Sunday Snapshots: Perfection

Berchtesgaden, 2012

Berchtesgaden, 2012

Every time I see this picture I question why I am still not living in it. Then I remember that whenever we see real estate ads when we are in the mountains I almost pass out from sticker shock. If my family came (at one point in time, many, many years ago) from the area around Garmisch-Partenkirchen, shouldn’t I just be able to go there and lay claim to some land or something?

Gone Hiking: The Watzmann Part 2

Last week I wrote about the first day of my birthday hiking trip in Berchtesgaden, which was a three-day trip to the Watzmannhaus and back down. I’ll continue the story today with too many pictures as per usual, so if you’re interested, click away…

If you recall, we fell asleep at our first stop, the Kürointhütte, after a 700-meter gain, and were feeling good with only 500 meters to climb the next day. 

We heard that the bad weather we fell asleep to would let up in morning, but return around noon, so we knew we wanted to get up and going early. That’s not a problem in the mountains, as I’ve mentioned before. The normal breakfast time at most mountain shelters seems to be about 6-8 or 9 am, so if you want to eat, you best get your butt up. Since we had already paid for breakfast in our half-board, we weren’t about to miss it. The Kürointhütte provided a really nice breakfast spread, with plenty of breads, meats, cheeses, sweet things, and a very yummy oatmeal with apples, raisins, and cinnamon. After filling up and enjoying a few cups of tea, it was time to say goodbye to our temporary home and set off. 

It was around 8:30, and the signs to the Watzmannhaus gave us an estimated time of about two and a half hours. We figured that would get us there early enough to miss any bad weather, which was very important as there was a small Klettersteig, (a climbing path with fixed ropes), in between the two shelters. Normally we steered away from routes involving these, but somehow we missed that detail in our research. BV is totally cool with it, but I’m not experienced enough for a difficult Klettersteig. One of the girls at the shelter had assured us that it wasn’t anything that you needed equipment (helmets, ropes, etc.) to do, and that we would be fine. So we decided to start, and see how it looked when we got there.

Before we got too far though, we had to stop and say hello to some of the friendly mountain critters…

I also have a picture of this very sweet horse trying to eat BV. This seems to be a recurring theme for him… last time it was a cow, this time it was a horse… I’d hate to know what might happen if we ever run across a bear. 

The first thirty or so minutes of this hike were pretty easy. We left the pasture and continued along a rocky path through some thick woods that climbed the hill on the left side of the path, and dropped to the valley below on the right.

As we hiked through the forest, we could see a wall in front of us and off to the right. We could also hear the distinctive “clack clack clack-ing” of hiking sticks, and tried to figure out where it was coming from. Finally the forest thinned in front of us, and we were faced with this…

The clacking got a bit louder, and in between rocks and trees we could see the bright jackets of people who had left the shelter a few minutes before us. Realization dawned on me and I believe my exact words were, 

“Oh fuck no. Absolutely not. No way.”
We found the Klettersteig! We stood for a few minutes and watched the people making their way up the path ahead. It didn’t look too steep, and although they were using their hands, they could still use their hiking sticks, and were obviously not secured with ropes, carabiners, etc. We decided to go ahead, and see how it went. The trail wound along the ridges on the side of the cliff, but it wasn’t horribly steep for the most part. You needed your hands for most of it, but there were ropes drilled into the rock for most of the difficult passages. BV insisted on staying behind me for security purposes, but his arm waving in the corner of my eye was really more distracting than helpful. 
I wouldn’t recommend this route to everyone, and there’s no chance I’d want to go down it, but going up wasn’t too bad. However, if you suffer from vertigo, I’d give it a pass, as that cliff drops off all the way to the valley below. The views were spectacular, but it was easy to get a little woozy. 
See the house up there? That’s where we’re going.

There are people down there… it got steep for a second.
The high peak of the Watzmann on the right, and the “kids.”
The highest point and the Watzmannhaus again.
We got through the Klettersteig unscathed, except for our pride which was wounded when a whole family lapped us. Seriously, these parents with four or five kids galloped past us like mountain goats. One of the kids was wearing what looked like water shoes, and flew up a huge pile of rocks right in front of us. Oh, to be young and have no fear of plummeting to your death…
With the Klettersteig safely behind us, we figured it was smooth sailing for the rest of the trip up to the house. The next part of the path took us through another cow pasture, but this one was cow-less. 

