Tag Archives: Upper Bavaria

How to buy a Dirndl

It’s been a busy summer for the Bowmans in Bavaria. Superdude is crawling after his sister Rosebud; for her part, Rosebud is speaking more and more German (simple phrases, mostly). She’s also quite the little conversationalist in English. I’m really enjoying these two kids and feel extraordinarily lucky to have them.

A week ago Saturday, I had the opportunity to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time: I went to a Trachten shop to buy myself a Dirndl.

Feeling like a proper Dirndl-clad Bavarian woman

Tracht is the word for costume (plural: Trachten). When most Americans think of Germany, they usually think of Bavaria and the traditional costume that is worn in this region of the world.

From when we first moved to Upper Bavaria, I always admired the Dirndl dresses. One of my friends asked me how often people here wear them. Not everyone wears the traditional clothing, but of those who do, I most often see it on the weekend, especially Sunday and on festival days. There are some Bavarians who also wear their traditional clothing during the week, and even some who will only wear the traditional clothing (though this seems to be mostly older people). There’s an elderly gentleman I see from time to time when we go on walks. He doesn’t wear the full Lederhosen (leather pants) outfit but he usually has on a Bavarian shirt and hat at the very least.

If you visit Munich, you will certainly see people of all ages wearing Trachten, and not just the Biergarten servers! I think wearing the traditional costume is a little more common where we live, in Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria) as well as in parts of Austria which shares a similar style of traditional dress.

Believe it or not, Trachten has its own fashion industry and from what I understand, one of the design centers is Salzburg, Austria. Each season has its colors and patterns for that year, with there being a special emphasis on Oktoberfest. I couldn’t tell you what the Dirndl trends are for this year, mind you! Traditionally, each locale has its own variant of the costume, including fabric colors and hat designs. I don’t know a lot about that, however.

I decided I wanted to get good advice and customer service in my Dirndl purchase, so I went to a shop called Trachtenstube Inge which came highly recommended to me. All of the sale associates were beautifully dressed in Trachten. I was very well attended to by a woman who took the time to explain the different types of Dirndl.

I learned that for festivals the skirts tend to be black or at least dark in color. You can even buy a special bridal Dirndl, often in ivory or white, but sometimes in different colors and made of luxurious fabrics. As I wanted a more everyday Dirndl, she directed me toward what she called the “Wasch-Dirndl” – a “wash” Dirndl, or something you can easily launder yourself. The colors tend to be brighter in these everyday dresses. The more traditional Dirndl has a long skirt, but the short skirt is especially popular for the summer and also for Oktoberfest.

The most important thing about wearing a Dirndl, I discovered, is that the bodice must be very snug. The bodice reminded me of a corset in terms of the fit, and I think that’s the secret of why a Dirndl looks and feels so nice. A lady cannot slouch very easily in a Dirndl and must keep her posture straight which, in turn, creates an elegant and poised look. As you might imagine, a Dirndl also keeps a lady’s bustline held well into place, and I quickly learned that a supportive BH is essential (that is, a Bustenhalter, or a bust-holder, if you know what I mean – yes, a bra. Bustenhalter is a German word I particularly like!)

The Dirndlbluse, or Dirndl blouse, is not a full blouse, but rather a half-blouse that is snug around the bust area. The sleeves and neckline can be lacy, plain or everything in between; the ones I tried all had three-quarter sleeves. I don’t know if that is the traditional sleeve length or if that is a modern twist on the Dirndl blouse.

I found seven or eight long-skirted Dirndl that I wanted to try on, and as the prices were better than what I had anticipated, I thought maybe I would be able to buy two for myself.

As I tried on the various Dirndl I had selected, the saleslady and I decided that the stronger colors suited me very well. The first one I tried had a green bodice and a purple skirt, a combination which I liked. Soon after that, I discovered one with a purple bodice and green skirt, with a pink and white apron, which fit me very well indeed. I immediately knew that this was my Dirndl. It reminded me of when I bought my wedding dress, actually, in that I had no doubt whatsoever that it was the Dirndl meant for me.

Side view, fuschia and olive green Dirndl

Front view, fuschia and olive green Dirndl

Front view, fuschia and olive green Dirndl

I tried on a few more dresses, just to be sure. One of the next ones I tried had a dark blue bodice, red checked skirt and a red flowered apron. All of a sudden, I realized this was the perfect Dirndl for an Amerikanerin – it reminds me of our flag, the stars and stripes; the red, white and blue:

My "American" Dirndl, red, white and blue!

