Tiptoe through the tree tops on the Bavarian Glass Road
Chalkmarks Bavaria

FROM the summit of the world’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.

The gentle rustle of leaves from the trees sounds like the ocean!

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

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

The first thing I noticed was an entire wall taken up with photographs and newspaper cuttings from when Princess Anne was a guest in 1985. I figured 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 came 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 in cabinets but even their cheapest stemmed-glass crystal has a price tag of £40 for just one piece.

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

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Raising a glass to Bavaria

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

Many choose to travel the whole 155mile stretch by car in three or 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 opted to stay put in Zwiesel, known as the “glass city”. It has so much to see and do that its 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 art gallery to show off their glass installations deep in a series of interconnecting tunnels.

At night I don’t venture far from my hotel as it turns out its restaurant is one of the local hotspots offering traditional German fare and Thai dishes and of course cold beer.

In the hope of buying some crystal, I used my free 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 was a chance to stare out again into the vast surrounding forest and to hear that gentle murmur of swaying beach, fir, and spruce trees.

Rattling along in the train, the view out of the window was 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 a 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 Eisch glassfactory I watched 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 got a wine tasting with its Sensis Plus Glass.

For once, I was speechless. The wine tasted much smoother than in an ordinary wine glass. I asked what they had done to the glass but they were giving nothing away.

I guess some secrets are worth keeping so I made my purchases safe in the knowledge that I’d bagged some gems I couldn’t buy back home.

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

Book it

Flights to Nuremberg from London Gatwick are available with Air Berlin

Train from Nuremberg to Zwesiel with Innercity Express (ICE)

Hotel-Gasthof Kapfhammer (0049 (0)9922/8431-0/)

Entrance fee to Tree Top Trail was 8euros

For more information on the Bavarian Forest visit www.bayerischer-wald.de and www.germany-tourism.co.uk

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