BV hunting for stones.
We took a break on a well-placed bench to enjoy the view and have a granola bar. Up the hill behind us we could see the hikers ahead going back and forth along a switchback path that climbed further up the mountainside. The path was extremely rocky, uneven, and steep in places, as it twisted and wound along. Again, it wasn’t horribly difficult going up, but we were already pretty tired from the Klettersteig, so it seemed worse than it was. We’d been hiking for around two hours and the house was still high on the hill ahead of us. As we turned our back on the valley, we could see the skies starting to get a little darker.

Getting closer to the peak (about 2700 meters)

In the photo above, you can see a clearing on the right side of the forested hill, where we were at the Kürointhütte, and the cow shed in the clearing below that, where we just were.

Finally, at about three hours and fifteen minutes after leaving the Kürointhütte, we arrived at the Watzmannhaus.

As I mentioned before, we knew we wanted to get there early before the weather moved in and we were successful in our quest. There were a few other hikers when we arrived, but it was only a stopover for most of them. We were officially done for the day though, so it was time to get our liquid reward…

Biere und Berg. And yes, that’s a Maß.


As you can see, when we got to the house, the blue sky was pretty much gone. Thank goodness we got there when we did, because we got to enjoy the view for a whole thirty minutes. The clouds moving in were pretty epic though… and we even had a dancing bird to entertain us. 

Our short-lived decent views…

At this point we realized that the good view was gone and the rain was coming, so we relocated into the house while we could still get a table. 
We spent the rest of the afternoon watching the large dining area fill up around us, eating, drinking, and reading. We took a short walk a little higher above the house later when it looked slightly lighter outside, but the house was in a cloud for the rest of the afternoon. It rained off and on, ruining quite a few hiker’s plans to reach the summit that day. Everyone who came in was drenched, and I was very happy that we had gotten there early, as we had both forgotten waterproof jackets. Very silly of us.
Our room was in an 8-person Matratzenlager (mattress dorm), and poor BV had the task of boosting me in and out of our top-bunk assigned places. Getting down in the morning was a bit tricky too… next time I’m checking to see if there’s a ladder before I agree to our spots!
The cloud was still there the following day, but the rain had stopped, so the trip down was fairly smooth. The first part was the worst, as it was that steep, rocky, path, and it was still a bit wet going down. We took that verrrrrry slowly, but the sky cleared up and we made good time down the rest of the mountain. The path alternated between rocky cowpaths and gravel roads, and we had a good rest stop at an Alm for a snack. Then it was back running downhill, to a bus, another bus, and finally back to the car… the birthday vacation was at an end.
Maybe next year a spa is a better idea…
Got any Klettersteig tips? Or any other hikes to recommend? Let me know in the comments! 

Gone Hiking: The Watzmann Part 1

After our relaxing afternoon on the Königsee, we started our hike up to our accommodation for the night. We had decided to break up our hike into two parts, as I thought that going straight for the house at 1900 meters might not be the best idea. It was my birthday and I’d slack off if I wanted to. 

Our route started right at the Königsee, and took us up the hill to the Kürointhütte, at 1420 meters. On the internet, we had found that the path took about two hours. It was five o’clock at that point, so we figured we were in good shape. While walking to where we needed to start, we spotted a sign that said that it was actually three and a half hours to the Kürointhütte. Well, Scheiß. If that was true, we would maaaaaaaaybe be there by dark. But we already had places reserved at two houses for the next two days (and rumor has it that they will track you down if you don’t show), and so we figured we’d better get our asses moving. We started off by going up the hill next to what I think is a bobsled run next to the lake…

It doesn’t look like much from there, but after all the fish/beer/Käsespätzle of the previous days, it was rough. At the top of the run, we left the paved road and climbed straight up (or so it felt) on a smaller, rocky path. A few people were coming down as we were going up, and they were basically running. It was steep.

We huffed and puffed our way up the hill, while possibly causing rifts to form in some relationships on the way. How? I was dying, and so BV carried my backpack for me. He thought he was getting the stink eye from some of the guys who were on their way down. Whatever, down is so much easier than up. Sort of. 

After about 30-40 minutes we got a quick view of the lake where we had started…

This photo stop led to the following conversation… 
~Heather: “Hey BV, how far down would you say that is?”
~BV: “I don’t know, maybe 100… 150. Not so much.”
~H: “Seriously? 30 minutes and legs on fire and only 100 meters? I’m going to die before we get to the house. There’s no freakin’ way.”

