Friday, 2 August 2013

Among the highest mountains: Berchtesgaden Day 1

Having spent the night in a multitude of trains and railway stations, I'm pretty tired, but didn't want to wait before I post some pictures from my latest holiday. I only had the idea to go into the Bavarian Alps about a week ago, but this very spontaneous trip into the mountains was quite amazing.

Berchtesgaden has been my family's summer holiday destination for generations. The small town is close to the Austrian border, and surrounded by some of the highest mountains in Germany. It offers not only opportunities for hiking and hillwalking, but also for climbing or relaxing on calm mountain lakes. Abroad, Berchtesgaden is mainly famous for having been the seat of Hitler's mountain residence.

From our B&B room, we had a direct view of the second highest mountain, the Watzmann (2,713m).
There's a lovely legend associated with this peak:
Once upon a time, there was an evil king, who, together with his wife and their seven children, ruled in this area. One day, he rode his horse over a farmer's family, killing them brutally. Before she died, the farmer's wife cursed him. Suddenly and with a horrible noise, the earth opened under the king on his bloodied horse and turned the evil king and his family into stone. Now, the king is captured within the largest peak of the mountain range (right), and together with his wife (left) surrounds the seven children in the middle (although there are only five little peaks). Some say that the blood of the royal family ran down the mountain and filled up a whole valley, to become the famous Königssee (King's Lake).
The Watzmann range - click on the photo to enlarge.
The beautiful Königssee, according to legend it's the blood of the evil king.

So far, we were always there together with our parents or grandmother, but this time my sister and I did the trip on our own (our last trip before she leaves for Thailand where she will volunteer for a year, here's her blog). It was also the first time there without a car, and it was surprisingly easy to still get to all the places we wanted to see. We only had three full days in Berchtesgaden, but we managed to do a lot nonetheless.

Panorama view from our balcony at the lovely B&B "Marienhäusl" (great room for only 20€/night), the Watzmann is surrounded by clouds.

The first day, we climbed the Kneifelspitze (1,189m), traditionally my family's getting-used-to-hiking-again-mountain. We started our tour in Maria Gern, a part of Berchtesgaden where my family traditionally stayed in a B&B that now unfortunately does not exist any longer. The trail began at the famous pilgrimage church of Maria Gern, one of the most popular postcard subject.

The weather wasn't on our side at first, but the dense forest sheltered us from the rain. After quite a steep ascent, we reached the top of the Kneifelspitze and the inn next to the summit. There, lovely Germknödel (yeast dumplings filled with plum jam and drizzled with butter and poppy seeds) waited for us, yummy!

After we had enjoyed this fabulous lunch, the rain stopped and we had some lovely, but cloud-covered views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

The summit cross on top of the Kneifelspitze.

From the peak, we followed a narrow ridgeway, circling the mountain before descending back into the valley. When the sun came through the clouds, we were rewarded with some beautiful views.

A flower belonging to the knapweeds that we encountered all the time.
From Maria Gern, we took a bus back into the city centre and spent some time looking around the (very touristy) shops. 

But our feet, currently unused to the strains of hiking, decided to carry us back into our B&B pretty soon afterwards. We spent the evening with playing boardgames and reading, before we began to plan the following day's tour.

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