Archive for the ‘Tour: Alpine Gems’ Category

Escape the winter blues

As the fireplaces get started up again we’re all wishing we could hide from the impending bad weather and grey days. Some may be planning a winter break on a tropical island, but for those of us who like to be active during the holidays, lying on the beach is not that much of an incentive.

Exploring and hiking in the northern hemisphere

You know the Southern Alps like the back of your hand, how about discovering the Bavarian Alps now and adding them to your experiences? Admittedly, they’re a different scale and they’re on the other side of the world, but isn’t that the beauty of a new challenge?!Bayerische_Alpen

Speaking of beauty

During the Alpine Gems tour you will not only get to enjoy the natural beauty of the Alp region on daily hiking trips, but also discover the architectural wonders and enjoy the European lifestyle of the cities. As summer approaches, the mountains break out in all sorts of glorious colours and the cities’ beer gardens offer regional treats. Spring and summer time, as here, is the time for music festivals and other festivities, the punting race in Tübingen in May for example or the wine expo in Munich!1280px-StocherkahnNadeloehr General

It’s all sorted!

But you’re a bit concerned about organising a trip like that and would really prefer to travel in a small group instead of joining hundreds of others. We know what you mean and feel the same. That’s why at Sidetracks we like to have everything organised beforehand so that our customers can arrive and enjoy the trip! If you’d like to see how well we do that, why don’t you join us on a short guided walk in the South Island and get to know the team? Or contact us for some advice or just a short chat.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Dampfbierbrauerei Oberstdorf

Oberstdorf is not only home to a huge range of summer and winter outdoor activities, but also a restaurant called Dampfbierbrauerei. Literally translated it means steam beer brewery.

Traditional beers

The term ‘Dampfbier’ was used for beers brewed at higher ambient temperatures than normal, around 18° – 20°Celsius. Fermentation would be so violent and frequent, that the popped bubbles create a gaseous layer above the fermenting liquid. Hence the term ‘Dampf’, steam. As it was a so called poor people’s beer and used  by-products of the wheat beer process, it’s production had declined by the 20th century. But, in the general movement of reviving old traditions, some breweries have started making it again, but using high quality base products and achieving remarkable results.

As far as can be deduced from the restaurant’s web site, their beers are brewed at lower temperatures, around 8° Celsius. Therefore not strictly Dampfbier as such, but it might pay to ask them in person. But, as they note at the bottom, they are still brewing them according to the Bavarian Purity requirements from 1516.


Translation: The mayor herewith gives notice that beer shall be brewed on Tuesday, therefore it’s forbidden to shite in the river from Sunday on!

Experience the local traditions

The restaurant not only offers traditionally made beer, but regional specialities sourced as far as possible locally and has music entertainment on most evenings of the week. They seem to enjoy a reasonable popularity and request table reservations if interested in coming on a particular day. If you’d be interested to view the brewery and restaurant, get in contact with us and we will do our best to accommodate your interests.

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Tübingen – Stocherkähne – Punts

1280px-StocherkahnNadeloehr GeneralWhen exactly punting became an established mode of transport in Tübingen is not documented, but it certainly gained more popularity after the river Neckar was becalmed by a series of weirs. Up until 1899 forestry and trade used the river to transport logs and wares on rafts, but continued floods and strong currents made it too hazardous. At this stage punts were mainly used by the local fishermen.  After that, as rafts couldn’t navigate the weirs, that tradition died out and a new one started: punting along the quiet river. Initially fraternities in Tübingen bought the rights to have a boat on the river and later on, as the popularity increased, companies, institutes and private businesses bought rights as well, enabling the general public to enjoy a view of their city from the water. The purchase of these rights is limited, to control the amount of punts on the river for safety and quality reasons. Very quickly the fraternities started competitive races and the annual Stocherkahnrennen  around the Neckarinsel, “island in the Neckar”, was established on the day of the Feast of Corpus Christi in May or June.

HölderlinturmTübingenThe punts are not to be confused with the ones used in Cambridge or Oxford: the Tübingen ones are considerably longer and skinnier, which makes them harder to navigate and the chances of having a wet trip more likely, which was all in the spirit of having a splashing good time when the students started it.

Your punting trip in Tübingen with the Alpine Gems tour will give you an opportunity to view some of the fraternity ‘houses’ or rather mansions built along the rivers’ edge and enjoy the balmy evenings in southern Germany.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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1280px-Tübingen_-_view_from_castle_Hohentübingen_(aka)This particularly picturesque city has managed to combine the traditions of old with a modern lifestyle to create one of the most liveable cities in Germany. In fact, in 1999, admittedly a while ago, it was voted the city with the highest standard of living in Germany. And whether for good or bad, not much has changed since then. In general, of course.