 Maybe I was a little over-dramatic, it happens. It certainly wasn’t the first time I uttered those words over the course of the next two days, but when you’re looking at an 800-meter gain in a couple of hours (that’s about 2600 feet for those of you playing the Imperial game), it was a bit disheartening to think we’d only gone a fraction of the distance. I started to wonder why I hadn’t opted for a spa for my birthday, while we plunged ahead.
Somehow we actually passed another couple at some point on the road, which gave us some motivation. Like, “well we just passed them so now we have to stay ahead.” Competition is good. Sometimes. There wasn’t much to distract us during this part of the hike… it was mostly up, up, up, and oh yeah – UP. The path went straight through the forest so not a whole lot of scenery in the first hour and half. But here are a couple of reasonably nice pictures….
 

After the Giant Climb, we stopped for a granola bar and breathing break. At the top of the hill, we continued on a somewhat flatter gravel road, before the trail turned into a cow path along the top of the hill. Guarding the spot where the trail turned? A 6-foot tall tree stump with a wooden carving of eagles having sex on top. Why didn’t I take a picture? Because I’m a moron, and was so confused by what I was seeing that I wasn’t functioning. Also at that point we were being followed by a horde of rabid cowflies. Fun fact: in the absence of cows, the flies will eat you. They are a frequent menace in the mountains, and most of the remainder of the hike was spent vigorously swatting. Luckily the path was rocky at this point, but mostly flat so at least I had more energy to swing my button-down shirt around my head in an attempt to blow them away. It was semi-successful, but it was also dinner time and we were clearly the main course. We knew the Kürointhütte was close though, so we pressed on. Weather was also moving in, making us move a little faster…

Shortly afterwards, we arrived at the house. We clocked in at a cool two hours and fifteen minutes, and felt pretty good about it considering the sign at the bottom of the hill had said more than three hours were needed. Take that lying signs! (Note: this would not be the first time I called the signs liars.)

The Kürointhütte is listed on the Deutscher Alpenverein (German Alpine Club) search website, but it’s actually a private house. This means it’s a little bit more expensive, but also a bit more comfortable. There were a few buildings around, including a training facility for police or the army – I’m kind of fuzzy on that detail. The Hütte itself has two outbuildings, one with more restrooms and one for staff. There’s also a tiny chapel, and a larger building for student groups. 

Technically this picture is from the following morning, but since my camera is at my house and I am not, that’s what you get. 

As I said, the Hütte, is private and so a bit more expensive. That meant that we paid a bit over €40 for our room (which was private), with breakfast and dinner included. Dinner was a turkey ragout that I couldn’t even come close to finishing, with a side salad and a lemon ice dessert. Everything was very good, and we didn’t even mind moving inside when the storm covered the mountain in clouds. It was a very cozy atmosphere with people chatting about their hikes, and the girls that worked there gossiping away over their wine. 

Curiously, all the girls who worked there spoke great English… not necessarily what I expect in the mountains. One of them spoke no German, although I couldn’t quite pinpoint where she was from. It was really interesting to listen to them, but in my slightly weird/antisocial desire for people to not know I’m American sometimes (a lot), I didn’t inquire further as to what the story was there. Apparently the one who spoke no German came out and chatted with BV while I was hunting for a restroom, so I guess someone overheard us speaking English. Thwarted! 

Last call in the mountains is ten o’clock, so we finished our beers and headed up to our room. At first we thought we were in small rooms downstairs that slept 6-8 people, but we had a really sweet room upstairs. Bonus: there was another bathroom upstairs AND a free shower with HOT water. Again, not something that happens in the mountains. It was super cozy and lovely though, even if the cowbells from the pasture don’t sleep when you want to!

Part of our room

Upstairs at the Hütte
Part of the restaurant, set up for breakfast

With cowbells ringing in our ears, we drifted off to a hard-earned sleep, content in the knowledge that we only had 500 more meters to go in the morning….  

An Afternoon on the Königsee

Sunday and my birthday dawned bright and sunny in Berchtesgaden. We opted to drive down on Saturday and spend the night so as to get a nice and early start on Sunday. We stayed in Bad Reichenhall for the night, and had just the relaxing morning we wanted… much better than sitting in a traffic jam of holiday travelers on the Autobahn! First off, I got my birthday present, and I’ll tell you what it was, if you promise not to laugh. Although, we are on the internetz, so I can’t enforce this policy. Honor system kids….


Damn right, those are the pictures that spawned my whole “10 Reasons I Love the German Mountains” post. And let me tell you, I love them even more hanging on the wall in BV’s house. This is completely weird, and even BV was nervous if I’d be happy about them as a birthday present. Apparently his mom made a few other suggestions in an attempt to deter him, but he needn’t have been worried. Again, I know it’s weird, but I LOVE THEM. I’m looking at them right now on the wall, and couldn’t be happier.