It really was too perfect to pass up. Once I determined to buy both of these Dirndl, another beautifully dressed woman scurried over to me, with her pincushion, so she could do the fitting and pinning for a few minor alterations. She said it would take a few days before she could get to the alterations for me. All week long I was eager to get my dresses back so I could try them on again.

When I did finally pick up my Dirndl, I decided to show my neighbors the purple and green one. They were charmed by their American neighbor dressing up and looking like one of their own. I even wore my Dirndl out to dinner at the local pizza restaurant. My husband kept commenting on how cute I looked, so I think I’ll wear my Dirndl somewhat regularly since he appreciated what it did for my figure. I think that Dirndl dresses are flattering on pretty much any woman and not only that, I just feel so magically transformed when I put it on.

Thomahof Farm Visit

One of the many things I love living in Upper Bavaria is that we live in the country and yet we’re just an hour away from the world-class city of Munich.

A few weeks ago, we visited a farm called Thomahof, which is a ten-minute drive from our house.

Griaß God am Thomahof (Greetings at Thomahof)

Beautiful upper Bavarian farm field

I’ve already been back a second time so that I could go to the farm store, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Thomahof farm is truly a typical Upper Bavarian working farm, but the farming family has made their farm very welcoming for a family visit. Our farm visit was a Krabbelgruppe (toddler play group) field trip.

upper Bavarian farm

As we drove to the farm, I explained to Rosebud that we were going to visit some farm animals. She then provided a nice backdrop of farm animal noises and was telling her little brother about the animals we would see. I think that Superdude may have ended up being disappointed that we didn’t see a giraffe, as she had promised, but I digress!

First, we visited the cows in their barn.

Cows eating freshly cut grasses

I liked this poster, which says “Our milk makes Bavaria strong!”

Our milk makes Bavaria strong!

Rosebud enjoyed feeding the cows and was truly giddy to discover that cows have really big tongues. She cackled with delight when they stretched out their tongues to nibble on some grass. I explained to her that cows and other ruminants have four stomachs and they chew their cud, but Rosebud sort of looked at me like, “Oh, whatever, Mom,” and skipped on to the next thing.

Alongside the milk poster in the cow barn were trivia questions geared toward older kids, asking questions like “what kind of grasses are harmful to cows” and “how much milk can the average cow produce”, etc. For the most part, cattle in Bavaria tend to be of the milk-producing variety. As we walked around the farm, it occurred to me just how much the landscape reminds me of upstate New York (where I grew up) and Wisconsin (where I went to Lawrence University), which are also dairy cattle regions. It’s probably not too surprising when I say that Bavaria is known for its cheeses, yogurts and Quark fresh cheese and other dairy products. We are about half an hour from the region called Allgäu which is especially known for its cheese production, particularly Emmentaler, or what we often call Swiss cheese in the US. (Side note: Swiss Emmentaler usually designates Emmentaler from Switzerland, but the name Emmentaler can designate cheese in that style that is produced in Germany, France, etc.).

After visiting the cows and the calves, we visited all the other farm animals (except for the chickens, as they were in their coop).

Sheep may safely graze

A farmhorse

Pigs in the outdoor pen

Rosebud was always delighted when the animals made their noises, as were the other kids in our group.

Oink, oink!

I was wearing Superdude in the baby carrier while walking around the farm. From time to time, he would coo or babble, so I think he got a lot out of the farm visit. Or maybe he was trying to find the promised giraffe…

Toward the end of our visit, all of us walked up a farm path to find a place where we could sit down for a mid-morning snack. There was a large gravel hill, which turned out to be a great climbing hill for Rosebud and some of the slightly older kids.

Farm tractor, of great interest to the kids

Rosebud walks along the farm path

She was so pleased with herself for climbing up to the top.

playing on the gravel pile with the other kids

By the time we finished with our visit and snack, Superdude was exhausted and ready to be home. I had been hoping to visit the farm store, but decided to come back another day.

And so we did this past week, this time with two mama friends of mine and their children. Rosebud was thrilled to see all the animals again, and her favorite animals still seemed to be the cows.

Rosebud reaches for some grasses to give to the cows

However, on this second visit, the chickens were happily strutting about in their indoor pen. (According to a sign, if I understood everything correctly, they were young chickens and not quite ready to strut out in the open area attached to their coop and indoor pen). Rosebud really enjoyed the chickens, which she thought were terribly funny.

Chickens wandering

After visiting all the animals again, I was determined to stop in the farm store. I’m very happy I did. The farm store offered some greens, fresh eggs, a beautiful selection of meat products, freshly baked bread, pasta, jams and cheese. I bought some pasta made from spelt flour and farm eggs, cheese, whole grain spelt bread, oxtail for stewing and cheesy sausage wrapped in bacon called Berner Würstl. I am so excited to know about this farm store, because everything I bought has been amazing (as you’d expect, fresh from the farm). I can’t wait to go back to the store, and I know that Rosebud and Superdude will always be happy to see the animals.

