WAY off the beaten path in Bavaria, south Germany, I found myself alone in the middle of the night with only my luggage to keep me company at Murnau-am-Staffelsee train station.
I was visiting family, but had completely forgotten to copy their phone numbers into my agenda. Lucky me to have arrived over an hour ahead of schedule, and with no way of reaching them, got to sit under a cold drizzle waiting to be picked up.
Murnau is a 1.5 hour train ride away from Munich’s central station. English is not as widely spoken outside of Munich, so be equipped with a few phrases memorized, an English-German pocket dictionary, and a great deal of patience. Standard (economy class) fare is 13 euros each way.
The town is fairly equidistant from Innsbruck in the Austrian Tirol .
Murnau is renowned as a wellness center, with the Bavarian Alps as a backdrop, nature walks all over, and fresh springs with healing attributes. These benefits are enjoyed by the city’s 12,000 inhabitants (rounded down), and tourists from all over Europe seeking a little tranquility.
The Staffelsee Lake
Finally arriving in the warmth of my aunt’s home, I learned that the weekend’s main activities would include a walking tour of the center – comprised of ONE main street, and a nature walk to visit the “Dragon’s Den”.
The tour of the center was surprisingly enjoyable. My aunt was not exaggerating about its size: the “commercial” district is truly made up of one pedestrian street lined with shops. At the top stands St. Nikolaus’ Catholic church with the town’s largest cemetery. On the old walls you will also find a plaque that pays tribute to film director F.W. Murnau, who borrowed his name from the town.
The walk to the “Dragon’s Den” was lovely. Through trees and thickets, past creeks and slopes we went until we finally reached a mini waterfall where, supposedly, a dragon once resided. No one seemed fully able to answer my questions about this dragon, but St. George (Georg Reiss), the dragon slayer, is celebrated throughout Bavaria regarless.
If shopping and gambling strikes you as far more therapeutic, then Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski resort town but a 30 minute drive away, will help you relax. Cafes with heated patios and fantastic chocolate desserts (and cocoa!) will keep you warm in the cool mountain air.
Lunch at one of the two old breweries of the delicious weiss beer was definitely a highlight. I had the chance to revisit my favourite Bavarian dish schweinshaxe (featured above): a generous serving of pork knuckle, boiled dumpling, and tangy red cabbage drenched in the savoury jus of the meat.
This was all the therapy I needed!