After breakfast and presents, we packed our things and headed for the Königsee. I’ve been there once before, but it was very brief so I was eager to get back. We planned on taking the boat ride down the lake, where we’d have lunch and do a bit of sightseeing before hiking up to the Hütte where we had reserved places for the night. 

As it’s August, it was very busy at the Königsee, and so we had to do a bit of waiting. Waiting for the ticket line, waiting for the boat, and the same on the way back. It was all worth it though, to sink our feet into the blue-green waters of Germany’s “cleanest lake” on what was a very warm day.

 
We had time to enjoy an ice cream cone and cool our toes off before boarding our board for the 30-minute ride to St. Bartholomä, which has to be one of the most-photographed places in Germany. There are two options for the lake tour: the first takes you only to St. Bartholomä and back, and costs €13.50/person. The second goes to Salet at the end of the lake, where you can hike across to another smaller lake, and there is another small restaurant or to. That ride is a little bit more expensive at €16.50 and takes about an hour each way.

The ride is really gorgeous, with the mountains rising dramatically on all sides. People can rent rowboats, so you can watch people working much harder than you are to get down the lake. Only approved boats are allowed on the lake, which keeps it nice and clean. It’s all ice-cold all year round, and very deep. Some people were swimming very far out in the lake, but they’re much braver than I am.

Partway down the lake, the boat kills the engines and the guide starts talking about the famous echos you can hear there. This is due to a huge rock wall that rises almost straight out of the lake on the right-hand side. Then the guide pulls out a trumpet, and gives a demonstration, playing a couple of different things for a few seconds and then allowing the echo to come back. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a boat be so quiet… even the dogs were lying contentedly on the floor, and the babies that fussed the whole way were silent for a few minutes. It was really lovely. 

Shortly after that, we arrived at St. Bartholomä. Here’s the view on the way in…

After we jumped off the boat we were nice and toasty again, so we took a little walk to get our feet wet. There were all manner of people there, clad in all manner of clothing. On one side of the path were some old women in Dirndln, and on the other side were a bunch of guys in Speedos sunning themselves with their feet in the water. It was quite the cross-section, I have to say. I kept my clothes on, (you’re welcome), but here are some more shots…

The restaurant at St. Bartholomä is well-known for its fish, what with being on a lake and all. That was our destination for lunch, and it did not disappoint. BV ordered something from the “for small hunger” menu, and this is what showed up…

Ah yes, Germany. Only here would “for small hunger” equate to an entire smoked trout. I can’t do fish with the bones and all, but I did try a small piece and it was delicious. 

I opted for a filet of trout-salmon, and I’m still not too sure how that works, but this is what I got…

Do any of you see a difference between the size of the “for small hunger” meal and the normal meal? If so, please let me know. Mine was also very good, and we both had some iced coffee/iced chocolate for dessert. 

We ate in the beergarden, and got to do some solid people-watching. Lots of Dirndln, Lederhosen, as well as an elusive unicorn known as the Asian couples set. I first heard of that from my friend Katie who taught in Korea. If you don’t know what it is, go to Google and enjoy. Inside the restaurant though, there is also something interesting; the biggest fish ever caught in the lake. 

That’s a big-ass fish, gotta say. 

After lunch, we rejoined the line for our ride back up the lake to our car and hiking gear. 

This was definitely the relaxing part of the birthday weekend. The rest of it was slightly less relaxing, so stay tuned for the parts that darn near killed me….

10 Reasons I Love the German Mountains

I first visited the Alps in 2001 as a 17-year old on a post-graduation France trip. It was my first time to see “real” mountains, and not from an airplane either. Initially our group had fought our teacher on the decision to do a 3-day extension to Chamonix at the end of our 17-day tour. We all wanted to go to Italy, but our teacher wouldn’t budge.

The kids last year hated Rome. It was hot and crowded.… we’re much better off going to the Alps,” she told us. We whined a lot, but it was to no avail.

We arrived in Chamonix after a hot and crowded few days in Paris. We were there for the end of the Tour de France, and so the city was packed and our un-airconditioned hotel provided no relief from the heat of the city in July. We were all country kids, we’d been traveling for two weeks, and this was so far out of our comfort zone it wasn’t even funny. But then…

Via

…and also this….

