Quick Trips: Wildlife, cross-country trails beckon in Bavarian Forest
Stars and Stripes August 15, 2006
A leathery-looking German with a green hat and scraggly beard paused from his walk up the 3,150-foot-high Silberberg, or Silver Mountain, to admire a flower.
Moments later, he yanked the wildflower out of the ground and crammed it into his mouth before going on his way, apparently satisfied with his trail-side snack.
It’s probably not something the authorities would approve of, but it’s obviously an option for some who go to enjoy the Bavarian Forest, one of the closest alpine regions to U.S. bases in Bavaria.
The forest — the Bayerischer Wald, in German — is about a two-hour drive southeast of Grafenwöhr, and less than that from Vilseck or Hohenfels.
The forest, which encompasses the 92-square-mile Bavarian Forest National Park, sprawls across the Czech border north of Passau and east of Regensburg. According to the park’s Web site, it includes numerous hiking trails and is home to wolves, lynx, deer, birds, owls, otters and many other plants and animals.
The region includes the 4,800-foot Grosser Arber, or Great Arber Mountain, which locals claim was used as an observation post for watching enemy forces in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.
In winter, the Grosser Arber is used as a ski field with 12 runs and a 22-euro lift ticket price. It is a regular destination for ski trips run by the Grafenwöhr Outdoor Recreation Center in winter.
The Bavarian Forest is also popular with cross-country skiers who can find trails of all difficulty levels at a ski area called Bretterschachten.
The Regan River is the largest waterway in the region. Another popular stop for tourists is the Grosser Arbersee, a glacier lake that is almost 10,000 years old.
There are many small towns scattered throughout the forest. One of them, Bodenmais, is famous for its glass blowers who make lamps, glasses, vases and other trinkets. Many of the glass blowers allow tourists to watch them work.
The Silberberg stands on the outskirts of Bodenmais. You can ride a chairlift to the top of the mountain to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the town below, or go part way up to the entrance to an old silver mine.
In the summer, you can walk down an access road or slide down on a wheeled luge. Or you can take a guided tour of the mine and ride its historic rail car. According to one local guide, mining at the Silberberg started in the 12th century.
At the bottom of the mountain, you can get some real food — not wildflowers — such as sausages and beer, at reasonable prices. While you are eating, you can watch a herd of goats and donkeys munch on the flowers nearby.
If you want to experience the vastness and beauty of the German Alps, places such as Berchtesgaden and Garmisch are better options. But if you are looking for summer hiking or winter skiing that’s a bit closer, the Bavarian Forest will not disappoint.
On the QTDirections: To reach Bodemais, take autobahn A3 to the Deggendorf exit, and then take B11 north past B85 to Bodenmais. It takes 30 minutes to drive from Deggendorf to Bodenmais. The road to the Silberberg is signposted from Bodenmais.
Times: Any good time to go? Does chairlift up run during set times?
The chairlift runs 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily until the end of August, and slightly shorter times the rest of the year. The mine is open for tours, which last about 45 minutes, from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily through the end of August, shorter hours rest of year. There is also a more strenuous, two-hour tour of the mine — with a minimum of five people — at 10 a.m. Wednesdays and 2 p.m. Fridays from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Costs: A round trip on the chairlift costs 4.50 euros for adults, 3 euros for children; one way is 3 euros and 2 euros respectively. Combination chairlift ride and mine visit is 8 euros for adults, 5 for children.
Food: Mention food in body of story. What is available -- snack bars, restaurants, cafes? A restaurant at the bottom of the mountain sells standard fare, including sausages and beer at reasonable prices. There is also a beer garden near the mine entrance.
Information: Details on Silberberg’s summer and winter attractions plus its mine tours are available, in German, at www.silberbergbahn.de. The Bavarian Forest National Park Web site, also in German, is: www.nationalpark-bayerischer-wald.de
— Seth Robson