In the fairy tale Bavarian town of Ettal, hidden behind a facade of school, lies an old Benedictine Monastery.
It was an un-planned stop over on my winter trip with an organized tourist group (which is a topic I will go into later on). Before we venture to see the Basilica and taste the liqueur the monks make, let me show you around the town.
Because like all Bavarian towns, this one also capture the magic of the mountains and a respect towards tradition beautifully.
The bus dropped us off just behind this stunning hotel and restaurant – and if you would know German, you would understand that it belongs to the monks. They support themselves with running this hotel, restaurant and a brewery which is in the premises of the monastery. Modern days right?
The restaurant was beautifully decorated for Christmas (we visited start of December) and despite the lack of snow, you couldn’t help but to feel festive.
We raised a toast to the gorgeous grand old building and good food and were on our feet to quickly check the main street of the village before meeting up with our guide.
The weather didn’t look particularly impressive, but I can imagine the place must be completely transformed in the summer.
The main street was lined with picture-perfect Bavarian houses, some with pretty paintings and others with cute details on the corners.
Even the town hall below looked the part!
We caught up with our group and entered the Basilica – where our guide, one of the monks, was already waiting for us.
The monastery grounds are massive and sadly some parts were already closed when we visited. The monastery shop was open though and it was one of the most impressive ones I’ve seen – they had everything from wine, liqueur, candles, religious ornaments, books and much much more!
Warning about roof avalanches made me giggle!
The cupola with the original paintings looked like something out of a Sistine Chapel. We got very detailed information about each of the paintings from the local monks along with a trip ‘behind the scenes’ of the Basilica.
If you want to know more about the history of the Basilica, you can find very detailed information here (sadly there’s not enough space to go into details).
Below – the look from the main altar. We were only allowed since we had a guide and were in a group.
The Madonna in here is made from gold and I was surprised to hear that they have an alarm set up – it would go off if you would step closer to it.
We were also allowed entry to what must be the most beautiful sacristy in the world! Judge yourself…
It was the size of a museum, with intricate ceiling paintings, stunning wooden furniture and the most gorgeous light flooding in.
After the long introduction to the Basilica, we finally ventured out to find the expert who will introduce us to the Benedictine liqueur.
The building below is where they make the beer – it can be bought in the local shop but we have seen it also in the Bavarian supermarkets. It’s the ‘Weissbrau’ type of beer, so a lot lighter than traditional beer.
The monastery makes a number of different liqueurs, each with its own medicinal benefits and a unique blend of herbs.
After an introduction to the most common ingredients used to make them, we could pick any of the liqueur to taste from a small shot glass.
Which went down rather well. In fact so well, we ended up taking two bottles with us.
The liqueurs are quite sweet, so its not to everyone’s taste. They also make gin which my husband really liked. The liqueurs are around 13 eur if you buy them after tasting, a little more direct from their shop.
After being warmed up by the liqueur and educated by the monks, we headed towards the last stop of the day – the Christmas markets in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, one of the most known ski towns in Germany.
Even though we arrived at dark, you couldn’t miss how beautiful the town was. The Christmas markets looked spectacular! Festive lights everywhere, the smell of mulled wine, kids laughing while skating on the ice ring.
I got my first mulled wine of the festive season with a cheeky dash of the local rum.
A short stroll down through the main street, we found plenty of reasons to get excited – church-like paintings on the old houses, original decor in the display windows and some of the coziest restaurants I’ve been too.
After spending a fortune on dinner & wooden Christmas decoration, we headed back to our meeting point to catch up with rest of the group.
While the rest of them were complaining about the cold, German prices and the darkness, me and my husband were happy that we deployed our fool-proof recipe for a good trip – plenty to eat and drink in a great company.