Via

I was sold. We took two cable cars and an elevator to visit the Aiguille du Midi, which gave us a view from 3842m. Far below us the brightly colored jackets of the mountain climbers stood out in the snow as they made their way up Mont Blanc. It was an amazing view, and I couldn’t believe that some of our group had opted out due to their fear of heights! 

On the way back down we took a break between cable cars and ran around the side of the mountain. There was snow in the shade of some of the huge boulders, and we went sledding in our jeans. We’d been traveling for over two weeks, it’s not like they were clean anyways. In the sun the grass was green and full of wildflowers. I wanted to change my name to Heidi, get some goats, and move on in.

Turns out, our Madame C. knew best. Just don’t tell her I said that. 

…………………………..

After France I had to lead a mountain-free existence for many years. It was sad, and sometimes I felt like Bilbo Baggins….

But then I came to Germany. 

One of my first trips in Germany was to Berchestgaden. And once again, I was hooked.

I love everything about the mountains in Germany. Here are 10 reasons why….

1) I love the rolling landscapes…

View from the Feldburg in the Black Forest

 

2) And the ummmm…. pointy-er landscapes…

View from the on the Zugspitze

3) I love getting to see the same views in summer and winter…

Both views from before heading up the Zugspitze

4) I love the picture-perfect mountain towns…

5) And the picture-perfect mountain town festivals…

All from Berchtesgaden

6) I love fields of sheep behind Alpine hotels….

In Ettal

7) And hiking through fields of cows wearing giant bells….

On the Feldburg. Shhhhh, don’t tell BV he’s on THE INTERNET.

8) I love whatever this is….

9) I love the view from the top…. oh, and the feeling of accomplishment from getting there on your own two feet….

View over the Blaueishütte, Berchtesgaden

10) And I love that you can get a beer at the top whether you took the hard way-hike or the tourist train (or bus, or cable car, or whatever).

At the Eagle’s Nest, Berchtesgaden. Shh, don’t tell my dad he’s on the internet either.
 …………………………….

Now I’m not saying that I’m looking into real estate or anything, because I’m not looking to “settle down” right now. But someday I would love to live in the mountains. I’m okay with being a city mouse for now, but in my opinion nothing would be better than waking up to this every morning…

Unless of course, it was if I was looking at that view from a house that looked like…

It’s a little close to the road for me, and a little big, but  you get the idea. Wooden shutters, geraniums, cows next door… I love it all.

And of course I’d have to go whole hog on the decor….

A little blurry, sorry.

But if you’re going to live in an Alpine-style house, you have to go all wood and floral and deer on the inside, don’t you? In retrospect I think this is all due to the fact that when I was a kid, I wanted to live David the Gnome’s house.

Via

And over a nice big fireplace, I want to hang these pictures. They are currently for sale at a nearby antiques shop, and I know this is REALLY WEIRD, but I love them. LOVE THEM.

Actually these pictures are what started this whole post off. Talk about a train of thought rerouting. Yeesh. On second thought, it might be time to leave Germany, because I’m clearly going insane.

Mountains? Beaches? Where do you want to go?

Going Downhill (In A Good Way)

Last Sunday morning we awoke bright and early in our bunk beds almost on top of a mountain. It was about 7:45, and yet we were almost the last people awake in the Hütte. Pretty understandable though, as I think we were the only people not going climbing, or doing some other activity on the mountain that day. Breakfast is early in the mountains, so we went back down to the dining area and filled up on a typical selection of bread, cheese, meats, etc. The only thing missing was coffee, which was available but (I think), only at an extra charge. Luckily though, tea was complementary, so we had a few cups of that instead. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and then finished packing ourselves up for the walk back down the mountain. 

We left the house right about 9 o’clock, and were greeted with a day as perfectly crystal clear as you could ask for. The light was absolutely gorgeous on the peaks

 
I mean, really? If I could wake up to that every Sunday, I would be a happy camper. We also enjoyed listening to that bird, who was answering the little boy who lived in the Hütte. Every time he made a noise, the bird called back. It was pretty funny.

We also had a perfect view of the valley which had been hidden in the cloud the day before…

So gorgeous. I can’t even tell you. Just go. Well, wait until the Hütte reopens next spring. Then go.

Since I didn’t take any pictures of the stairs on the way up, I tried to get some on the way down. Mostly I was trying to capture just how far it was, and how steep it was. Thirty minutes of stair climbing is no joke. 

 
The way down was much easier than the way up, minus a little knee pinch. I had to be a bit careful after that to not make it any worse, but we got down the stairs unscathed. After that it was smooth sailing down the rest of the mountain, and we had beautiful, cloudless views over the valley.

