To truly experience winter in Germany, you have to pay Bavaria a visit. There's something for everyone here, whether relaxed days in the snow or unforgettable adventures in the forest. And who better to tell you about it than those who have been calling winter their favourite time of the year here since childhood? Locals tell of cross-country skiing, winter hiking, snowshoe tours, winter survival, tobogganing or game feeding in Bavaria. They cultivate their customs and traditions, they know where the perfect winter spots are and the best part: they even share insider tips.
A small brick house located in sleepy, wintery Franconia. Smoke rises from the chimney. In the middle of the Rhön, a low mountain range in northern Bavaria, Alexander Hergenhan stands in the almost 100-year-old workshop in Leubach. He builds his sleds according to ancient craftsmanship methods.Photo: © www.bayern.by, Peter von Felbert
The old oven hums in the background, providing a bit of heat in the small house. Not a lot has changed since Alexander's great-grandfather opened his Wagner workshop here in 1924. "Meanwhile there are perhaps more spiderwebs and dust compared to the time of my great-grandfather," he laughs.
A few pieces of ash wood are still cooking in the old sausage kettle behind the toboggan maker. The ash wood spends half an hour in the barrel-shaped cauldron. This makes it supple and pliable. Alexander bends it around a mould and fastens it to iron by hammering in a few nails. The wood pieces and moulds are then taken to the attic and dried for 6 months. Alexander Hergenhan is particularly proud of the runners: ‘Most sled builders press the runners mechanically. Each pair of runners is handcrafted by us and therefore unique.’Photo: © www.bayern.by, Peter von FelbertPhoto: © www.bayern.by, Peter von Felbert
In Alexander's case, it was clear that the wood from the Bavarian forests held a special place in the family. He took over the workshop from his uncle Andreas Weber in 2012 and is now in charge of the craft, producing toboggans of the highest quality. The family only uses local ash. Ash is a hard wood, but thanks to its long fibres it is elastic, tough and resistant to abrasions. "A toboggan from our shop lasts for generations if you don’t crash it," Alexander affirms. He builds 150 unique pieces in one year, putting the best of his expertise into each and every one.Photo: © Tourismuszentrale Fichtelgebrige, Florian Trykowski
Once the toboggan is finished, the vehicles are of course also tested by the family. "When I was a small boy, my uncle and his friends were quite scientific about stomping down the snowy slopes behind the church, pouring water over them and inaugurating the new toboggan runs the next morning," says the young tobggan maker. Alexander also knows where the best toboggan slopes are:
In general, the Rhön is the perfect holiday home for families, according to Alexander Hergenhan - and he should know, since he grew up here. In the winter, they head out into the winter wonderland right outside their doorstep to go cross-country skiing, tobogganing or snowshoeing and then warm up with hot cocoa by the open crackling fire.Photo: © Tourismuszentrale Fichtelgebrige, Florian Trykowski
With a bit of luck, rare plants and animal species such as black grouse or wildcats can also be discovered here in the wild. For Alexander, the most beautiful places and hiking trails in the volcanic low mountain range lie around the basalt lake or the Kreuzberg monastery, where the highly praised monastery beer has been brewed since 1731. The traditional craftsman also recommends all guests visit the resort of Markt Oberelsbach in the Rhön UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In the ‘Haus der Langen Rhön’ you can get information about the region’s impressive fauna and flora.
Have we whet your appetite yet? If you book in advance, you can give sled builder Alexander Hergenhan’s a hand and perhaps get a personal tobogganing tip from the pro. The craftsman always enjoys a visit to his small workshop - particularly when toboggan owners come to pick up their new gem in person.
If you can't get enough of winter and the forest, Bavaria should definitely be on your bucket list. This famous German state has a range of unique and traditional winter experiences, including:
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Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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