How to Travel Bavaria Like a Local
Recently, Rare Dirndl paired up with American Expat, LeAnna Brown, author and creator of the English-speaking Germany Travel Blog, Wander In Germany. Today, we are going to get to know her a bit more, what led her to Germany, chat a bit about Trachten (Dirndls and Lederhosen), and even find out some of her favorite travel tips for visiting Germany!
LeAnna, you’ve been in Germany off and on for over 10 years. What first led you there?
Like many people who love Rare Dirndl, I have a strong connection to my German heritage. In 2010, my husband and I decided to do a month-long backpacking trip through Europe and we obviously spent a good amount of time in Germany!
It was this trip that made us both fall head over heels in love with travel and within a year, we found ourselves looking for jobs in Europe! My husband was offered a job in Bavaria, and we jumped on the opportunity. Germany has captured our hearts ever since!
How long have you lived in Germany and where?
We first moved to a small, little village in Bavaria thinking we would “Travel Travel Travel as much as we could only for a few years and then move back to Nebraska (home)”
Well, a few years came and went and we still weren’t ready to leave.
It was only after we had our first son that we decided in 2017 to move back to Nebraska, where we had our second son.
However, neither of us could quite shake the lifestyle that Germany offers and we often found ourselves daydreaming of going back.
In 2020, amidst the pandemic, we moved our family back to Regensburg, which is where we are still loving and living the German lifestyle today! We’ve even added a third kiddo to the chaos and can’t wait to see what all our futures hold here in Germany.
What led you to start the Wander In Germany Blog?
Since my husband and I had been traveling the world for several years, people and friends would always come to us for travel advice. I actually started a different blog for Budget Traveling, but that was more of a “for fun” and “I have no idea what I am doing blogging” kind of blog!
When we moved back to Germany in 2020, I found people asking us for all sorts of Germany travel advice again, so it was a perfect way for me to continue my creative writing, inspire others to travel to Germany, and share my in-depth, wealth of knowledge on everything Travel in Germany!
Since we have traveled here as young twenty-somethings on a backpacker's budget, are also travel hackers using points and miles for luxury travel, and now that we are well versed in traveling with a family, I have a unique and wide range of expertise on all things Germany Travel that many others don’t!
Where did the name “Wander in Germany” come from?
It actually sort of came from a few references. First, I knew I wanted “Germany” somewhere in the title since I knew the blog was ONLY going to focus on that (and nowhere else).
Second, we love hiking in the German Alps, where there are “Wander Wegs” (Wander in German can mean Hiking. So Wander Wegs (pronounced like “Vahnder Vegs”) means “Hiking Paths.” As a writer, I’m a sucker for plays on words, so I liked incorporating a German word that also doubled as an English one.
Finally, I feel like some of the beautiful, cobblestone streets of Germany are just made for, well… WANDERING! I’ll be the first to admit that I am a total “I need an itinerary” kinda gal (which is obvious when you read the blog, because I give insanely detailed suggestions for trips and leave no (cobble) stone unturned!) but sometimes, just wandering around, getting lost in the architecture and stumbling upon a great Biergarten is just what a travel heart needs!
What Makes Wander in Germany different from other travel blogs?
There are a lot of great travel blogs out there. I actually feel like there are a few things that make WIG (what our community calls it in our Travel in Bavaria Facebook Group) unique.
- WIG is JUST about traveling in Germany and nothing else. This is great for people planning a trip to Germany because it is their one-stop shop!
- I only write about places in Germany I have personally been to and can offer first hand tips and advice, so you know everything is genuine and coming from real world, first hand experience, not just a google regurgitated listicle that I outsourced.
- I’m insanely proud of my highly detailed articles. I often get emails and messages for readers commenting on how much they genuinely appreciate my attention to all of the small things. After all, that is often what makes trips truly memorable (and stress-free!)
Germany is obviously known for Oktoberfest! Let’s chat a bit about that…and of course Dirndls!
How Many Dirndls Do you Have?
Just kidding….sort of. (Seriously, is there such a thing as too many Dirndls???)
I have had three Dirndls, but not all at the same time. Let’s just say that my first Dirndl in my twenty-somethings is not the same Dirnd that I have 10+ years and 3 kids later!
My first was a fun purple and brown dress that was great at doing what Dirndls do best…show off a female figure!
My second was a size up after baby #1 and was a gorgeous baby blue and gold that felt quite fancy.
My third was Erika’s custom fit Dirndl because, despite living in Germany with a plethora of Dirndls at my fingertips, after my third baby, none would fit my expanded rib cage. They either fit that area and were huge everywhere else, or I could barely breathe trying to zip it up over my ribs, but then it fit everywhere else. When I found out that Erika would custom fit dresses exactly to MY new size, I knew that would be the perfect Dirndl for this phase of my Mom-life! I love how elegant it looks and I get TONS of comments on just how beautiful it is.
But people don’t REALLY wear Dirndls and Lederhosen for real, right?
Meh….sort of. Sort of not!
If you go anywhere outside of (Southern) Bavaria, then no, you won’t see Trachten on a daily basis. In fact, people from the North (think Berlin) often roll their eyes when people just assume that everyone in Germany wears Lederhosen!
However, in Southern Bavaria, and well into Austria, I was SHOCKED when I saw that Trachten was very much not just some “German Stereotype!”
I’ll never forget the first week I lived in Bavaria and saw an old lady going to the store in her long Dirndl and me thinking, “Wait!? This is real!?”
Or even last week, I took the kids for a weekend of hiking in the Austrian Alps and there was a surprising amount of men wearing Lederhosen as their hiking shorts!
So, is “Wearing Lederhosen” (and Dirndls) a stereotype? Well, yes. Buuuut, in this case, the stereotype is based on some truth!
