Berchtesgaden and Königssee

Saturday 1st July 2006, Berchtesgaden, Germany
Our friends Charlotte and Hans in Munich told us when we were with them last September, that if the opportunity offered we should visit Berchtesgaden, a tiny town lying high in the mountains of Bavaria almost completely surrounded by Austria. As we were only about twenty miles away in Salzburg we decided the time was right. So we made our way along quiet mountain roads that climbed steeply up through little villages of wooden houses and outlying farmsteads, all with verandas bright with flowers. The grassy meadows nearby were being cut for winter fodder and hung to dry on racks in the fields. (Lesley, you were right when you answered our question about why there were racks in the fields of Slovakia.) At a village on the quiet border between Austria and Germany we stopped and walked back to take some photos. It was only later we realised we'd left Modestine in Germany and wandered back into Austria. With no border controls only the road sign indicated where the boundary lay.

Modestine alone in Bavaria while we are back in Austria

Neat wooden house in a mountain village, Austria

Cutting and drying meadow grass, Austria

Over the top of the pass we descended steeply down a long twisting route into Berchtesgaden at a junction where another road continued to rise steeply upwards to where Hitler once had his mountain hide-aways at Berghof and the Eagle's Nest, the latter a birthday present to him from Martin Borman and where he once entertained Neville Chamberlaine.

Considering we are in the height of the holiday season the streets of the town were very quiet. We found a Brotszeitstüberl on the main square opposite the church for lunch. This was classic Bavaria with a gnome-like character sitting on a bar stool with his beer, wearing dungarees, a Bavarian hat and a mane of white beard and hair. Around his mouth the beard had turned yellow with the nicotine from the pipe hanging from his lips. We later saw a sketch in a shop window of this same gentleman. He, the barman and a couple of regulars spoke with an accent that was so thick even Ian could not understand anything they said to us!

Local colour in the Brotszeitstüberl, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Seen in a shop window, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

For lunch we had a couple of Weisswürste (white sausages) with dark sweet mustard and a white bread roll accompanied by Sauerkraut with caraway seeds. Ian had a tankard of beer. Another customer arrived as we were eating and ordered a hunk of cured meat from the joint in the window – this was cut off and weighed before being served with potato salad, pickled gherkins, a large pretzel and a bottle of Dunkelbier (dark beer).

Later we crossed to the church which was very pleasant and restrained inside, lacking much of the ostentation we had seen in Salzburg. We speculated as to whether Hitler had ever attended a service there.

Church and Rathaus, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Detail from a screen in the church showing pelican and lion feeding their young, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Around the town Jill bought a pair of long shorts as we are fast running out of clean clothes. We spend so much time blogging we cannot find time to do our washing and recent campsites do not seem to be providing washing facilities anyway.

Many of the window displays were typically Bavarian with a heavy emphasis on wood carving and religion. There were ice cream and souvenir shops and even a window display about ordering your tailor made lederhosen online at Good to know we can order Ian's new wardrobe so easily once we are back home. There were also many little Konditereien or pastry shops with people enjoying cream cakes and coffee outside, overlooked by the high mountain peaks that surround the town.

Arcades on the main square. Wall paintings are a war memorial, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

On the main street, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Nuns enjoy a little treat, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Window display of religious statues in wood, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Window display of Lederhosen, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Near Königssee, a pretty mountain lake a couple of kilometres outside the town, we found a friendly campsite where we left Modestine. Hinge and Bracket were quite frisky after their frolics around Salzburg yesterday and only too keen to carry us the couple of kilometres beyond the campsite to the lake along an even cycle path through woodland. Here we pottered around the little cafes and stalls beside the lake, enjoying the happy, holiday atmosphere. We had been unsuccessfully seeking internet access in Berchtesgaden and it was becoming increasing urgent. A local hotel said we could use their computer and charged a euro for 15 minutes. It was all we needed and we now know where we will be heading when we leave here.

Modestine wanted this one on the blog, Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

Hinge and Bracket complained it wasn't fair Königssee, Bavaria

Lakeside cafés and boathouses, Königssee, Bavaria

The lake is very beautiful, being deep green and hemmed in on all sides by steep wooded slopes. We cycled as far as we could around the edge but stopped when we reached a winter bobsleigh run. Above us the mountains rose steeply up to snowy peaks. Yes, snow! When we said recently that snow would make us feel better we had not expected to encounter it so soon! Down here it is comfortable to sit outside without a jumper but high above, the crevices are still snow packed and shining white.

On the way back to the campsite we discovered a curling match underway. We have never seen this played before and stopped to watch. It looks like a German version of the French game of petanque but was presumably originally intended to be played on ice. Now heavy cones mounted on Teflon diskpads are hurled across car parks in an attempt to hit a small rubber disk barely visible at the far end of the tarmac.

Curling, near Königssee, Bavaria

Dusk was beginning to fall as we returned to Modestine and glasses of chianti. Unfortunately the bottle stopper disintegrated on a full bottle so we had no option but to reluctantly drink it all. Ian then tottered blearily across the camp field to take this photo of "the last rays of the thingy on the snowy wotsits".

