Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Perfect Place to Live in Bavaria

It was during our stay in the Bavarian region of Germany that I found the town I would live in if ever I had the chance to pick a place to live in Europe.   

It’s called Pfronten, and it’s where we stayed while visiting Bavaria.  

In fact, I would have been happy to move right into the small apartment we rented for a few days. 

It was cute...

This was the girls' bed and the couch.

and charming (the three Cs).  An interesting little tidbit about Europe - we found in Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg (and maybe Norway too but I can't remember for sure) that the double beds were often two twin size mattresses pushed together, but each would have it's own twin sized duvet.  Brilliant!  This really works out well when you have a husband who likes to steal all the covers when he's cold and push all the covers to the end of the bed when he's hot and you're not.  

Oh, and the view from the balcony of our little apartment is pretty darn hard to beat. Do you see why I might like to live there?

I wouldn’t necessarily say that Pfronten was the cutest or most charming town we’ve ever visited, but for me, it was just about the most perfect of villages.   

Can you find the castle?
Don’t get me wrong – it oozes cute and charming like many of the places we visited in Europe...

And it’s nestled amongst the hills on the edge of the Alps which sure doesn't hurt.

Cows graze in the spring fields right on the edge of town, the bells around their necks you could hear jiggling as you walk the streets of town.

But Pfronten isn't overly touristy at all.  It felt very much like just a real, genuine Bavarian town, a place where everyday Bavarian’s call home, going to work or school, tending their gardens, putting up wood for the cold winter...

Going to church on Sundays, and some even keeping their horses right in the village.   Pfronten just feels like a place where you could really put down roots.

There was an adorable bakery that Eric walked to every morning to fetch fresh pastries and bread.  Down in the valley below the apartment we rented we watched and heard a small train going back and forth between Pfronten and the other small towns that inhabit the same valley further on.  And beside the train tracks sits a walking and biking trail which you can also use to get between the villages along this section of the Bavarian Alps. 

As we walked the streets of Pfronten one rainy day during our stay, we came across a tiny, rather nondescript chapel, at least on the outside.  The door was unlocked and as we poked our head inside, we were met with this sight...

And beautiful hand carved short wooden pews.  

Even the tiny little balcony that you reached by a narrow stairway was beautifully painted.

Further up the same quiet street, we came across a dilapidated wooden shed.  The doors were open as if inviting you in, and inside the very rustic barn-like interior was some farming and milking items on display.  As we slowly walked through looking at the antiques used in the past to raise goats, cows and probably sheep, we spied a door at the very back that looked like it went into a little shop.  Sure enough, as we crossed the threshold, we were greeted by the smell of cheese wafting from behind the glass display case.  Inside the case sat beautiful blocks of local artisan cheeses, a mixture of goat, sheep and cow cheeses, one in particular of which caught my eye immediately.  You see, the day before, on the advice of the lady who’s apartment we were renting, we had lunched at what turned out to be one of my favorite places we ate at during our entire two year stay in Europe.  It’s a brewery called Braugasthof Falkenstein which I will tell you more about in a moment.  As we took our table by the window in the cozy Bavarian interior of this restaurant/brewery, the waitress walked passed on her way to deliver a simple but deliciously looking salad to the table next to us.  As we perused the menu, I just couldn’t get that beautiful salad out of my mind because you see, on this salad, sitting next to some delicious looking bread, were three good size chunks of what I was pretty sure was goat cheese.   And while living in Europe, I had developed a love affair with deliciously soft and creamy goat cheese.

A quick search through the menu and sure enough, there is was, a salad with a local alpine goat cheese.  The goats graze in the hills right above this town.  I ordered the salad.  As I took the first bite of the creamy soft cheese – well, let’s just say I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  It was the dreamiest cheese I have ever eaten.  And when we entered that cheese shop just down the road from the brewery the very next day, there it was again on display in the case.  We bought some and for lunch later that day, we had dreamy alpine goat cheese on fresh bread with fresh local strawberries on the side – in the middle of the mountains...

Man I love Europe!

Anyway, back to the story.  The small chapel I shared with you above wasn't the only church in Pfronten.  Several times during our stay we would hear the bells ringing across the valley from this church...

Much larger than the first but still relatively small compared to most of the churches we visited in Europe.  But again, once inside, we were blown away by the interior. 

Such exquisite craftsmanship and artistry.


And about that brewery.  Braugasthof Falkenstein is just one of a handful of places to eat in town.  It’s named after a castle that once stood on a hill higher over this little town.  Now, there are only ruins left, but at one time, back in the late 1800’s, that supposedly Mad King Ludwig that I told you about in my previous post had purchased the remains of the castle and the surround land and had planned to create another fairytale castle in it’s place.  Unfortunately for us and much more so for poor King Ludwig II, his life was cut short and his second enchanted castle never came to be.  But this warm, charming German brewery sitting in the middle of Pfronten keeps the memory alive.  And it serves some of the most excellent food and beer we would have in Europe (did I say that already?).   

We started with perhaps the most quintessential of Bavarian foods, pretzels, served with a cheesy spread.  Delicious!  For the main course, I already shared my heavenly goat cheese salad, and Eric once again went for Germany’s version of ravioli, similar to that which he had in the Black Forest, and just as savory and bursting with deliciousness.

Do these look like two satisfied customers or what?  

After the delicious meal, we decided to take a hike which is just another one of the many reasons I would seriously consider relocating to this small Bavarian town.  

We left on foot right from our small apartment, heading up and away from town, and within minutes, we found ourselves following an old but still used farm path.  

Our destination was that hilltop where Mad King Ludwig II once dreamed of building a second fairytale castle, but now only the remains of the previous castle remain.  

As we hiked, the views of the countryside were amazing.

And as we neared the top of the hill, our final destination, the climb became steep and rocky...

and slippery and muddy.  

But we trekked on and when we finally reached the top, we found only a few stone walls still standing, the only evidence of the mighty structure that once rose up from this hilltop.  For a few minutes, the view from this high perch was spectacular!

We could see for miles and miles...

The open countryside in one direction...

The foothills of the Alps in the other.  Is it any wonder that King Ludwig had set his eyes upon this site? 

But there was something else we could also see from our perch on top of the hill...

Rain!  We could clearly see it falling from the clouds over the valley below us and as we watched, it got closer and closer and closer.  It didn't take long before our little perch on top of the hill was enveloped by the rainstorm.  

We had come prepared though, or so we thought, and we weren't up on that hilltop for more than a few minutes before we donned our raincoats.  But as the rain got harder and harder, we had to find some cover.  Only, when you are standing on the very tiptop of a hill inside the ruins of a very old castle, there aren't many places to hide.  In fact, there was really only one option, a rickety, wooden set of stairs inside the collapsing stone walls, put there so you can climb up to the top and pier out from the ruins to the beautiful valley below.  And it was under the landing of these wooden stairs that the four of us huddled, hoping the rain would soon pass.  

Only, it didn't, and we had to get down off the top of the hill as our raincoats were already soaked.  Going down the same way we had come up, on the steep, slippery slope, wasn't an option now that it was raining.  So we decided to follow the road down, a safer way to travel in the rain, only it was also a much, much longer route to take back to our warm, dry apartment.  

The rain kept on, and needless to say, within minutes we all looked like drowned rats, the rain running off the end of our wringing wet raincoats soaking all the way threw our jeans, and running into our once waterproof shoes.  Finally the rain stopped, but we were all soaked through and it was a rather rough final leg of our hike.  But, I would do it again, in a heartbeat...

Because this town of Pfronten and the surrounding Bavarian countryside is hard to beat.


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