This year Bavaria is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its founding as a kingdom but that status is not all that the southern German state is proud of. After all, what do such diverse celebrities as Billy Joel, Sandra Bullock, Levi Strauss and Henry Kissinger have in common? Bavaria, that’s what! Over 46 million Americans claim German heritage, including Donald Trump, Neil Armstrong, Albert Einstein and Theodore Steinway. Bavaria is now promoting the towns and villages along its U.S. heritage trail: Routes to the Roots.

Bavaria was a starting point for many German emigrants to America. You may be familiar with the towns of Bamberg, Nuremberg, Bayreuth, Wuerzburg and Passau, known for their beer, half-timbered houses and famous Christmas markets. But, Americans on the heritage trail will go several steps further to nearby towns and villages, called Kleinlosnitz, Schiefweg, Buttenheim, Fuerth, Bad Blankenburg among others.

The best way to experience the heritage trail is to start in Munich, travel east toward Passau, north toward Nuremberg and beyond, and then back to Munich. Your trip will bring you along parts of the glass road with its wonderful galleries and stores, through national parks, the charming towns and vineyards in the region of Franconian Switzerland.

Many Chicaoans started from the eastern part of Germany. On the border with the Czech Republic, the Emerenz Meier Haus is a museum that features biographical portraits of emigrants, and nearby open air museum of Finsterau presents farming, foresting and glass and charcoal industries, all primary livelihoods of the emigrants.

Then, heading northwest, one passes through Regensburg, the home of Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List fame to arrive in Fuerth. The town was the birthplace of diplomat Henry Kissinger; publisher Julius Ochs, founder of The New York Times; actress Sandra Bullock; and singer Billy Joel. Levi Strauss (nee Loeb) was born in the nearby town of Buttenheim. A museum there tells the story of Strauss’ emigration to California in 1847 and the success story of Levis.

Further north, one comes to the towns of Kleinlosnitz, Bad Blankenburg and Muehlhausen. Kleinlosnitz has an open air peasant’s museum, and Friedrich Froebel founded the first Kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg. Muehlhausen, was the home of August Roebling, the architect of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge. Heading back toward Munich, one cannot miss the town of Bad Windsheim, the home to Franz Daniel Pastorius who in the late 17th century headed to America to found the settlement of Germantown in Pennsylvania. Today, millions of Americans can trace their roots back to the many towns and villages along Bavaria’s heritage trail.

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For more information on heritage trails in Bavaria and Germany, go to

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For more information on the Bavarian Kingdom Exhibit in Munich from March 30th to July 30th, go to

Lonely Planet Munich & Bavaria (Lonely Planet Munich)