Growing up, a vacation to the Bavarian Alps sounded to me like the epitome of a boring trip for old folks. My Dad loves the mountains, and my parents have taken my brothers and me on mountain vacations since I can remember. To me, a vacation in the Alps always took place in the summer and meant a lot of walking. A LOT of walking. Well, I have always preferred a beach vacation over anything involving mountains. I did some reading on Berchtesgaden and its surroundings, though, and it got my attention. I thought, it looked like a neat place for a long weekend. The area offers something for everybody; history buffs might be interested in the fact that Hitler spent his vacations in Berchtesgaden at the Eagle's Nest, a house built specifically for him on top of the Kehlstein mountain. Outdoorsy folk can hike for days here, on easy trails, like the one we took Noah on to go see the Eiskapelle, Germany's lowest glacier, or difficult ones (...we opted out on those. Because of Noah. Of course!). Water lovers can hit the lakes to go for a swim or to do some water sports. You may also go on a boat on the Koenigsee, the King's Lake, and listen to the famous echo. If daylight is not your thing, a tour underground in the salt mines might offer a nice diversion for you. If you get tired of all the idyllic picture perfect small towns, Salzburg is in close proximity, where you can stroll in the pretty alleys of Mozart's birth place and do some shopping. For those who like food and beer: You will be taken care off in the whole area.
After an easy drive we got here in the early afternoon. We went down to the Koenigsee, but decided not to go on a boat yet because we didn't want to have to rush. We just checked out the place a little and then went on to drive the Rossfeldstrasse.
This panorama road is a beautiful street carved into the mountains and offers fantastic views of the area surrounding Berchtesgaden and - on the other side - of Austria. We lucked out with having wonderful fall weather. You actually have to pay for driving this road, but oh well, it was beautiful and worth it. Since it was still kind of early in the day, we went on to Ramsau, where I took my calendar shot of the little church and the bridge on a creek.
From there we went on to Salzburg and walked the town untill we ended up in a nice big Biergarten.
We got up early to beat the crowd at Koenigsee. The first boat leaves at about 8 am, and we got there relatively early. It was still foggy when we went on the boat and we really couldn't see that far, but it was actually pretty nice to be on the lake in the morning mist. The guide on the boat played the trumpet for us in order to demonstrate the echo. Pretty cool stuff. After an about 35 minute trip, we reached the little chapel of St. Bartholomae, where we left the boat. It was still foggy.
We hiked up to the Eiskapelle, or ice chapel, which is Germany's lowest glacier. The hike up there was pretty intense (well, at least for those of us who don't regularly hike...). Noah did awesome and walked the whole trail by himself. He also talked non stop. Little kids amaze me sometimes, so much energy, they talk and talk, walk and walk, and I'm there, totally out of breath. Since we got there so early, we were pretty much the only ones on the trail. It took us about an hour to get up to the ice chapel. At its end, the trail fades into the rocks that have been moved by the glacier, you have to cross the little creek coming from the glacier and its rock bed in order to move on.
For kids Noah's age, this is a perfect playground. Well,that is, if you have good nerves as a parent and don't get phased too much about them climbing up impossible looking rocks and then jumping down. I've learnd a while ago that Noah has developed a pretty good judgment of what is doable and what is maybe a not so bright idea, so teeth grindingly, I endure his endeavours. He LOVED it! When we got back to St. Bartholomae, we hit the Biergarten there.
Bier, Weinschorle, and and Apfelschorle never tasted so good!
We made our way back on the boat, this time in glorious sunny weather. Next on our agenda was the Eagle's Nest. In order to get there, you have to find your way to the parking area at the Dokumentation Salzberg, hit the bus, and get a lift up the mountain. The drive is spectacular, another road carved into the steep moutain. Once you are up at the bus parking lot, you have the choice of either walking up to the top of the Kehlstein, the mountain, the Eagle's Nest is built on, or to walk through a tunnel to an elevator, that has been used by Hitler and his guests back in the day and is still functioning. We took the elevator; it is kind of strange to think that Hitler was in there and along with him some of the biggest names of Nazi history. This is the tunnel that leads to the elevator up to the Eagle's Nest:
Even weirder is the thought that you are walking on paths that were walked upon by this creep once you are up on the mountain. The Eagle's Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus, is now a restaurant, situated in a very peaceful location with a wonderful view, yet busy due to the amount of tourists up there. It is hard to believe that the Nazi elite used to enjoy their vacations there.
For dinner we went to a cute Italian place in Berchtesgaden called Pizzeria Bella Napoli. They have basic Italian food, pizza and pasta, but it was very good, and the place is the the cutest Italian place I have seen in Germany so far.
Day 3 was supposed to be a rainy day, so we headed out super early to go to the salt mines. Super early, because when the weather gets bad here, there is not much indoorsy stuff that can be done, so we figured, we should get there as soon as possible to beat the crowds. Well, we got there at 9:15, got our ticket, and went on the tour within 10 minutes. People that arrived later had to stand in line and wait forever, so either go on a sunny day if you have enough time, or go very early. The tour is great, it is informative, but also very fun. You get to wear overalls and feel like a miner. A little wagon train brings you deep into the mines - sounds claustrophobic, but it really didn't feel like it. From there, you go on by foot. There are two wooden banisters or slides that you have to slide down on, you get to go on a little ferry that brings you across a salt lake in the mountain, and you get tons of information on how salt mining works. The tour takes a good hour and a half, and really I thought it was great, and especially with kids, this is a lot of fun.
Afterwards, the rain got really bad, but it didn't stop us from checking out a cool waterfall across the border in Austria. Again, due to the weather, we had the place almost to ourselves, and Noah got to climb on rocks, check out the water fall, and walk the little trails.
Back in Berchtesgaden, we went to the Hofbraeuhaus by Bob's demand. Yum. I like Italian and Greek food, but man, nothing tastes better than a Schnitzel when you are hungry. I am very German like that. Afterwards, we went back to our hotel and Noah and his Dad went to the pool there.
Nobody was ready to leave yet, so after checking out of our hotel, we decided to go up a mountain. We used the Jennerbahn to go to the top of the Jenner mountain. The weather was picture perfect and we got to enjoy beautiful views.
I still wasn't quite ready to go home - I never am - so we stopped at the Wimbachklamm, a small gorge with plenty of small and big waterfalls.
We finally started our drive back home, but thanks to a Stau, we made a pit stop at beautiful Chiemsee (I think, this will be a future four-day-weekend destination for us) where I got my Italy fix in a nice restaurant overlooking the lake.
I highly recommend the Berchtesgadener Land for a four day. In fact, it would serve as a great destination for even a couple of weeks, there is just so much to do there. Because with the military you never quite know what the schedule is like, I booked a hotel that would have allowed us last minute cancellation, but was slightly more expensive than other hotels (https://www.booking.com/hotel/de/alpenhotel-denninglehen.en-gb.html?sid=67e70d7868b133597c207eea3d2f66a5;dcid=2). I am sure you can find a great little B&B for a lot cheaper, though, and that's the only thing I would do differently on this trip.