Sadly the Schärtenalm still wasn’t open, so no beer stop on Sunday either. Grumble. 

Shortly after this, we reached a fork in the road and had to choose: do we go back the way we came and catch the bus, or do we walk down a smaller forest path and go directly into Ramsau? We decided that the first part of the walk had been a little bit boring, and so we took the path straight towards the village instead. The walk from the bus stop to this point was very smooth, wide, and steadily uphill. But the path to the village was much less even. It was mostly very narrow, and wound through the forest along the side of the hill. It would have been more challenging than the other option going up, and so I was happy that we were doing this way on the way down! It was really beautiful though, walking through the forest with fallen leaves and golden light. 

Side note: I fell on my ass directly after taking this picture. My new hiking shoes were pretty much awesome, so it wasn’t their fault. I stepped on one of the wooden logs that cross/fortify the path, it was wet, my foot went sideways, and I went down in a very awkward manner. There is a photo, but I’m not showing it to you. Ha. 

Then we had to decide if we would continue on to Ramsau, or head towards the Hintersee. The path to Ramsau would lead us to a bridge, and remembering the lovely bridges we had passed on the bus, we thought that would be nice. HP was intent on taking a little swim, but I was not real excited at this prospect. I didn’t have a swimsuit, and besides that, it was a bit on the chilly side for me. But I figured we’d cross that bridge (literally), when we came to it. And eventually we did…

Don’t get me wrong, that water looks amazing, but I was not ready to jump in. Unfortunately for HP, there was no convenient way to get down to the water from where we were standing. And can we talk for a second about that house? I want to live there. I don’t even care that the road is right next to it. How beautiful is that? Love it. Love love love it. It’s my wallpaper right now because I want to look at it all the time. I’m going to start saving so I can buy it someday.

At this point we were a bit hungry, HP still wanted to swim, and we needed to figure out the bus situation. I remembered going past this area on the way to where we got off the bus, so we walked along the road to see if we could find one of the other Ramsau stops. A few minutes along the road and we did just that. And even better, the bus wouldn’t come for another hour, and the stop was right across from the Gasthof Oberwirt where we could grab some lunch. 

I don’t know what they do to the beer in Berchtesgaden, but it is damn good.
My lunch, venison goulash with a dumpling, and preiselbeeren.
HP’s lunch, a giant chunk of pork, and dumpling.

We finished lunch just in time for a few more pictures in Ramsau….

and then our bus arrived and we were off home.  Whoops… no time for a swim. Oh well, maybe next time. Again we used the trusty Bayern ticket, which works great as long as you aren’t in a tremendous hurry. The trip to Berchtesgaden from Nürnberg takes more than twice as long via train, but at least you don‘t have to drive after a fairly exhausting weekend. Plus you can enjoy those great beers without having to worry about it. Can’t argue there.
  

All The Small Things: Macro Mountain

I’m a big fan of macro photography. If you break into my house and steal my external hard drive, you will find tons of close-up pictures of flowers, leaves, tree bark, and anything else that strikes my fancy. My camera doesn’t always work with me on this though, so someday when I strike it rich in the German lotto, that’s one of my main criteria for the next camera. 

On the hike in Berchtesgaden, I was having a great time looking for small things to take pictures of. This served dual purposes in that not only did I get to take fun pictures, but I got to take a break. Score! If you read the previous post, you saw that the hike took place in less-than-ideal weather, but I actually loved that everything was wet because that gave me the opportunity to try to get some pictures that showed the conditions as well. As for how they turned out, you tell me.* As always, clicking on the pictures will bring up the photo viewer for larger versions that can be clicked though… enjoy!

These flowers were such a vibrant pink, but sadly that didn’t come through as well as I wanted it to.

Even though these flowers were dead, I kind of loved them.

Anyone know what these are? In person, they were a bit more purple than blue, but so pretty!

Cords wrapped around a tree for the cable car that carries supplies up to the Blaueishütte.

This would have been the weekend to go mushrooming in these woods, we saw so many of them! 

*Unless you think they suck. I prefer constructive criticism, danke!

Heather’s First Hütte

I’m going to bring us back into the present here for a bit. The past few weeks, I’ve been trying to play catch-up on everything I got up to over vacation, but I’m still nowhere near being in the present. BUT. I’m going to skip some stuff for the moment, and tell you about this weekend. 

To start with, my legs are killing me. Not really my whole leg, but the calf area is a sore, sore, sore bundle of pain at the moment. We might have overdone it just a bit…  but how?