Now, if you are visiting Munich, still don’t expect to see a ton of Trachten. However, it’s also not that uncommon to see people dressed up for special occasions (birthdays, weddings, etc) wearing their beautiful Dirndls and Lederhosen!
Is It True That You Have to Tie Your Dirndl Apron a Certain Way?
Yes! Granted, nobody is going to actually notice, but traditionally speaking, you tie your apron:
- On the left if you are single
- On the right if you are married
- At the back if you are a child or a waitress
What is the best way to style hair when wearing a Dirndl?
This is completely personal, but going with some stereotypical braids is never going to steer you wrong! Now, just know what KIND of braids to do to not look like a tourist or Halloween costume. For example, avoid pigtail braids. However, crown braids or loose side braids are always an authentic look with a Dirndl.
Alternatively, flowy curls are often a popular choice for women who want a more elegant look for their Dirndl.
Adding a beautiful beret can round out a great look and if you want to add a flower crown, just keep it simple and understated.
One of the things that I love about wearing my Dirndl is that I feel so feminine and beautiful. Doing my hair in a complementary style is always fun to play up that look (since I don’t do it nearly often enough as a mom!)
Can Tourists Wear Dirndls (and Lederhosen) to Oktoberfest in Munich?
I know some people are worried about cultural appropriation or just looking like a silly tourist, but honestly, wearing Trachten(traditional German clothing) is 100% acceptable at Oktoberfest!
You can read exactly what a tourist should (and shouldn’t) wear to Oktoberfest here.
You’ve been to Oktoberfest 5 times, any tips for creating a DIY Oktoberfest at home to make it feel authentic?
When we moved back to the US in between living in Germany, we had our own Oktoberfests at home and they were so fun! A few things I did to try to make it feel more “Authentic” was:
- Of course, wear your Rare Dirndl and Lederhosen! Encourage anyone coming to wear one as well. You can even give out prizes for best Trachten to get people excited!
- Turn on a playlist with Polka music. Don’t skimp on the song “Ein Prosit!”
- Recreate simple to make at home dishes like Käsespätzle, Currywurst, and candied almonds
- Learn to brew your own beer and make your own Marzen (the style of official “Oktoberfest Bier)
- We hung up blue and white streamers from the ceiling to give an Oktoberfest “Tent” looking vibe
Ok, so you are clearly known as the Germany Travel Expert! So, let’s get some of your best tips, tricks, and answers to some Germany Travel advice!
What is your favorite fairytale castle in Germany?
Obviously, Neuschwanstein is one of the most famous castles (in the world!) and despite it being insanely touristy, it actually is still high up on my list of Best Castles in Germany. However, I absolutely love the Linderhof Castle (doable within a day trip to Neuschwanstein!) which is another one of “Mad King Ludwig’s” Palaces. Another great, fairytale-looking castle is the Lichtenstein Castle (which can be done in a day with nearby Hohenzollern- also a fantastic castle!) as a day trip from Stuttgart.
Germany is known for its “romantic” picture-perfect towns and villages. Which one is your favorite?
Germany is NOT lacking in beautiful towns and villages! Honestly, it is hard to pick. Places like Rudesheim with its half-timbered houses are like looking straight into a German postcard! Towns like Cochem that have a castle looming high over the winding river below are just beckoning for you to come visit! More “off the beaten path” places like Quedlinburg are completely underrated!
However, I’m just going to be completely biased here and pick my “home town” in Germany…Regensburg! It’s got everything you need in picture perfect German towns! Bright, pastel buildings, ancient roman history, Biergartens galore, a fantastic outdoor cafe culture, and so much more!
You have three kids. What is your favorite place to visit with children?
Traveling with kids in Germany is definitely different than when we were just a young couple galavanting throughout the country! However, Germany is still a family friendly destination. There is so much to do that caters to the little ones’ interests.
I love taking my kids to castles. I personally enjoy the history and the kids feel like they are Knights storming the castle!
The Black Forest with kids is a great place to explore, but the Bavarian Forest is arguably just as great for families (and even less touristy!)
Even the bigger cities like Munich and Berlin can still be fun for kids!
You can’t go to Germany and NOT try the different foods! What are some of your favorite German foods to try?
There are so many authentic, German foods to try that it can be hard to narrow it down.
Obviously, everyone wants to enjoy the Schnitzels (I prefer the Wiener Schnitzels- which are the breaded and fried ones) but it is fun to try different variations as well. And of course, you can’t go to Germany and not eat at least one delicious Wurst (again, soo many varieties to choose from- Curry Wurst is my personal fave!)
And of course, you can never go wrong with the crowd pleasing Käsespätzle!
To wrap it all up, what tips do you have for someone looking to travel to Germany?
- Don’t try to do it all. I know, this is a trip of a lifetime, but slow down and pick only a few places to really explore and truly enjoy rather than rushing everything
- Mix in nature with cities. Places like Berlin and Munich are amazing! So are the Alps and more “unknown” places like “Franconian Switzerland.”
- Take trains and public transportation if staying in tourist destinations. They are way easier and fantastic for getting around compared to driving. (Driving is good if you plan on doing more “off the beaten path” stuff though).
- Eat all the food and try all the beer!!!!
Thanks LeAnna, for joining us today, sharing your story, some of your Germany travel wisdom, Dirndl fashion tips, and more!
Where else can people find you on the internet?
Thanks so much for letting me connect with your own readers, Erika!
- People can obviously read to their heart’s content on the blog, WanderInGermany.com.
- I also love show REAL life Germany on my Instagram @Wander.In.Germany
- If you are planning a trip and are including Bavaria, we have a great community of both locals and travelers offering fantastic advice for Traveling In Bavaria on Facebook.