Bavaria: Tour it through Sightsleeping

It’s good to be queen, even if just for a day.

I got the key to room 107 without fanfare and trudged off for an hour of R&R. Home for the night turned out to be the honeymoon suite at Hotel Burg Wernberg, a 12th century castle, on a hilltop overlooking a town of 5,000.

The suite’s walls were fanciful murals of curtains, with elfish minstrels peeking through. The bed was a virgin white cushion of fluff and comfort. In the bathroom was a whirlpool for two, a heated towel rack, a single red rose.

Before slumber, I’d feast for five hours on a seven-course meal at chef Christian Jurges’ Kastell, a Michelin-rated restaurant. The culinary pleasure was all about “looks good, tastes better,” from the goose liver to the saddle of venison. A half-dozen truffle choices appeared at the end, after a wicked whirl of desserts.

And in the morning, I awakened to a light blanket of snow that seemed appropriate for this quick fairytale stay. We were between Nuremberg and Prague, with the Autobahn just two miles away.

About 200 couples were wedded in the castle’s small chapel this year. The largest accommodation – the Bishop’s Suite – used to be a potato cellar. A modern building, for business seminars, was added after the hotel opened in 1998.

The rate for my suite was about $400, but standard rooms are around $170. Expect to pay $110-140 for dinner at Kastell. For more: www.burg-wernberg.de.

This property is one of 19 that have earned a Sightsleeping designation from the Bavarian tourism office. Sightsleeping is a new effort to brand and market the area’s most interesting accommodations that are independently owned.

“You hotel must be worth seeing, the minute you open your eyes,” says Martin Spantig, of the tourism office. “Each has a unique feature, so they cannot be compared.”

Participants include luxury properties, but rates at some properties start as low as $80 per night. Not all are handicapped accessible. Most include breakfast. Multi-day travel packages, with car rental, are available.

Martin says Sightsleeping is geared toward creative people who want more than a chain hotel experience. It also is a logical way to experience both rural and metropolitan areas in Bavaria.

An impartial jury meets annually to evaluate Sightseeing applications; 123 lodging operators applied this year.

A majority of the qualifying hotels are historic castles or palaces, but the way lodging proprietors blend the old and new is not uniform.

Acreage at Schlossparkhotel Mariakirchen protects a 16th century castle, but overnight guests stay in 35 sleek, modern hotel rooms that just opened this year. Rates start around $130, including breakfast.

Beer is brewed at the hotel’s schlossbrau, a stable built in 1785, and the suds are served – with Bavarian sausages and salads – to local residents as well as visitors.

“It’s like their living room,” we are told. Some people bring in their own food but buy the beer. Those who choose to order from the menu get hardy and local fare: meats from the butcher shop one-half mile away, bakery and cheeses from the local dairy.

Portions are big. Clientele include local farmers. The hotel and its parklike grounds are in Arnstorf, a town of only 800 northeast of Munich, but six golf courses are within 25 miles. For more: www.schlossparkhotel-mariakirchen.de.

Hotel Schloss Neuburg am Inn, a sprawling castle from 1050, overlooks Austria, whose border is just 10 minutes away. It is another unusual mix of plush accommodations in medieval architecture, with gourmet dining served on the premises.

Rates begin at $125. For more: www.schlossneuburg.de.

What else?

A bland office building in downtown Munich has become the Hotel Advokat, boutique lodging with a stylish, minimalist design. Rooms are small but hip, uncluttered but containing surprises. One is a shiny apple, plopped atop a plump bed pillow. On the nightstand: a liqueur-filled chocolate, plus a single fresh carnation.

The TV is small, but it’s a plasma screen. The breakfast is continental, but the array of food is impressive. The room later becomes a bar for tea drinking.

For more: www.hotel-advokat.de. Room rates start around $200.

About 20 miles north, the Corbin Feng Shui Business Hotel applies ancient Asian principles to its architecture, décor and furnishings. It is the world’s first feng shui hotel certified by Chinese Dr. Jes T.Y. Lim, a global consultant in feng shui principles.

If customers don’t sleep well, they do not pay for their overnight stay. We are told this has happened only twice since the hotel opened in 2003, but our own experience was less than stellar, mainly because we couldn’t figure out how to cool room temperature.

But the surroundings are indeed calming. In the lobby are sand mandalas, an area for lounging and retro music videos that play on a 19-foot-wide wall of glass doors. Lower voltage and unconventional wiring reduce electro-magnetic fields in sleeping areas. Edges on mirrors are rounded. The in-room refrigerator contains complimentary beverages. Blanket and pillow designs are proprietary.

A 1.6-ton crystal from Brazil sits outside the hotel entrance, and other crystals are buried on the grounds.

A shuttle takes guests to the nearby Munich airport. Room rates begin at $120. For more: www.corbin-hotel.de.

For more about Sightsleeping in Bavaria, and other reasons to visit: www.sightsleeping.de, www.bayern.info. There are direct flights between Chicago and Munich.

Note: Mary Bergin was a guest of Munich Airport International and the tourism offices in Bavaria and Munich during this press trip, which involved three other U.S. travel journalists.