The Bavarian Forest National Park is not the most rugged national park. Little of the ancient forest remains. But it still may be one of the most charming. Moss covered granite bedrock dots well marked trails with mid-sized Norway spruce, beech trees and bogs. It is the oldest national park in Germany and only two and a half hours from Munich. Combined with the bordering Czech Bohemian Forest, it is the largest protected forest in Central Europe.
VILLAGE FARMHOUSES & GASTHAUSES
A special national park train, the Waldbahn, winds through the park and picturesque small villages. Slowly thoughts of renting camping gear fade. Why camp during the dreary off season, when you can pay just 35 euros in the villages of Zwiesel or Bayerisch Eisenstein for lodging? Timber hewn farmhouses and traditional white and wood gasthauses with small biergartens beckon. They include Bavarian country breakfasts so big that the remaining meats, breads and cheeses are packed by the gasthaus host for lunch.
BAVARIAN & BOHEMIAN RAILWAY STATION
At the village of Bayerisch Eisenstein, the railway station lobby overlaps the Czech and German border, with separate restaurants at each end. Sip the regional dark malty dampbier (“steam beer”) in the stately German side or a much cheaper Budweiser Budvar at the homely Czech restaurant. Peer at remnants of barbed wire and a museum. The station was split by communism and the infamous Iron Curtain from 1945 to 1991. The West German side once marked “the end of the free world.”
TREE TOP WALK & WILDERNESS HOUSE
The visitor's center and other buildings are unique. The Baumwipfelpfad, or Tree Top walk, is an open air egg shaped walkway that goes up to 144 feet high. At the Haus Zur Wildnis, walk on an elevated log boardwalk while wolves run below.
(Image courtesy of inhabitat.com)
A NATIONAL PARK BIERGARTEN
But perhaps the best rewards come after long hikes. Through a clearing, a dark wood structure sits, overlooking a pond. The Schwellhäusl inn and biergarten has welcomed guests and forest workers since 1870. In a moss covered rock sits "bier vom stoa," the "beer drawn from a stone," with a small silver handle jutting out. A small fenced in biergarten offers rest, dunkel beer, pork knuckle and other traditional food. Welcome to national parks in Bavaria.