Tiptoe through the tree tops on the Bavarian Glass Road

FROM the summit of Germany’s longest Treetop Trail, I can hear what sounds like waves lapping in the distance. 

Yet I am nowhere near an ocean, instead I’m listening to the gentle rustle of leaves from a sea of trees in the depths of the Bavarian Forest. 

It took an hour before I reached the top – strolling the whole way along the winding path that spirals up 144ft into the canopies of the trees. 

The trail is just under a mile long offering a dizzying 360-degree view as its reward. 

This wooden walkway has become a top spot in the forest but few visitors are British, who rarely step away from Munich or Nuremberg just a couple of hours away. 

Chalkmarks: Natalie Chalk, Zwiesel, Germany

They are missing out on numerous adventure activities on offer including walking, mountain biking and kayaking along the Regen River. 

But I’m here for another attraction in this southeastern corner of Germany – the Glass Road. 

I’m staying in Zwiesel – the halfway point on the route into a world of glassmaking that has thrived since medieval times in the towns and villages of the Bavarian Forest. 

I check into the family-run Gasthof Kapfhammer hotel, just a two-minute walk down a hill from the train station. 

The first thing I notice is an entire wall taken up with photographs and newspaper cuttings from when Princess Anne was a guest in 1985. I figure if the place was good enough for Her Royal Highness then it was sure to be the best place in town for me. 

In the centre of Zwiesel stands the biggest glass pyramid in the world made up of 93,665 wine glasses. This impressive structure is the entrance to the glassmakers Schott that offers daily factory tours. 

My trip into this crystal kingdom however started nearby at the Theresienthal glassfactory just a 15-minute walk away from the hotel. 

It is one of the oldest in the world having been founded in 1836. To this day, the company produces only mouth-blown crystal insisting on traditional methods and snubbing modern machinery. 

I arrived at the wrong time of day to see the master glassblowers at work but I spent hours walking around their museum and gift shop, which was like stepping into a box of jewels. 

There were hundreds of pieces of fine cut-glass crystal from tumblers and cocktail glasses to delicately engraved champagne flutes and painted decorative bowls and vases. 

Many of their pieces are worth thousands of pounds and are kept safely locked up in cabinets but even their cheapest stemmed-glass crystal has a price tag of £40 for just one piece. 

Over my five days, I aim to find something equally as beautiful to bring home but easier on my purse. 

It is really no trouble getting around the Glass Road as visitors who stay at least one night in any hotel within the forest gets a travel pass for free rail and buses. 

Many choose to travel the whole 155 mile stretch by car in three-to-four-days taking in dozens of traditional glass factories as well as other attractions including the stunning Glass Forest made up of 25 coloured glass “trees” up high on a hill in the town of Regen. 

I opt to stay put in Zwiesel, known as the “glass city”. It has so much to see and do that it’s become a mecca for glass enthusiasts so I don’t feel I’m missing out and better still I don’t have to pack up my suitcase each day. 

The town has a glass art scene that attracts artists from around the world who open up galleries and workshops. Enthusiasts have even created an Underground Passage – an art gallery to show off their glass installations deep in a series of interconnecting tunnels. 

At night I don’t venture far from the hotel as it turns out its in-house restaurant is a local favourite offering traditional German fare and Thai dishes and of course cold beer. 

In the hope of buying some crystal, I use my free rail passage for an easy day trip to Frauenau – known as the Glassmaker’s Village – a few stops up the train line. 

Heading out of Zwesiel is a chance to see the surrounding forest and to hear again that gentle murmur of swaying beach, fir, and spruce trees. 

Rattling along in the train, the view out of the window is broken by the odd white house gleaming out from the forest floor. 

If you’re lucky you might spot a wild lynx, wolf, boar, otter, owl or other birds of prey but they all seemed to be hiding away from me. 

Frauenau is another must see on the Road with its renovated Glass Museum, which houses a huge collection of crystal from around the world including pieces from the Great Exhibition of 1851 held in Crystal Palace, London. 

At the nearby Eisch glassfactory I finally get to see master glassblowers shaping the red-hot honey into crystal wine goblets. The technique hasn’t changed for centuries. They use a long pipe to take up some of the molten glass from the furnace and then they gently blow the liquid into shape. The process has to be done quickly and accurately before the glass cools. 

The company has created a range of glassware they claim makes wine taste as if it has already been decanted. It took all my cunning to find out if this is really true. So right there in the gift shop I get a wine tasting in a Sensis Plus Glass. 

For once, I am speechless. The wine tastes much smoother than in an ordinary wine glass. I ask what they have done to the glass but they give nothing away. 

I guess some secrets are worth keeping so I make my purchases safe in the knowledge that I’ve bagged some gems.

The two I buy cost me £40 but I know that I’ll be saving money in the long run as it will make any bottle – red, white or pink – taste like a smooth fine wine. I’ll drink to that. 

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