The Other Side of the Story

Shout out to Cynthia over at Adventurings for reminding me of this incident after her comment on my 2019 wrap up post!

In that post I mentioned that when my old friend Angie came to visit, we took a day trip from Garmisch-Partenkirchen over to Neuschwanstein. What I didn’t mention was the less-photogenic part of the day.

It was a beautiful summer morning when we set out over the Bavarian countryside, seemingly defying the weather report which had called for showers that day. Everything looked great as we got closer to the castles, but after we parked the car, picked up our tickets, and killed some time walking around the Alpsee, I started to notice something. Something dark.

Eh, a couple of clouds. It was windy, it would probably blow over.

We headed up the hill to the Hohenschwangau castle first, and bopped around the gardens snapping more pictures as we waited. Hmmm, what’s that?

The knights say, “Yeah, it’s still moving away. You’re fine.”

Our tour time arrived, so we piled into the castle with the rest of our group. Plus or minus 30 minutes later, we spilled back out to find a bit of precipitation coming down. Nothing too bad, and we all had prepared with our raincoats, which is more than I could say for some of the other visitors.

Note that they don’t all have umbrellas.

If you haven’t been to Neuschwanstein or Hohenschwangau before, they really have it down to a science there. If you buy a ticket to both castles, you must pick it up at least one hour before your first entrance time, and you have at least two hours between each castle tour. That should give you plenty of time to walk (uphill, naturally) between them, or catch the bus or horse carriage. We planned to walk, but were getting hungry so decided to make a quick stop at one of the bratwurst stands.

No sooner had we gotten there, but the heavens opened up. We sheltered our sausages as we ducked from under the stand’s awning to one of several free umbrella tables. Where it rained. And thundered. And rained even harder. I mean, pouring rain. Gushing rain. Rivers cascading off the ends of the awning rain. Girls dressed for Instagram, not for weather, sprinting through the rivers running down the hill in front of us to huddle as close to the souvenir shops and under their overhangs as they could get.

The three of us were pressed to the table, all but clinging to the center pole, our backs getting soaked as I tried to protect my non-waterproof camera bag. The terrace of the restaurant next to us, which was covered by an awning, was quickly abandoned as it wasn’t strong enough to hold all the water. Waiters hustled people inside as other waiters poked brooms up to get the standing water off before they tried rolling it back up. It was Biblical.

I thanked my lucky stars that BV and I had both opted to wear our hiking shoes that day but our jeans were absolutely soaked through. Poor Angie only had sneakers, which were quickly reduced to athletic sponges. The leggings would eventually dry, the shoes… less so.*

After 15 minutes or so it started to lighten a bit. We had to make a decision though. Do we attempt to walk up the hill in the deluge, or join one of the lines for the bus or a carriage? All options led to getting wetter, but our reservation time was getting closer. Angie finally made the decision, so it was to the bus!

Shockingly when we got to the ticket desk, there was nearly no line. Why is that? Ummm… no roof. We thought we were in decent shape. The rain lightened up shortly after we got our tickets and mostly stopped, thank goodness, but there was no bus. We waited a solid 30 minutes before one finally arrived, by which time the line was getting a bit aggro, and had expanded significantly behind us. Or at least, they should have mostly been behind us. Turns out, they can’t drive down a mountain road with hairpin turns when it rains like that.

One steamy, funky-smelling bus ride later, we were up the hill.

My new favorite game at this point became, “spot the unprepared instagrammer,” most of whom were descending from the castle with summery dresses and hair that probably had looked very photogenic at an earlier point in the day. Now it was a little more, ‘had a few cocktails and jumped in the hotel pool mid-photoshoot.’

The smart people up the castle waited in the line area under their umbrellas, while the masses packed into the area under the gate to wait for their tour number to get called.

It was nearly as fresh smelling as the bus, despite being outside. Still not sure how that worked.

We shuffled through our tour alongside a large group of either Spanish or Italian (can’t recall at the moment) seniors, most of whom were much more interested in loudly chatting with each other rather than listening to the audio guides, or the actual humans who were responsible for hustling us through the rooms. Delightful! I know when I was there years ago, they did have people giving the tours rather than the audio guides, but no idea if that ever happens now.** I definitely prefer a human to an audio guide, but c’est la vie.

Tour finished, we were herded towards the gift shop (natürlich), the restrooms, and the balcony overlooking Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee. And thank goodness, the view had most definitely improved! Compare this to the nearly the same (just from lower down) view above…

Not bad!

Thankfully, that seemed to be it for the rain. We made our way out of the castle, coaxed Angie out onto Marienbrücke so she could get those money shot pictures of the castle from above, and watched the Instagrammers who had arrived post-storm glory in their dry and breezy dresses as they threw elbows to get a spot on the bridge. Less Biblical, but entertaining nonetheless.

