Neuschwanstein Castle is just one of the many attractions of Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI's homeland.
Neuschwanstein Castle is just one of the many attractions of Bavaria, Pope Benedict XVI’s homeland. Photo: iStockphoto

News Travels is our newblog series that plucks travel destinations from the headlines.

By Martina Sheehan

Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the Catholic world by putting in his two-week notice. Where is the retired pope off to next? Inside sources say he’ll likely spend his sunset years at a monastery inside Vatican Gardens, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a few visits to his home state of Bavaria, Germany—especially given these cool facts about the region’s top sights.

  • Apparently Neuschwanstein Castle’s 60 million visitors aren’t the only ones who’ve found the Romanesque Revival palace magical. Designed by Ludwig II with the help of a set designer, the castle served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s iconic Cinderella Castle.
  • Until 1936, the main attraction at Munich’s Oktoberfest was a horse race—not the kegs of sudsy brew now being handed out by the liter. The Oktoberfest tradition started with the wedding celebration of Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig in August of 1810 and has grown ever since.
  • The chant “Eins, zwei, g’suffa!” heard throughout Munich’s beer halls roughly translates to “One, two, drink up!” With all that quality German beer going around, we’ll do what we’re told.
  • Although the breathtakingly scenic 220-mile stretch between Wurzburg and Fussen known as the Romantic Road is based on an old Roman trade route, it didn’t become a wildly popular attraction until some clever marketing folk branded it as a formal route in 1950 to drum up tourism.
  • The landmark gold cross that tops the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak at 9,718 feet in the Bavarian Alps, was first erected by a team of 28 climbers in 1851. After 111 years, it eventually had to be replaced thanks to damage incurred by a trigger-happy American soldier during the Second World War, plus decades of lightening strikes.

Thinking about exploring the Pope’s home turf? Check out our full Germany travel guide.

Martina Sheehan is a travel, entertainment and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Time Out Chicago, the New York Times and Forbes Travel Guides, among others.


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