Touring Bavaria

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a three-part series that explores tourist-worthy destinations in Bavaria.

Nestled in the center of the Ammergau alpine region is Ettal, an Upper Bavarian town best known for its Benedictine monastery and majestic church — the heart and soul of this community.

Technically, the community and monastery are one. All the businesses, schools and agriculture are run mainly by monks.

Founded by the Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian in 1330, the construction of this monastery was part of a vow Ludwig made to guarantee its salvation and secure an important trade route between Augsburg and Verona, Italy.

The church was originally built in the Gothic style and then, after a fire in the 18th century, redesigned in the Baroque manner. Columns hold the cupola, which is framed by two towers.

The church’s interior takes visitors on a salient visual journey.

“Upon entering this church, your breath is simply taken away. The colorful design of the cupola fresco and the rich decorations on the walls create a unique, light-flooded atmosphere, which is very impressive,” said John Reese, a U.S. Army Garrison Garmisch employee, after a recent visit.

The church truly combines all characteristics of the Baroque style. The architecture, sculptures and paintings are all interwoven and enable the room to create its own dynamics.

All the artistic effects are unified in the cupola fresco. Over an ocean of clouds, the fresco depicts the coronation of St. Benedict in front of an almighty God. This scene reflects the monastery’s very beginnings: St. Benedict appeared in front of Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian in a dream.

The marble statue of the Virgin Mary, located in a tabernacle on the church’s high altar and brought from Pisa, Italy, characterizes a historic devotion piece. To this day, pilgrims from around the world visit the church, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

After taking in the church’s heavenly scenery, visitors should not miss out on enjoying some of the monastery’s more worldly treats. The refreshing Ettaler Klosterbier (beer), for example, is brewed by monks in the monastery’s own brewery and offered at Ludwig der Bayer, its restaurant.

Another tasteful drink is the Ettaler Kloster liqueur, simply called “the Ettaler.” It is available in six different flavors ranging from bitter, dark, clear to hops, peppermint and blueberry. 

“The clear liqueur Kloster-Geist, with its herbal but mild flavor, makes the perfect finale to a hearty Bavarian meal,” Reese said.

All liqueurs are made in the monastery’s distillery. The monks, who according to locals, never sample their liqueur, only use natural ingredients to create an elegant mix of distinct flavors, embedded in the original recipe of a century-old distillery tradition.

A tour of Bavaria offers diverse experiences for all senses. In Ettal, you travel back in time immersed in its sultry history and culture and can enjoy satisfying meals and libations.

In the last installment, we conclude our Bavarian  travels in Oberammergau and the Wies Church in the Pfaffenwinkel (priestly corner).