For fans of the great outdoors, particularly walking cycling and skiing, this cluster of three traditional Bavarian forest chalets set on the edge of the pretty mountain village of Bayerisch Eisenstein are idyllic in summer and magical in winter, when they are a great base for snow fun and Christmas markets.
Rated 5-star by the German Tourist Board, and set in a small residential area, each house is split into several self-contained apartments sleeping from 2-6. As well as shared facilities including a sauna, mini-gym, games room, laundry room, well-stocked honesty larder and onsite massage/beauty therapist, each apartment comes with ensuite bedrooms, kitchens, lounges and useful gadgets such as dishwashers, microwaves, TVs, CD and DVD players, plus a long list of handy baby and toddler gear from buggies to books (see full list in grey box below). Most useful of all is the brilliantly detailed guest folder put together by British owners Margaret and Martin. They live on site and have included everything from suggested walking and cycling routes, to attractions, day trips to Prague and Munich, and even menus from good local restaurants translated into English. They also supply a generous welcome pack with essentials and plenty of ingredients for the first morning's breakfast, and can supplement this with a pre-arrival grocery shopping service so guests can relax from the moment they arrive.
It’s fair to say that a holiday here is magical for mini guests in winter or summer, whether bringing Hansel and Gretel to life with a walk through the 'enchanted' forest to the fabulous Schwellhaeusl (more info below) in summer, or frolicking in the snow and visiting with Santa at the local Christmas markets in winter. Parents will also enjoy the good local restaurants, relaxing with saunas and massage treatments and, Martin's famous Schnapps tasting night.... just don't plan a big skiing/cycling session the next day!
Apartment Maria (Sleeps 6 plus cots) in Haus Sterr is a spacious, self-contained apartment with its own front door onto the landing/stairs. It is approx. 72m² and has a balcony (safely enclosed) on two sides and was renovated in 2009. It offers a double bedroom with ensuite shower room, a twin bedroom and a bedroom with bunk beds, plus an additional shower room. There's a fully fitted kitchen (includes full appliances including microwave, dishwasher, kettle, toaster, coffee maker & grinder etc.) diner and comfortable sitting room with large TV and DVD player. Other facilities include: WiFi, safe, drying rack for laundry, slippers, bathrobes (on request), iron and ironing board.
Despite their peaceful and unspoilt location in the relatively sleepy town of Bayerisch Eisenstein, the apartments are easy to reach by plane, train or automobile (see below) and an an ideal base for exploring Bavaria and its great choice of child friendly activities and places to visit, especially with the handy tips and advice passed on by owners Margaret and Martin.
There's plenty to do in the immediate area all year-round including exploring the forest on foot, bike, horseback (also cart rides) in summer and skiing, tobogganing (there's a run behind the chalets) and snow shoeing in winter. A top recommendation for families is the hour-long walk or shorter bike ride( bikes and child seats available) to discover the magical old woodcutter’s hut (Schwellhaeusl) nestled deep in the forest, with its lake, lovely children’s playground, restaurant and a range of petting animals. There are more playgrounds and restaurants in the picture perfect town centre, which is within a few minutes stroll and also boasts a collection of shops, supermarket and a bakery.
Unlike many resorts, Winter time is still a flourishing time of year . The lush greenery is emphasised by picturesq white peaks and its a chance for the family to indulge in some winter sports. The skiing, snowboarding and toboggan runs at the Arber can be reached in 10 minutes by car/ski bus from the house and has recently been commended for its excellent children facilities, complete with family ski lifts and child friendly areas including the aptly named magic carpet slope and their cuddly mascot ArBär it provides a fun day out for all the family. Another great winter wonder can be found in the form of the numerous charming Christmas markets which run daily from late November (depending on when the first advent weekend falls) they are usually packed full of pretty stalls selling good quality gifts, carousels, Santa's sleighs, reindeers even the opportunity for cookie baking and candle making etc. The most established and famous of all Christmas markets, in Nuremberg (2hrs away) has a heated Playmobil play centre where children can have fun in the warm until the awaited arrival of Nuremberg's Christmas angel. With the air heavy with the scent of cinnamon, gingerbread and mulled wine in abundance and, often, a winter wonderland of snow, there can be few better ways to get into the Christmas spirit and make fabulous memories for those magical early Christmases when Santa is new and real.
Ski Info: The Arber is one of the most reliable for snow in Germany and also the best equipped, with snow cannons and piste preparation equipment. It is the location of the German National Ski Training Centre and hosted Women's World Cup Slalom and Grand Slalom races in 2004 and 2007. The skiing season usually opens in late November and continues until Easter/mid April. It has 3 blue (easy) runs, 4 red (medium) runs and 2 black (difficult) runs, including the World Cup run. There is also a 5km descent to Bodenmais. There are 3 ski schools and 2 shops providing equipment hire. There is floodlit skiing on 2 of the runs on Wednesday and Friday evenings, 18.00-21.30. Lessons cost from €60 for 3 days. Equipment hire costs from €32 for 3 days.
Please note that all guests now have free use of local buses and trains within the Bavarian Forest area for the duration of their stay.
Getting There: When flying, the nearest airports are Munich or Prague Airport (both approx 2hrs, Munich being a little closer). Try www.skyscanner.net for flights. When driving, the nearest port is Calais (approx 10hrs) and the owners can provide suggestions for stop-overs. By Train, perhaps the most relaxing option as well as best for the environment, it is approx. 14hrs & 3 or 4 changes from London. It is possible to catch the Eurostar from St. Pancras at 7am and be in Eisenstein at 21.11. Try www.raileurope.co.uk for info.