• Oberammergau, Germany


Bavaria is the Texas of Germany: a relatively huge chunk of the country (Germany's largest Bundesland), with an independent streak and unique history, not to mention still-vibrant rural traditions that seem to epitomize, at least to outsiders, the national character. The romantic American image of Germany — lederhosen-clad lads and busty Mädchens swilling beer and pretzels before an alpine backdrop — is a Bavarian scene (probably because this was "our" sector after the war). Many Bavarians really do wear dirndls and lederhosen (at least on special occasions), erect maypoles in spring, host exuberant Christmas markets in winter, and frequent Oktoberfest-type beer halls year-round. Southern Bavaria is home to its most well-known areas: Rollicking Munich and the storybook castles that nestle amid snowy peaks. But farther north and east lie some of Germany's most visit-worthy spots, including Nürnberg, Würzburg, and adorable Rothenburg ob der Tauber.