THE BEST FARM STAYS & VINEYARD HOTELS IN GERMANY IN 2020
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Bavaria, Germany’s deep south and perhaps its most iconic state is a truly wonderful place. In particular the Upper Bavarian countryside is, even quite near Munich, a dreamland of castles, forests and lakes, raising itself higher and higher as you go south before ascending majestically into the German Alps.
The terrain is generally not as Alpine as in neighbouring Austria although in some places like around Konigsee for example the scenery is so dramatic and rugged you feel you could be anywhere in the Swiss or Austrian Alps.
Upper Bavaria is full of small, tidy little villages full of flowers and well kept half wood houses. With plenty of picture perfect farmstays and country houses. And it has many awe inspiring castles, one of which, Neuschwanstein Castle near town of Füssen, was the inspiration for the castle in the Disney animation, Sleeping Beauty.
It is also a sporting paradise, with everything from Skiing and snow boarding in the winter to horse riding, hiking, biking and paragliding in summer
Lower Bavaria is somewhat overshadowed by Upper but it too is full of beautiful countryside though with less dramatic scenery. It is rich farming country, and is a heartland of German wine production. Its fertile plains make way for such lovely medieval towns as Dinkelsbuhl and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Baden-Wurttermburg in the South West of Germany is an amalgamation of three different states all originally connected by their Swabian identity.
The Swabians being an independently minded people who are stereotyped as hard working and sensible rural folk. They have a very different dialect of German as well as a distinct cuisine that many would say is the best in Germany and you can’t help but sample on one of the many farmstays in the region. They also love their wine and Baden-Wurttemberg is definitely a centre of German winemaking, with the vineyards almost creeping into the suburbs of Stuggart, the regional capital.
It is also home to the beautiful, mysterious Black Forest, one of Europe’s most iconic areas, and where the hiking and mountain biking scene is huge. There are also plenty of opportunity for horse riding, and swimming in some of its famous lakes, the most well known being the great lake of Bodensee. Outside of industrial Stuttgart there are a lot of very pretty towns and villages where the pace of life is slow and the people warm and friendly. Even the quite large university city of Freiburg im Breisgau at the edge of the Black Forest manages to retain something of a small town feel, and smaller towns, the likes of picture perfect Triberg im Schwarzwald for example, can sometimes seem like movie sets for fairy tales.
The once important state of Saxony, in the North East was made somewhat ordinary by the GDR but these days with its capital, the beautiful Dresden, and to a lesser extent, the lively university city of Leipzig, becoming tourist favourites, it has started to come alive.
Even its cities and town don’t have the cosmopolitan feel of most of the old West Germany and its rural areas, like in neighbouring Thuringia, are very traditionally German, and therefore a very authentic place for a farmstay.
There are many wild areas of outstanding beauty, the Erzgebirge National Park for example, or what is known as the Saschische Schweiz, or Saxon Switzerland, due to its dramatic landscapes, and both areas are wonderful for hiking, through deep forest and mountain, with the latter also being known for its rock climbing.
Lower Saxony the huge state that borders both Holland and the North Sea, isn’t really on the tourist map at all, for farmstays or much else, but in someways that’s a pity. This ‘ordinary state’ has a rich history, with a long connection to the Nordic countries, Holland and Britain to the west it was the state of the fabled Saxon king Henry the Lion and in his time, all of eight hundred or so years ago the region was one of the most important in Europe.
Though quite industrialized around its capital Hanover and the city of Bremen, and in general the East of the state, there is a huge amount of open countryside, ranging from the mountains of the Harz region through the low hills of the centre and on to the flatlands of the North West towards the Dutch border, East Fresia, and the great mudflats of the North Sea Coast.
Places of interest include the atmospheric Luneburg Heath, and many small towns and slow paced farming villages with traditional Saxon houses, including some particularly picturesque towns. Hamlin in the hills of Weserbergland, or nearby Hann for example or the likes of Celle and Hildesheim. The Weserbergland region, the setting for much of the folklore tales of the Brothers Grimm, is also a good spot for hiking, cycling and canoeing.