The region had been populated since Magdalenian times, approximately 12,000 BC and in 1078 Castle Hohentübingen is first mentioned.1280px-TuebingenSchlossWest

The city itself finds its way into official records around 1191 and in 1231 gained civitas rights.The name’s ending -ingen is in reference to the Alemanni tribes which settled in this region in the 5th century. During your travels around the region you will find lots of other places with this particular ending to their name.

1280px-TuebingenMarktplatz1Throughout the centuries Tübingen has accommodated a mix of people and industries, never specializing in one. It meant only moderate incomes for most, but sustainable living for everyone. In the 14th and 15th centuries lots of monasteries, collegiates and universities were founded, which established the city as one of the most influential places of learning in the Holy Roman Empire.

The influx in students meant another source income and even today they are the biggest income for the city.1280px-Tuebingen_Rathaus

Students and academics used to reside around the Alte Aula and the Burse, the old university buildings. There, hanging on the Cottahaus a sign commemorates Goethe’s stay of a few weeks while visiting his publisher. The German tendency to memorialize every minor presence of its historical greats (like: “Washington slept here” in the United States) is parodied on the building next door. This simple building, once a dormitory, features a plain sign with the words “Hier kotzte Goethe” (“Goethe puked here”). Which shouldn’t put you off strolling around the little streets and alleys exploring the rich architectural history visible.

Your guide on this part of your Alpine Gems tour will give you more historical details and illustrate the care and attention to detail used in building the city.

   Germany_Tübingen_Statues Germany_Tübingen_St-George-and-Shutters

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Schmales-HausThe full panoramic view from the tippy top of the Minster gives you a good view of the restored historic parts of the city and the area that was destroyed during an allied bombing in WWII which covered 80% of the historic part of the town. If you follow the link to the highest resolution photo, you can see in the first third on the right, near an orange building crane, the narrowest building.

Nearby is the most crooked one, which is now a hotel. They have installed levels at the beds to assure the guests that they are indeed sleeping in the horizontal!

1280px-Schiefes_Haus_und_Ulmer_Münz_Ulm_FischerviertelThese are all part of the restored Fishermen’s and Tanner’s Quarters. Ulm became a production centre for high-quality textiles and as part of the booming trade in the 13th and 14th century tanneries and dyers established themselves near the river. As these buildings have been restored and enjoying a new lease of life, the modern fishermen’s quarters will not attack your senses like the medieval ones and give you an opportunity to wander amongst history on dry clean feet.

Fischerviertel_UlmSince medieval times a lot has changed and the city’s industry is keeping abreast changes by moving toward developing other industries like bio-medicine, engineering and high-tech industry. The diversification means companies like Gardenia (garden products), Britax (child safety products), Carl Walther (fire arms), J.G.Anschütz (fire arms) and ratiopharm (pharmaceuticals) now have their headquarters in Ulm.

A leisurely stroll through the Altstadt on your Alpine Gems tour will provide a change of scenery and set the tone for the next couple of days.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Ulmer_Münster-WestfassadeThe city of Ulm has a rich history dating as far back as 5000 BC and is situated at the confluence of the Blau and Iller rivers into the Danube. Despite its altitude of 479m above sea level, the three rivers have created the environment for an extensive fishing and tanning industry, with parts of the city resembling a coastal town with all the watery channels and waterways rushing around the houses. Ulm is mainly known for the Minster, with the highest steeple in the world and as Albert Einstein’s birthplace.

Historically Ulm was situated at the crossroads of important trade routes and blossomed accordingly. The confidence and prosperity was reflected in new and opulent buildings and the conception of a Minster within the city walls in the 14th century. To give you an idea how 768px-Ulm-Muenster-BlickZurEmpore-061104confident the citizens were: even though the city of Ulm at that time had less than 10,000 inhabitants, the Minster was designed to accommodate up to 22,000! In 1377 the foundation stone was laid and it was consecrated in 1405.

But the architectural dreams proved too much for the technology of the time and major structural damage necessitated a reconstruction. In 1543 construction stopped due to economic, political and religious problems. It took nearly three centuries for the economic and political scene to stabilize and construction was resumed in 1817. Groessenvergleich_UL-K-M-B-ACIn May 1890 it was finally completed. As you will have a chance to view other cathedrals on the Alpine Gems and other tours, here’s a comparison chart between the Ulm Minster with the Cologne cathedral, the Frauenkirche in Munich and the cathedral in Aachen.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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SONY DSCThe Nebelhorn (foghorn) is with its 2224 meters height the highest peak of the region and offers spectacular views of the surrounding peaks and ranges. The peak can be reached by foot, but it’s recommended only for trained climbers and with specialist equipment. The easier and much Nebelhorn-bahnmore picturesque way to get there is by using the gondola.