Sunset over the Grünstein, Bavaria

Sunday 2nd July 2006, Berchtesgaden, Germany
We are still happily camped up on the same site. It has been a warm and pleasant day and as we felt a bit travel worn and had found somewhere peaceful and interesting to relax we decided we needed a holiday! All this hard work travelling, blogging, shopping, cooking, washing and having fun in something the size of Modestine can sometimes seem almost like hard work!

So we made a leisurely start, catching up on all sorts of things from checking that Hinge, Bracket and Modestine were in good working order and their shoes were not wearing thin, making minor repairs to Modestine's interior, sorting out a backlog of photos and preparing another blog for the web. Around lunchtime we cycled down to the lake and used the internet point we discovered at the hotel there yesterday. Unfortunately it had all sorts of security devices attached which gave us additional headaches but we did eventually succeed in putting up our latest blog.

Back in the bright sunshine by the lake we bought a couple of enormous rolls filled with schnitzel and headed for the jetty where we boarded one of the silently driven electric boats that ply their way from end to end of the beautiful green lake all day. As we had decided we were officially on holiday, treats were allowed. So we took the two hour trip to the end of the lake with a special offer including a coffee and cake when we got there.

The Königssee is spectacularly beautiful, hemmed in on all sides by sheer wooded cliffs rising to lowering grey mountains encrusted with snow, standing stark against the blue of the sky. Today wisps of cloud clung around the summits of the mountains as we made our way silently through the clear green water.

Boathouses at Königssee

View from the boat, Königssee

View from the boat, Königssee

View from the boat, Königssee

View from the boat, Königssee

View from the boat, Königssee

View from the boat, Königssee

Landing stage at the far end of the Königssee

Our peace was not to last. Because of the encircling hills and the narrow lake, there is a resounding echo which lasts several seconds and we were to be given the benefit of this, thanks to an on board trumpeter who played strains of a tune which came back to us a second or so later. In the past they apparently used a pistol shot so I suppose we must be grateful. Of course the musician didn't play the "Trumpet voluntary" and came round afterwards to collect a tip as trumpet blowing had apparently made him thirsty!

We were reliably informed that from the boat it was possible to see Hitler's hideaway up on the ridge of one of the mountain summits. We missed it on the way out but did manage to locate it in the evening when we returned. It is very distant but with our binoculars we were able to see just how ugly a building the Eagle's Nest actually is, alone amidst so much stunning natural beauty.

The Eagle's Nest, Bavaria Just about visible we hope!

At the furthest end of the lake we disembarked and walked through Alpine meadows to the Obersee, a smaller lake beyond, where we enjoyed the cool of the woodland around the water's edge. Later we returned to the terrace of the little restaurant for our coffee and cake. Neither was outstanding but the atmosphere made up for this. It was an idyllic moment, enjoying a treat in the sunshine surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe! Sometimes we wonder if we are really us! These sorts of things happen to other people yet here we are doing it too!

Obersee, Bavaria

Our boat ticket permitted us to break our journey back at the little headland of St. Bartholomä jutting into the lake beneath the Watzmann (2743 metres), the second highest mountain in Germany. Here there is a little chapel that is a place of pilgrimage. It is a pleasant little church but we were somewhat surprised at the number of pilgrims who were quite fervent in their prayers when they arrived. We are aware that there seems to be a definite religious revival these days with many young people turning to the Church.

St. Bartholomä, Bavaria

In the tea room we discovered an enormous stuffed trout that had been fished from the lake in 1976. It weighed 26 kilos. We didn't realise they came that big, but then the lake is over 200 metres deep!

Can anyone suggest an interesting caption for a large trout? Königssee

We went for a walk in the woods, eerie now as evening approached, dark from the shadow of the towering mountain above. Here in a little glade we discovered a house built entirely from gingerbread with frosted sugar icing for the windows and the door made from slices of pain d'épice. The front steps were constructed from chocolate biscuits and on a rocking chair outside was an old lady with a tall black hat, gnarled hands and a hooked nose. She welcomed us as we approached and invited us into her house where she assured us the comfortable beds were made entirely from marshmallows and the bath taps ran pure apple juice.

However, the last boat back to Königssee was due in a few minutes and Hinge and Bracket were waiting for us on the quay. We thanked the kind lady and left, taking time only to break off a marzipan tile or two from the roof to eat as we went, along with several lengths of liquorish drainpipe.

Gingerbread house in the woods at St. Bartholomä, Königssee

In no time we were safely back with our bikes after a really lovely and very different day out. Thanks you Charlotte and Hans for suggesting we visit this pretty area. It has been a real "miniholiday" for us.

Back at the campsite we rang our friends Anne and Ray in Rohrbach and will be making our way to see them tomorrow. Those of you who are veteran blog followers will remember we visited them in September last year. You may even recall the photo of Ian at Rottenegg. On that occasion we arrived in time to join them at Hermann's birthday party. This time we hope to arrive in time to join Anne with her English class which is taking place in a nearby Chinese restaurant. We know of at least one of her students, Paul, who has been following our blog for English practice so it will be nice to actually meet him at last. It promises to be an interesting evening.