Beer-loving, fast-driving, palace-dotted Bavaria, Germany, home of Oktoberfest, BMW, and Neuschwanstein (the castle that inspired Disney), is toasting its centennial as a free state this year. Now’s the perfect time to travel beyond its obvious attractions to the glittering Crystal Route, where splendor lies in the glass. (See more of Disney come to life in these vintage photos.)
Blessed with dense forests and veins of minerals, this patch of Bavaria east of Munich (an ideal starting point) and bordering the Czech Republic has spun beauty from potash and quartz since the 1400s. Early glass makers worked from Wanderhütten, or wandering huts. Today’s masters are easier to find, as they churn out everything from pink-glass pigs at family-run Glashütte factories to fine crystal goblets at world-class manufacturers Zwiesel (inventor of plate glass) and Spiegelau, crafter of many a royal mirror. (See the world through glass tunnels, lodges, bridges, and more.)
The glory of all this glass is spotlighted at two very diferent museums, and glassware fills scores of shops. Best of all, you can blow life into your very own crystal souvenir at workshops along the route. Raise a glass of Bavarian Hefeweizen to that!
Miles: 170 Days on the Road: 6 Top Dish: River trout at Burg Falkenstein’s café Best View: Tree Tower in the Bavarian Forest National Park