Moooo, cow!

Speaking of animal sounds, many German animal sounds are fairly similar to English ones. For instance, the animal that says “muh” is, of course, a cow. To learn about German animal onomatopoeia, here’s a German-English animal sounds chart.

(For more sound fun, check out this list of Cross-linguistic onomatopoeias.)

Another view of the cow barn

A lovely Easter weekend

This spring, we’ve had exceptionally nice weather. It’s been unusually warm for Bavaria in April, but I am not complaining. We had a four-day weekend for Easter and we profited from the gorgeous weather. One thing I’ve learned about living here is that if the weather is nice, you should jump at the chance to go outside because you can’t always know how long the weather will stay nice.

Saturday, the 23rd, was the nicest day of the entire weekend. For Bavarian standards, it felt like summer had arrived, as we had temperatures in the seventies and clear skies. We visited our friends Honi and Lilly in the town of Murnau am Staffelsee.

Along the path to Ähndl

The train from Oberammergau to Munich, via Murnau and Tutzing

Murnau is a picturesque town, which exemplifies upper Bavaria in my opinion.

View south from Murnau

We took a walk from Murnau to Ähndl Gastsätte and back:

A Gaststätte, by the way, is usually a restaurant that can have a Biergarten (or the Gastsätte might simply be a Biergarten) or it might be like a pub. I believe there are regulations in place for what constitutes a Gaststätte, but I’ll have to ask someone about that. After having had our luncheon at the Ähndl Gastsätte, I can highly recommend this locale for anyone who visits upper Bavaria. We found the prices to be very reasonable and the menu offered many typical dishes, expertly prepared. Not only that, the Gaststätte had a playground. As you can imagine, this made it ideal for us. Rosebud was too excited by the slide, swings and sand pit to eat anything.

Rosebud at the playground

It was a really lovely walk, and so nice to sit down in the middle of our walk and have a leisurely lunch while the girls played. And, of course, it was especially nice for Rosebud and Lilly to spend some time together.

The Alps and the Murnau moor

Lilly and Rosebud, visiting a tree

We went to an Easter breakfast and church on Sunday morning, which gave me the chance to dress Rosebud up in her Dirndl. She really loves getting dressed up in her Dirndl. I didn’t have my camera with me, but I’ll have to remember to take some photos of her in her Dirndl the next time she wears it.

On Sunday afternoon, I planned to do our Easter egg hunt with Rosebud, but instead we had the first thunderstorm of the season complete with pea-sized hail. We needed the rain, and the air smelled and felt so wonderful during the short-lived storm. Rosebud got to have her Easter egg hunt on Easter Monday, instead. Following her egg hunt, we went for a walk in the forest behind our house. It was cooler than Saturday, but still gorgeous weather and perfect for spending the day together as a family.

We hope everyone had an excellent weekend with their families, whether you were celebrating Easter, Passover or simply the springtime.

Rosebud's Easter egg hunt

Rosebud spots an egg

Mom, I have a blue egg!

Lilacs are blooming, at the end of April!

Daddy and Rosebud throw sticks into the stream

Superdude is happy to be out for a stroll

Springtime walk near our house

Another picture of the stream by our house

Rosebud in the woods

Brauneck Peak

One of the many lovely little towns in our area is Lenggries, which is principally known for the ski resort on Brauneck peak. As you might imagine, it’s quite busy in the winter. In the summer, visitors can ride the cable car to the top of Brauneck peak. And year-round, you can stop for some Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) or a bite to eat in the restaurant at the top of the peak. In the summer season, visitors from all over come to Brauneck to go on hiking/mountain climbing adventures.

When David’s family came to visit us, we decided it was time for us to visit the Brauneck peak as we hadn’t been there yet. We enjoyed the views and had a delicious lunch in the restaurant. I’d like to do some hiking there, perhaps later in the fall but surely next summer.

Take a look!

A view of Lenggries from the cable car ride to the top of the Brauneck

Looking in a southerly direction, toward Austria, from the top of Brauneck peak

Rosebud thought the Dragon Flyers were something else (the parasailer in the picture below). She’d go out onto the terrace, and when she saw the Dragon Flyers, she’d exclaim, “I LOVE it!” It was too funny!

Rosebud on the terrace of Brauneck peak, by the restaurant

Another view from Brauneck peak

Trails leading from the top of Brauneck

Daddy and Rosebud in the cable car