As if the Bavarian Alps (Oberbayern) aren’t beautiful enough with the Wetterstein Mountains and the towering peak of the Zugspitze framing up some truly spectacular panoramas, non-natural beauty abounds throughout southern Germany. If your neck gets strained from looking up too much, you can always take a break and soak in some street level beauty in the form of the intricate and colorful fresco houses in towns like Garmisch, Grainau and Obergammergau. Known throughout the region as Lüftlmalerei or simply Luftl, these fresco paintings date back to the 18th century when wealthy shopkeepers, farmers and craftsmen chose to display their wealth in the form of decorative frescoes painted on the facades of their shops and homes.
Luftl come in different shapes and sizes and depict varying scenes and subjects, but typically they represent motifs from the Bible, portraits of the “house saint,” or snapshots from daily rural life. The paintings also began to incorporate and accentuate the architectural features of the houses such as windows and doors. Originally, these colorful paintings were applied to fresh lime plaster by mixing water with a chosen pigment. Upon application, the wet plaster absorbs the pigment and when dry, the resulting chemical reaction permanently affixes the colors into the plaster. This process obviously takes a long time and great care must go into cleaning and maintaining the frescoes, so modern, weatherproof techniques have taken over, but the resulting murals are no less captivating.
Next time you decide to go trekking or tramping through the Bavarian Alps, be sure to save some energy to walk around the villages you pass through. A turn around every corner, a deviation down nearly every alley or a bicycle ride through the winding streets and surrounding countryside will certainly keep your eyeballs and your imagination entertained. In fact, some of the houses and frescoes scattered across the region are so immaculate, the line between the folk tale depicted in the fresco and surrounding reality can easily become blurred.