As I’ve written before, I am a disaster in the exercise department. But I like hiking. When I was back home at my parent’s place, I used to go quite frequently in the Kettle Moraine. But with the exception of some small hills in our area, it’s pretty flat. Not to mention that was about four years ago. So really my experience with legit hiking in the mountains is pretty much nonexistent. Ex-Freund proposed going hiking a few times in Germany, but somehow it never really worked out. We did do some walks, but never anything longer than an hour, tops. Not really too strenuous. At all. In the slightest.

Last week I spent a few days in Freiburg, and also did a great hike around the Feldberg, the highest point in Baden-Württemberg. I’ll post about that later, but it was a really good day, despite the crappy weather. We did a hike of about 12 kilometers, and including a few side trips, and lunch in a Hütte, it took about 5 or 6 hours. It also had the side effect of giving the person I was with an oddly optimistic view of my capabilities. So when it was proposed that we try an overnight hike once more before the end of the season came, I was excited but had some slight fears. But the plan was made, so I was in. If you want to read about it and see the usual 82329 pictures that accompany my long posts, click on…

For this hike, we were trying to decide between two choices: one in the area around Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and one in the Berchtesgaden area. Since I have absolutely no idea about any of this, and have only gotten onto the mountains in these areas via cable car, I deferred to the expertise of my hiking partner. With that, we settled on the Berchtesgaden choice, and luckily for us, this was their last open weekend of the season. 

Okay, side note regarding the hiking partner: I started dating someone. Hence all the extracurricular activities lately. That’s all I’ll say about that for the moment, but for the remainder of this post, I shall refer to him as HP. And I’ll try not to think ‘Harry Potter’ every time I type it. Should be fun. Anyway, back to the hike! 

Saturday morning we were off bright and early for the first train to Berchtesgaden. Bright and early meant a 5:39 departure from Nürnberg, which also meant we got to share our train with some party people. I’ll tell you, nothing says “guten Morgen” quite like watching a bunch of guys try to ‘plank’ in the luggage racks of a train, and listening to them making fart noises for about an hour. Seriously. Oddly though, it did give us a steady enough noise level that both myself and HP got to take a little nap on that train. Score

After train changes in Munich and Freilassing, we arrived in Berchtesgaden. We had about an hour before our bus was leaving, so we had a quick look around in hopes of finding some sunglasses (which I forgot), or Hausschuhe (which he forgot). We didn’t find either of those things, but we did find beer and Apfelstrudl for a little snack. I think that’s a fair trade. And happily, Berchtesgaden was as lovely as I remembered it, and we had the place to ourselves….

Then it was off to a bus for a 20-minute ride through the hills, alongside a crystal-clear river, and past cows and sheep grazing behind little Alpine houses. We hopped off the bus outside the village of Ramsau, where the trail up to the Blaueishütte, our destination, began. On the internet, the route says that the hike will take about 2.5 hours, but the signpost at the bottom said 3. No mention of distance, but honestly, that might be better. 

With that, we were off. And up. And up. And up. The weather forecast for Saturday said sunny, but where we were, it was nothing but clouds and mist. The first half of the hike was all through forest, so there wasn’t really much to see anyway. In an effort to catch my breath at regular intervals, I made a lot of photo stops, and was really trying to capture the steepness of the trail. I don’t know if I was successful, and I’ll let y’all be the judge of that. 

About 5 minutes in, looking back down…
…and then looking up.

Those people in the first picture? Yeah they totally passed us. Normally I hate that, but my focus was on breathing and not being competitive

A bit later, we did get out of the trees and had a view of the Hintersee, as well as the valley below. 

We reached the Land Rover at about 30 minutes into the hike, and decided that was a good time to stop, have a drink and a sandwich, and catch our breath. I was already cursing bringing anything with me in my backpack… why in the world would I need an extra pair of socks? And why was my small bottle of contact solution empty? That forced me to pack the big one and every damn ounce was unnecessary. Whew. 

Cursing.

After our snack, we continued on. Spoiler: it was still uphill. Funny how that works. 

Eventually we got to the half-way point. 

     
Again, not sure if this was encouraging or discouraging. But shortly after this, we got above the treelines for a bit and had a great view out over the valley. We also reached the Schärtenalm, where I was tooooold, that we could get a beer. LIES. Okay, okay, slight exaggeration. It wasn’t HP’s fault that they were already closed for the season.

Draining water down the mountain.
Pictures of pictures.

Loggers and hikers.