You’ll find plenty of good quality farmstays here, usually relatively low key with an eye more on keeping the farm in good working order than really promoting the tourism side of things as really, as mentioned before the state is quite unregarded by tourists, especially foreign tourists, but the people of the region are usually hospitable and kind, and in many ways it is an ideal place to see some real German rural life.
Saxony-Anhalt, the post war, hasty amalgamation of Prussian Saxony and the Duchy of Anhalt, is defined by its two major rivers the grand Elbe river and the lesser known Saale. It was a prosperous area for centuries, due to river trade and the production of timber, salt and coal and evolved to become an important centre for GDR heavy industry. It has suffered economically in recent years though and could now be described as post industrial.
In the flatter East of the province particularly you can get a feel for its industrial past, it can be grim in parts but there is also plenty of open countryside too, neat farms with fertile pastures and expanses of woodland.
The West is more mountainous where thick coniferous forest around the slopes of the Harz mountains, high enough that skiing can be done in winter. There are also small farms dotted around the area and though Saxony-Anhalt isn’t a big tourism destination, farmstays are gaining in popularity.
North Rhine Westphalia is one of Europe’s most populous areas. It contains the cities of Bonn, Cologne, Dortmund and quite a few others, and in some ways could be described as the industrial heart of the whole continent.
It might be surprising therefore to list it as an agritourism destination, but of course it has rural areas too, that are peaceful and quiet. The wooded Sauerland along the Rhine for example or Sienbengebirge are places where rural life carries on at its own pace and towns like Detmold and Paderborn in rural Westphalia to name but a few wouldn’t be out of place in more traditional rural German heartlands like Thuringia.
With one of Europe’s most important river flowing through it, the Rhineland has been connected with the outside world for centuries and has long been a prosperous trade centre, connecting as it does the likes of Rotterdam in Holland and Basel in Switzerland.
Much wine has passed along this river over the centuries and the fertile Moselle Valley, around the towns of Piesport and Bernkastel-Kues, is one of Germany’s premier wine producing regions; the area being characterized by the many hillside vineyards which look out on the busy river and its tributaries.
Brandenburg, the large area around Berlin, is a rural heartland that has been used by Berliners as a escape to nature for generations now.
Though it gets plenty of city visitors it is still mainly gentle and quiet, full of beech forests, lakes and fields of flowers. Ideal farmstay holiday territory.
Its most visited area is probably the Spreewald, waterways for boating and fishing, but if you want something similar but much quieter along the Polish border you’ll find acres of protected wetland; the Unties Odertal or Lower Oder Valley National Park that is home to many species of animal and birdlife. While around the pretty town of Rheinsburg for example, there are some particularly nice forests and lakes with a few beautiful old Prussian palaces to be seen and admired too. Also to be found are the ruins of ancient monasteries, at Chorin, for example and there are many others.
The state of Hesse/Hessen is very much dominated by Frankfurt, the great industrial, financial and air transport hub, undoubtedly one of Europe’s most important cities. It doesn’t sound much like an agritourism type of place but there is more to Hesse than Frankfurt.
The genteel countryside around it is a great antidote to the high energy city. It has a few spa towns that are popular with city folk, Wiesbaden being probably the most well known and as you move further away it’s typical rural Germany, well tended farmland and much green forest creeping neatly up the slopes of hills. Small towns like Wellburg or Fulda are picturesque and quaint and in all of Hesse’s rural hinterland you’ll find many farm stays of very high quality in pretty rural settings, that feel a world away from Frankfurt.
Thuringia or Thuringen is thought of by many Germans as the heart of the country and at least geographically it kind of is.
It could never be its political or industrial heart though, that job is left to others, but for most people it connects to a nostalgia for a gentler, slower, more rural and simpler, Germany.
It runs at a different pace to most of the rest of the country, its very much rural and has no large cities to speak of. Despite that it was once home to such weighty German historical figures as Goethe and Martin Luther and Bach, so it’s very much not a cultural backwater.
To its south especially, around the Thuringen Forest, it is gorgeously rural and agritourism here thrives. There are many gentle uplands, and its a great place for not too strenuous hikes.
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