Fir-clad mountains, rocky peaks, lederhosen, and geranium-covered houses: the Bavarian Alps come closest to what many of us envision as "Germany." Quaint towns full of frescoed half-timber houses covered in snow pop up among the mountain peaks and shimmering hidden lakes, as do the creations of King Ludwig II, one of the last kings of Bavaria. The entire area has plenty of sporting opportunities year-round.
Upper Bavaria (Oberbayern) stretches south and east from Munich to the Austrian border. Leaving the city, you'll soon find yourself on a gently rolling plain leading to lakes surrounded by ancient forests. The plain merges into foothills, which suddenly give way to jagged Alpine peaks, and in Berchtesgadener Land, snowcapped mountains rise straight up from the gemlike lakes.
Continuing south, you'll encounter cheerful villages with richly painted houses, churches, and monasteries filled with the especially sensuous Bavarian baroque and rococo styles, and several salt deposits in the area have created a spa culture where you can relax as you "take the waters." Some of the best sport in Germany can be enjoyed here: downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and ice-skating in winter; tennis, swimming, sailing, golf, and, above all (sometimes literally), hiking, paragliding, and ballooning in summer.