Since the Schärtenalm was closed, we had no choice but to continue on. As I said though, if you get there in the high season, you can score at least a beer, and maybe even something small to go with it. But not for us. Onwards and of course, upwards. 

Finally we reached this sign, which marked the last stage of the hike…
 

Forty minutes to go, and you can just see those two steps in the picture. But guess what? That last forty minutes? All steps. Ooooh yes. We’re going into all that mist, and we are going straight up. After about 30 seconds, I determined that I couldn‘t be distracted by my camera swinging around anymore, so I packed it away. Therefore the following pictures of the epic stairs are all courtesy of HP…

What the hell was I thinking when I agreed to this?

The mist was super cool though.
Our first sight of the peaks in the mist.

Wahoo!

I can’t even tell you how excited I was to finally reach the Hütte. So happy. So very, very, happy. 

That was, unequivocally, the best. beer. ever. Oh my God. Glorious.

The bus dropped us off somewhere around 600 or 700 meters, and the Blaueishütte is at 1680 meters. You can do the math and the conversions to feet yourselves if necessary, but let me tell you, it is a loooong way. We made it in right about 2.5 hours, so the internet estimate was pretty accurate, and that did include our snack break, as well as innumerable photo breaks (or Heather-get-her-breath-breaks, but whatever). So we felt pretty good about our time.

As I understand it, there is some variety as far as the Hütten go, and what amenities they have. If you’re planning a trip and want to stay in one, you can search here…

...and hopefully you’ll find something that works for you. The one that we stayed in had both a large room with just mattresses (for those looking for an authentic experience), and smaller rooms with bunk beds (for those not looking to sleep with some guys sweaty sock 8 inches from my face). Our room slept six, but there were only four of us in it, which was pretty okay with me. I was warned that there was no heat in the room at night, but I was quite comfortable with the provided comforter. 

 
They did have a shower at this place, but it was .50 cents for 30 seconds, and despite my excess of change in my wallet, I didn‘t really want to pump a bunch of change into a machine to get some semblance of a shower. So we went without for a day, and it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I think for the night stay plus breakfast, we each paid about 25 Euros, but I‘m not positive about that.

After a beer, a rest, and a wash-up, we noticed that the sky was clearing up a bit and decided to go back out. Above the Blaueishütte are a few different peaks, plus the glacier that gives the house it’s name. At first we thought we had spoke too soon, as there was definite mist, but then…

The awkward post was due to trying to cover a red route marker on the rock.

     
It was absolutely gorgeous. I can’t even tell you. HP wanted to climb right up to the glacier, but that was too much for me. Instead we compromised and climbed a bit further up to some very large boulders where we had some more great views, and even spotted some wildlife. 

See that big boulder under the glacier? That’s where we went.

View from the boulder.
Aaaaand our house is gone.
Goats! Or something like goats, anyway. They were fun to watch.
Remains of old shelters.
Whew, it’s still there.
Great views of the valley.

We got back to the Hütte a bit before the sun really went down, mostly because I’m chicken shit and was afraid of busting my ass on the rocky path back down. HP was all for staying on a rock with the hardcore people to watch the sun set, but as I said, I’m a chicken. Plus we were on the wrong side of the mountain for that anyway, so really we would only have seen the light change. Instead, we went in to change, and then settled ourselves in the dining area for the evening. 

Supplies reach the house via a small cable car, so if you are looking for a 7-course meal, this is not your place. But if you like simple, hearty food and a cold beer, you’ll be just fine. I had fried eggs, roasted potatoes, and a vinegar-type salad, and it was delicious. Might have had something to do with all the work to get that far, but who cares. 

We stayed in the dining room until “quiet time” at 10pm, enjoyed the warmth of the Ofen, a few beers, some Schnäpse, and some games of cards. I believe the German word is Gemütlichkeit, and I have to say, it was lovely.

I have a ton more pictures from the next day and the way down, but I think this is enough for now. Those I‘ll save for another day…                

Süsser Freitag

No cake today, but I have something sweeter….

 

 

 
Look at those beauties. Last week on the Feldberg it became very apparent that my old Nikes were just not going to cut it anymore for serious treks, despite the fact that I was not the one that ended up on my ass in a slippery place. So this week when it was decided that one more hiking trip would try to get squeezed in before snow hits the mountains, I had to do some shopping. That’s right, I got myself some sweet new hiking shoes, and I’m super excited to break them in this weekend in my very favorite, favorite place in Germany…

Oh, Berchtesgaden, ich liebe dich