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Though the Alps only tickle Germany’s underbelly, locals know how to get the most out of their peaks, stringing cable cars up the vertical reality of the Alps; marking out entire atlases of cycling, hiking and cross-country skiing trails; even running a train up the inside of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain.

Yet all this is just a short ride from the urban joie de vivre of Munich, a sexy, sophisticated and self-confident city with a nonchalant, almost Mediterranean feel.

Nestled smugly at the foot of thickly wooded hills, this is a good-looking, good-living town of pristine belle époque villas and sculpture-strewn gardens, cupola-crowned spas, and ritzy boutiques, cafes and restaurants.

OLIM PIO FANTUZ/SIM E.4CORNERS © Romantic Road 6 As roads go, Western Bavaria’s Romantic Road ( Click here ) is something pretty special – a 350km-long ribbon of higgledy-piggledy walled towns and soothing countryside.

However, it’s not all medieval quaintness; the route passes blockbuster Harburg castle, the Unesco-listed baroque Wieskirche and Ludwig II’s Schloss Neuschwanstein.

Commissioned by Ludwig II, 19th-century king of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein is top of the league when it comes to Germany’s tourist attractions and it’s easy to see why.

What would have been a private royal residence is a reflection of Ludwig II’s longing to retreat into his own cloistered fantasy world, a secluded realm in which the operas of Richard Wagner played a pivotal role.

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