is satisfyingly indulgent. Best of all, you can see everything in a weekend.

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