The map gives you an abstract idea of all the peaks to be seen during your trip up to the top, while the photos should get your feet itching to explore the region in person!

Once at the top, you will be able to explore the alpine flora and fauna along the trails on your day hike back down to the valley.

nh-pano-oleg-5-2011-20cm-4c131235As today’s trip on your Alpine Gems tour will have you tip-toeing around the mountains trying to take the best shot home, you better make sure you won’t go over the top!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens


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Breita4The Breitach Gorge is, alongside the Höllentalklamm, with an approximate depth of 150 meters the deepest gorge of the Bavarian Alps.

It was formed during the last glacial period which was approximately 24,000 – 10,000 years ago. Even though efforts had been made to make the gorge accessible, they were unsuccessful until the early 20th century, when Pastor Johannes Schiebel founded the Breitachklamm Association and found investors for the development of the region for tourism. He saw it as a chance for his impoverished parish to make a living. The first detonation was done on 25th July 1904 and exactly a year later the walkway was inaugurated. Since then up to 300.000 visitors annually come and experience the stunning and overwhelming natural beauty. In September 1995 a major rock fall dumped approximately 50,000 cubic meters of rock into the gorge, effectively damming the Breitach in parts up to 30 meters high.  In March the following year, during/after the spring melting, the dam broke and the water devastated the gorge and the walkway.

BreitachklammMarkierungBy December 2004 a new entrance building was established, which now houses interactive models, demonstrating the effect of water on rock! This excursion on your Alpine Gems tour will not only show you remarkable rock formations, but also give you the opportunity for a quiet swim in a secluded alpine lake.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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OberstdorfSeelenkapelleOberstdorf is Germany’s most southern municipality and a popular skiing, hiking and spa town.  It is situated on a plain leading to all the major mountains and hiking routes of the region. The region itself is recorded in church records in the 12th century. The opportunity for curative baths was established in the early 16th century by the Count Hugo of Montfort building a bath house in Tiefenbach, or Teuffenbach as it was called by Sebastian Münster in his famous work ‘Cosmographia’. By the end of the 19th century hiking and spa tourism were flourishing, which encouraged the further development and exploration of the region. One result was the opening to the public in 1905 of the Breitachklamm, which you will see on one of your day trips. The 20th century opened the resort up to professional winter sports and Oberstdorf was one of the first places being able to host ski jumping competitions on the Schattenbergschanze in 1926.

St_Anna_Kapelle_in_Rohrmoos_ShiftNIn an effort to accommodate the growing number of tourists and improve the quality of life in the city, the centre of town was closed to vehicle traffic and extensive bus routes established.

Even though Oberstdorf was always a Roman-Catholic community, by the beginning of the 20th century common sense prevailed and protestant churches were built to accommodate the tourists! By now it has several churches of various denominations, which all form part of the interesting architecture in and around the city.

Zipfelbund karteAnd one last interesting tidbit: in 1999 Oberstdorf joined the Zipfelbund, ‘Furthest Corner League’: with three other towns in the outermost parts of the country they are the most Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western towns in Germany. On your Alpine Gems tour you have a chance to see one of the corners, while another one, Görlitz, awaits you on the Active in Eastern Germany tour!


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1280px-Hohenschwangau_Castle_and_VillageThe castle was built on the remains of the fortress Schuangau, from the 12th century, after Ludwig II’s father Maximilian II of Bavaria saw it on a walking tour. He fell in love with the site and bought the ruins. Construction of the new castle started in 1833 and with various extensions continued through to 1855. This was the official summer and hunting residence of the Bavarian royal family until the Revolution of 1918, which ended the monarchy in Bavaria.

1280px-Schloss_Hohenschwangau_at_night_1The House of Wittelsbach had transferred their property to the state a century previously (1804), in return for a perpetual right to be provided for by the state. After the revolution The Wittelsbacher Equalisation Fund was created to secure and continue that right.  In 1923 a compromise was found, which put the estate into a trust and the family has access to the profits only. Artefacts acquired by the family before the transfer in 1804 became part of a trust, set up to maintain the Wittelsbach art collection in its entirety. Artefacts acquired after the transfer became part of the equalisation fund.

Hohenschwanstein badEven though the monarchy only ended in 1918, the castle had not been lived in since 1912, after Luitpold of Bavaria had died. The castle had been open to the public as a museum then. Between the two World Wars the castle remained undamaged and the 1923 compromise included the right to live in the castles again. This was done by Crown Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria and his family from 1933-39. Nowadays you can visit the castle on your Alpine Gems tour to see the beautifully restored rooms and a separate museum displaying the art and explaining the history surrounding the buildings and the family.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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