August is my birthday month, and for the last few years that has involved hiking. There were a handful of other August trips in the last 8+ years abroad, but since no photos from them are jumping out at me, expect a whole lot of mountain on Sundays this month.
Since one of last month’s photo post included the festival carb option, I thought today we’d look at one of the more popular protein choices. Now, who wants to split a chicken?
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?
It pains me to post this picture. I have the worst mountain-related envy right now, so much so that I’ve had to severely limit the number of times per day that I check Instagram. Apparently I follow too many fantastic hiking/mountainy accounts over there.
As I mentioned in my ‘Quest for Balance’ post, our summer travel is pretty much on hold until BV submits his Master’s Thesis of Doom in mid-August. Technically, this isn’t the first summer we had to wait a bit to head south to the Alps, but the last time was in 2012 and we had a few weeks in America to distract us. No such luck this year, but I think by the time he turns his paper in, he’ll be even more ready than I am to throw our boot in the car and GO. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf. Mountains.
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,
|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.|
|BV hunting for stones.|
|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.
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…|
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.”
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….
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 boat 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 two. 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 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….
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!
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.
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.|
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…