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Location Shoot, Bavaria (Part 1)

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We find that this beautiful area of Germany has an incredible amount to offer the roving photographer

If you’re thinking of a short photography break, then Bavaria makes the perfect destination. It’s less than two hours to Munich from London, the flights are regular so you can pick the best time to arrive and depart then, once you arrive in this marvelous centrally-located city, you’re perfectly placed to enjoy the wider area. And Bavaria is big too, so you’re probably not going to do it all in the space of a few days – even a couple of weeks there and you’ll have barely touched the surface if you plan to explore all points of the compass.

The Neuschwanstein Castle was built during the 19th century on a hill in Bavaria, Germany

The Neuschwanstein Castle was built during the 19th century on a hill in Bavaria, Germany

It’s therefore a good idea to set your sights on a few specific locations, which is exactly what I did recently with the help of the super-efficient German National Tourist Office and Bavarian Tourism folks. They managed to put together an itinerary for me in a very short space of time, but amazingly it managed to showcase much of what Bavaria has to offer and it’s not all just about beer, sausages and Lederhosen either. Over the course of four days I went from the incredible Munich airport with its mini-city feel over to the city itself and then down towards the Bavarian Alps making full use of the excellent train and bus network.

Considering all this was during some of the heaviest snowfall I’ve seen in Germany, the schedule went perfectly to plan and proved incredibly enlightening. What I also found was that Bavaria is a two-visit location for photographers too, in that during wintertime it offers snow covered mountains and frozen lakes with temperatures well below zero, while summertime promises gorgeous greenery and flower-covered hillsides, plus temperatures that can get into the thirties.

Getting started

The trip gets off to a great start as Munich airport is modern and efficient, so you’re through it and on the train into town before you know it. What’s more, one of the best ways to squeeze maximum value out of the train network is to buy yourself one of the Bayern Single tickets. At the time of travelling I paid $27.1 and, boy, do you get a lot of travelling out of this piece of paper if you’re so inclined. Of course, if you’re only on a short photography break then time might well be tight, but this is a quick and easy way to get around the rail network and you can also use it on local buses too.

The elegant Munich skyline

The elegant Munich skyline

I only get a fleeting glimpse of Munich itself initially because I’m heading south towards Traunstein, a journey that will take less than two hours but will offer up some great views of the Bavarian countryside along the way. It’s not long before I’m heading through the snow-covered scenery and one thing that transpires during the journey is that there are quite a lot of lakes in this region. In fact, considering the area is a long way from the sea the Bavarians seem to be quite an aquatic lot –there’s even a part of the river in Munich that they have tweaked sufficiently to provide year round surfing.

Prien and Lake Chiemsee

I get off the train at Prien am Chiemsee station and am met by Josef Kohlpointner who works for Chiemsee-Schiffart, the local 160-year old ferryboat company that has routes crisscrossing Lake Chiemsee itself. Summer or winter, a visit to Lake Chiemsee is an essential part of any visit and it’s a spectacular location, which was formed some 15-20,000 years ago. It’s the biggest lake in Bavaria, although when I’m there it’s actually so cold that much of it has frozen over. In covers an area of 80 square kilometres and normally the fleet of different sized boats ply the waterways on a daily basis and there are numerous vantage points around this location that provide superb photo opportunities. Now though, the boats are mainly stuck in the thick ice – we even see a man with a chainsaw trying to extricate his vessel from the frozen waters. Nevertheless, there is still much to see here, with the main two attractions being a pair of islands – one is the Frauenchiemsee and the other Herrenchiemsee.

The most unforgettable memory of Prien am Chiemsee is the steam tram going from the city center to the marina, still functional

The most unforgettable memory of Prien am Chiemsee is the steam tram going from the city center to the marina, still functional

Unfortunately, we’re not able to make it to Herrenchiemsee on this occasion. But, if you head to this region then be sure to make it a photographic priority because the island, covering some 240 hectares, is not only naturally beautiful, it also has the castle Herrenchiemsee to shoot as well. This wonderfully extravagant exercise in architecture was built in the late 19th century by King Lidwig II and it was styled on the Palace of Versailles. Take a tour of the grounds and also prepare to be wowed by the ornate interior too.

Herrenchiemsee Castle

Herrenchiemsee Castle

Meanwhile, our boat crunches through the ice and manages to make it to Frauenchiemsee, which is all but deserted due to the extreme cold. It makes for some good shots though, with highlights being the Alps in the background, the Benedictine Abbey Convent and St. Michael’s Chapel, which dates back 1,200 years. It’s a quirky little location that’s easy to get round, has some decent cafes and restaurants and you can also stay there too. If you visit the area when the weather is more welcoming then you should also take some time out to go on the Chiemseebahn steam railway. Built between 1887 and 1888, the cute little train is a great way to get around the Prien am Lake Chiemsee area. It departs from the central train station and drops you off right at the ferry harbour, so it’s easy to make a whole day of your visit to this idyllic location.

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