Pedalling in the footsteps of Joseph Alois Ratzinger – Pope Benedict XVI on the 200km-plus circular Benedict Trail between the river Inn and the river Salzach in south-east Upper Bavaria.
Altötting has been the religious heart of Bavaria for over 1,250 years and, for more than 500 years, has been the foremost centre of pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary in the German-speaking countries. The lime tree planted here by Pope John Paul II in 1980 marks the start and finish of the Benedict Trail. This pilgrimage route links many sites significant to Bavarian popular piety as well as places where the German pope spent his youth. They include Marktl, where Joseph Ratzinger was born, Tittmoning, where he went to kindergarten, and Aschau and Traunstein, where he attended school and the priests' seminary. The trail is also named after St. Benedict, who founded the Benedictine order, and Bavaria as the terra benedicta. Some feel closer to heaven here in this 'blessed land' than elsewhere. People from every corner of society have been raised to the glory of the altar here, whether an aristocrat such as the king's daughter Irmingard, who founded the convent on Frauenchiemsee island, or the son of a peasant, like Brother Konrad from Parzham, who was the gatekeeper at Altötting's Capuchin monastery. The Benedictine motto ora et labora (pray and work) has left its mark on this diverse landscape dotted with abbeys and pilgrimage sites between the Salzach and Inn rivers and the Chiemgau region. Amid this beautiful panoramic countryside, the Benedictines, Cistercians, Franciscans and Augustinians are all represented along the Benedict Trail in the form of proud abbeys, baroque pilgrimage churches and other splendid sacred buildings.