Lake region is unspoiled

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ROTTACH-EGERN, Germany -- From the top of the Wallberg mountain cable-car station here, you can see the Austrian Alps, the Bavarian Alps and, possibly, a wedding taking place in an ancient wooden church that holds just a dozen people.

Despite the enchanting views, the Lake Tegernsee district, some 30 miles outside of Munich, is virtually unknown to U.S. visitors and lures mostly domestic German travelers.

The opportunity to swim in clean waters, engage in water sports unhindered by motorboats or jet skis, and to sample traditional Bavarian folkways make the Tegernsee area an ideal getaway from the stresses of civilization.

The five towns situated around the four-mile-long body of water feel more like small villages, with the largest, Gmund, home to only 6,250 people.

All boast traditional Bavarian architecture: wooden chalets bedecked with flowers.

And it is normal for local businessmen, retirees and even teenagers to don traditional leiderhosen for dinner or a night at the beer hall.

When dining at the mostly casual restaurants around the lake, visitors will find plenty of what is called "fancy pork" and local beers served up in oversized mugs.

For those who want to minimize their physical activities, there's a cable car to lift them 5,500 feet to the top of Wallberg Mountain. And horse-drawn coach rides through the woods are also popular, as are boat rides around the lake.

But even the most laid-back of travelers will be tempted to stroll through the dense carpets of wildflowers that fill the Tegernsee's valley in the springtime.

In summer, each town holds a small festival, giving outgoing visitors the chance to sing songs and swig beer with local drinking enthusiasts.

Other festivals, many of which have been going on for more than a millennium, feature folk dancing and sporting competitions.

For even more active travelers, there are countless mountain hiking paths of varying levels of difficulty.

In the winter, cross-country and downhill skiing are popular, day and night, and a three-mile toboggan run attracts serious racers and fun-loving amateurs.

The lack of many international tourists in the area means clients can soak up the countryside and Bavarian culture without being disturbed by motorcoaches and crowds.

On the other hand, that also means that English is not widely spoken, and English-language menus are uncommon in restaurants.

There are numerous rustic accommodations as well as four-star properties.

A new hotel arrival on the lake shore likely to attract the luxury set is the five-star, 188-room Dorint Seehotel Ueberfahrt, which boasts some of the fanciest spa facilities in central Europe (see www.dorint.de online).

In fact, spa and wellness treatments are one of Tegernsee's main attractions.

The town of Bad Wiessee, for instance, offers natural "curative" springs with iodine- and sulphur-rich waters.

On the cultural side, there are many medieval churches in the valley, and the most famous museum is dedicated to Norwegian cartoonist and artist Olaf Gulbrannson, who had a second home on the lake.

For more on the Tegernsee region, go to www.tegernsee-tourismus.de online or contact the German National Tourist Office in New York at (212) 661-7200 or at www.germany-extranet.com.

To contact the reporter who wrote this story, send e-mail to [email protected] .

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