Moral of the story: even if you’re focused on getting that perfect shot, maybe at least have your friend/IG boyfriend/handler throw an umbrella or some sponsored rain gear in your tote? I did mean to go back and check the location tags for that day on IG and see how many wet photos had been posted, but I forgot in the next few days. I don’t really want to scroll that far now, but for anyone who does it was June 20th, 2019. Huh, just realized that was my 8-year Germaniversary. We ate sausages, we walked up hills, we got drenched… could be worse!

 

 

8/52

*The shoes did dry in the end. She took them off for the drive home, then we put them in the sun on the balcony back at our flat, and then on the heated towel rack when the sun went down.

**They still do the tour in English with guides at Hohenschwangau.

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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?

Cold Therapy: Italian Lakes

I don’t think this is a newsflash to anyone in the area around Germany but holy hell, is it hot. As a native Wisconsinite, I love the summer and am all about making the most of it, soaking up as much sun as is humanly possible while it lasts. Having said that, the last few days have been pushing 40 degrees Celsius/100 Farenheit, and in a country with no air-conditioning (or no effective AC), it is too damn hot to function.

So what to do instead?

If you can’t find a body of water to submerge yourself in, or your arm muscles are aching from fanning yourself with anything within reach, I thought I’d try to help with a bit of photographic therapy while I kick off Italian Month here on ze blog.

During our time in South Tyrol, BV and I stopped by a few different gorgeous, crystal-clear mountain lakes. Since there aren’t any of these nearby, I hope that looking at the pictures will at least give an illusion of cool. So let’s see how it goes!

Toblacher See

Just outside the town that we stayed in was the Toblacher See/Lago di Dobbiaco*. The day we arrived was a bit overcast, so pictures don’t quite reflect just how gorgeous this lake was. We ended up going there twice, as a lot of the restaurants in town weren’t open for the season yet, but the pizza restaurant on the lake was both open and delicious. Win win.

Yes, we are in the Misty Mountains.

Yes, we are in the Misty Mountains.

Although the restaurant was empty when I snapped the first photo, it did not stay that way. My favorite features were the iron and wood window decorations – which I fully intend on replicating, and the giant fluffy dog that you had to walk over to get from the main dining room to the bathroom hallway.

The Toblacher See also has a great walking path that goes all the way around the lake, taking about 40 minutes. There were signs along the way with information about the various animals and plant life at the lake, as well as activity stations. Our favorite one was a long jump that let you compare your jumping distance to some of the local critters. Turns out BV can jump about as far as a squirrel… and he might have taken that a little too personally!

There was also a small beach, but it was too cold for swimming. There were a few fisherman out and about, but overall the lake was relatively empty. However, I can imagine it being pretty hopping and full of families on a nice summer day. Take that as a pro or a con, depending on your idea of a good time! 🙂

Dürrensee

About a twenty-minute drive up the road into the Tre Cine National Park, was the Dürrensee, or Lago di Landro. The road along the lake was full of people on motorcycles, hikers, and campervans, almost all of which pulled in for a photo op. But… come on…

duerrensee1

Dürrensee, with a view of Monte Cristallo.

The water level was quite low so we went exploring on the far end of the lake in a very sandy, brushy area. It was still a bit chilly, but I definitely stuck my feet in that water… how could you not? (Hang on, I’m trying to remember what that cold felt like…)

duerrensee2

I was having a grand old time bushwhacking around with my camera, but then a snake crossed my path and I decided that it was perhaps time to head for a more populated area. Thankfully BV did not see the snake (and probably wouldn’t have cared if he did), and he continued on to take some more shots. Here he makes a blog appearance, and helps to show the scale of the scene.

duerrensee3Dürrensee sits at about 1400 meters, so those mountains behind it are… large. This lake got major points on the scenic scale. Of course, there was also a cafe right across the street so you could grab an espresso while you admired it. This is Italy, after all.

Misurinasee

On our drive back from the afternoon in Cortina d’Ampezzo, the Navi sent us on a different route. Instead of coming back past the Dürrensee again, we climbed up, up, up into the mountains and came across the last of our crystalline mountain lakes, the Misurinasee/Lago di Misurina. It was well worth the hair-raising drive up the mountain!

Misurinasee

Misurinasee

Let’s just all soak that in for a minute, shall we?

One whole side of the lake was lined with hotels and cafes, but most of them did not appear to be open yet. There were a few visitors, but significantly less than we saw at the Dürrensee. One group of teenagers across the lake were busy climbing one of the remaining patches of snow, and having a little snowball fight.

misurinasee1Can you spot them?

I loved this hotel, and how grand-looking it was, despite appearing nearly empty at the moment.

misurinasee3Fancy, fancy! And those views? No matter which side of the building you get, that’s a win-win.

There was also a small swimming beach on Misurinasee, but I can’t imagine that the water ever gets that warm at an altitude of about 1700 meters. If anyone braves it, please let me know! But in May I would only stick a hand in the water, which was plenty refreshing. Remembering… remembering…

 

So, fellow toasty Germany-dwellers… did that help or hurt? Let me know in the comments!

