It’s easy to get away for a quick break these days and be completely independent, and especially with economy car hire being so affordable across Europe you can hit the open road in any exotic terrain of your choice. Why opt for Epping Forest when you can take a car deep into the fabled and romantic forests of Germany, no less?
The great and meandering River Danube between Passau and Regensburg forms the southern border of the Bavarian Forest (Bayerischer Wald), which is not on the regular tourist itineraries so it makes a perfect destination for anyone looking for a change of scene along with a spot of glamour.
This region of thick forests and majestic waterfalls is still largely off the beaten track, and the reason for this seems to be the proximity of the Alps. In any other country the landscape here would be a hallowed attraction, but with such a famous neighbour close by the crowds tend to bypass its less publicised natural wonders.
German holidaymakers who recognise its great appeal are the main tourists here, and they’re probably happy to keep it like that. But nevertheless a few knowledgeable foreign visitors such as ourselves will be made to feel most welcome when we put up at the local gasthaus of an evening. There are plenty of these dotted around the region, and it’s usually not necessary to book in advance, which is again ideal for the adventurous motorist who relishes the freedom afforded by a proper road trip in sparsely populated terrain.
The small town of Zwiesel is typical of the interesting settlements you’ll come across during a trip through the Bavarian Forest region. Take the main road from Regensburg to Deggendorf and then the B11 via Regen and you’ll find yourself in one of Europe’s capitals of glass manufacture. The town is located just a few kilometres from the Czech Republic, and in common with that country the soil here is rich in ingredients needed to make glass. Bohemian glass may be more famous, but glass from Zweisel is equally fine and glass production has been going on here despite the drawing of the border.
There are tours of the glass workshops which should certainly not be missed, and you can watch the glass as it is blown, cut and painted with the distinctive floral designs which are typical of the town.
There are also glassworks at Ambiente and Barwurzerei Hieke nearby, although the products manufactured here have a more rustic quality. While being given a tour you’ll be offered a glass or two of the local Barwurz which is distilled from local herbs and is the signature drink of the Bavarian Forest region.
The Bavarian Forest National Park is a natural wonder that can be found further north on the roads from Zwiesel to Frauenau and Grafenau. Here you can view wild boar, European bison, bears and many other indigenous but endangered animals from the safety of your car, and take expert guided tours.
A hire car is just the thing for exploring the cultural and natural gems of the fabulous Bavarian Forest, one of Germany’s lesser-known treasures.
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities. Written in conjunction with carhiremarket.com.