Well, I've been lucky enough to have been travelling a lot over the last two months so I thought it was time to share some of those wonderful places and experiences! Two months ago, my husband and I drove to Germany to meet up with two dear friends and jointly we then headed to Bavaria - an area I'd always wanted to go to. We covered many different towns and so this is just the first entry in a series of blog posts to come...
Our first stop was Weltenburg Abbey and brewery, which is situated on a rocky penninsula on the Danube at Kelheim. The Abbey is a Benedictine monastery founded by Scots/Irish Monks in 620 and regarded as the oldest monastery in Bavaria.
The monastery, cloistered guest house, Church, huge restaurant and brewery are all built around a large open courtyard with two enormous trees providing much needed shade and a bit of greenery. As we stayed on site in the unsurprisingly spartan yet comfortable Saint George Guest House, we were lucky enough to be the only people in the church early the next morning.
Dedicated to Saint George and with many stunning examples of baroque decoration as well as huge oil paintings, the Church itself is a visual feast!
Weltenburg is at the same time both very authentic and commercial but before you get too put off by that statement, it excels at hospitality - both in the form of fantastic brewery tours and in providing incredible local food in a massive outdoor courtyard complete with staff in traditional Bavarian dress (which would be naff in most places but as I quickly saw throughout Bavaria the traditional dress or "Dirndl" is actually very popular throughout the generations and definitely not a costume!)
Indeed, over the years the monks have made a huge success of their monastery when so many others faded away and even though the Weltenburg brewery is no longer operated by the monks themselves, their beers are world-renowned and regular winners in the World Beer Cup! Their ″Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel″ was given the World Beer Cup award in 2004, 2008 and 2012 as the best dunkel (dark) beer in the world. My husband and I are keen home brewers so we certainly took the opportunity to go on a brewery tour! The tours are often fully booked and ours was full of people like us - keenly anticipating a behind-the-scenes look at such a famous brewery. After progressing through the equipment rooms and listening to lots of fascinating technical information... we got to the truly important part, namely the tasting room! Amazingly we were given generous amount of beer and a gorgeous free brewery glass each to take away.
Afterwards as we tottered slightly fuzzy-eyed into the blazing sunshine of the courtyard, we noticed that many more people had arrived for lunch and to take in the sights of Weltenburg. Thankfully, we were booked on a boat tour leaving from just outside the Abbey down the "Danube Narrows" to Kelheim. The 90 minute tour was great and just what we needed after our morning beer session. The Narrows are as the name suggests - a deep but slimmer section of The Danube and has wonderful views on both sides of volcanic landscape and a few religious saints and symbols perched precariously on cliff faces usually marking hermit caves or pilgrimage routes.
The weather was amazing and we took in the sights happily - including the "Befreiungshalle" (Hall of Liberation) monument upon Mount Michelsberg. King Ludwig I of Bavaria ordered it to be built to commemorate the victories against Napoleon during the Wars of Liberation that lasted from 1813 to 1815.
All this culture, wonderful weather and beer had built up our appetites so here's a bit about our first taste of Bavarian food!
After wandering a short while through Keheim we spotted a promising looking place called Weisses Brauhaus. It was already very busy indeed but we managed to get a table through in their confusingly named "Sommersaal" (Summer Hall). I say confusingly because we walked into a low-ceilinged and fairly dark room that had clearly been converted from an old cellar! However, none of that mattered as what was stunning about it were the extremely intricate and well-maintained frescos that spiralled all over the ceiling and archways! It turns out they were a kind of family tree all stemming from this couple:
The food was fantastic, the beer was incredible and the hosts were just lovely. Little did we know this was to be a common occurrence throughout our journey around Bavaria! Incidentally, the motto on the wall above translates as: "Hops and Malt - God preserve them". I couldn't agree more.
The next blog entry will be - The Bavarian National Forest!
Great stuff Kate ! Makes me want to go to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland sometime...
Great photos. So glad you are getting going with the blog. Been dying to see it and read about the trip. Looking forward to more lovely photos to come.
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