 

*Most things in South Tyol have both a German and Italian name. For the sake of my sanity, I’ll stick to the German name after the initial introduction.

2014 Recapped

Pro tip: if you’re looking to start a diet in the new year, I highly recommend living in a town where even the Shell gas station is closed on New Year’s Day, thus preventing you from buying delicious, delicious, salty chips to sate your slight hangover.

If you haven’t guessed from the previous statement, I did not draft this post in advance before happily driving off to Italy for the holiday. Sadly any thumbs that were pressed did not help my letter to arrive in time, and so here I sit, ready to look back at the last year.

January

January was pretty quiet, except for one weekend spent in Prague visiting my sister who was on her TEFL course. We had a great time hanging out with her and revisiting some of my favorite haunts. It was a great weekend away, apart from the last couple of hours.

Holly and I in Praha

Holly and I in Praha

February

Holly visited us for a week after she finished up with her TEFL course. While she was here, we visited Bamberg, and went down to Munich to meet up with one of her friends. Holly also helped us pick out a cat at the Nürnberg Tierheim, and thus Marry die Katze joined our family. I got to spend an afternoon with a childhood friend, who stopped in Nürnberg for some lunch on her Euro trip. We hadn’t seen each other (minus on the Facebox, of course), since our epic high school French trip of 2001, and it was great to catch up a bit.

March

Spring came fairly early this year, with crocuses pushing up through the grass in March, and even late in February. We took a few drives to the Franconian Switzerland, and I got acquainted with some of the walking paths around our little village.

April

The weather continued to be lovely, so we started on our garden. We also took the first hike of the year, and took BV’s little brother along to experience his first mountain shelter stay. He learned that a Maß tastes better at the top, and that I rarely lose at Egyptian Rat Screw. I had a fairly disastrous interview, but at least I got my first interview for a German job out of the way. My sister left the US to start her own English-teaching adventure in South Korea. She has a blog, which you can find here. Maybe if she gets some more hits, she’ll update the damn thing once in a while. (Hint, hint, hint, Holly.)

May

We spent some more time wandering through the Franconian Switzerland, and enjoyed testing out our new camera. BV decided that a study break was much needed for his birthday, so we hopped the border to spend a weekend in Strasbourg. It was my first time back to France since the high school trip, and the macaroons alone made it worth the while!

June

Fest season was in full swing in June, and we visited our local Kirchweih, plus the famous Erlangen Berg, and a beer fest in Nürnberg. The US played Germany in the World Cup, and we cheered on both sides in one of my favorite beer gardens in the city. Germany of course won, and BV got a nice bottle of whisky out of the deal.

July

I lost more classes in July, but the plus side is that I don’t have to wake up at 5:30 on Thursdays anymore. Silver linings, and all. The rest of the month was too busy to be working more anyway. My parents ended their week-long cruise up the Danube from Budapest here in Nürnberg, and stayed in Germany with us for a week. We showed them many castles on many hills, and spent time in Würzburg, Cologne, and Neustadt an der Weinstrasse. We took a trip down to the Weltenburger Kloster for a little hiking on a hot day, and back to the Franconian Switzerland for more hot climbs uphill. After far too many trips to the OBI, we finally decided to build a bookshelf in the office, which Marry die Katze claimed as her personal playground. My friend E was back in Germany for a hot minute, so we got caught up and even staged a castle garden photoshoot to work on my portfolio.

August

Another fairly busy month, starting with a visit to the Oberpfalz and our village friends. As per usual, it was a house full of friends, family, critters, and interesting talks. It’s good to know that there are people who are fully prepared with an action plan for the zombie apocalypse. We did a little hiking, and rented kayaks for a trip down a river to beat the heat. A random Tuesday was spent in Munich, visiting the German National Museum and the Residenz with a friend. My 31st birthday meant a weekend escape to Salzburg (out of phone service), and a little hiking on the Untersberg.

September

WEBMU finally came to Nürnberg with a side trip to Bamberg, and I enjoyed spending a couple of days with some fellow expats. BV and I celebrated our second anniversary, and we stopped by the Altstadtfest, to see what the old farmers were getting up to this year. I started teaching a new conversation course for our local VHS, and now get to spend Tuesday evenings with a chatty bunch of folks. The third round of Residence Permit Rodeo began, and I had no idea what was coming.

October

A college friend of mine flew to Munich with his girlfriend, so BV and I took the train down to meet them and hang out at Oktoberfest for the day. They came up to Nürnberg a few days later, and we got to show them around our area. We showed them the city, and more castles on hills in the Franconian Switzerland, before they headed off to Prague to continue their European tour. We tried to go somewhere new for our last hike of the year, but last-minute plans meant that everything was already full or closed. Instead of something new, we revisited the Hochries, where we were earlier in the year. The golden autumn lasted just long enough for us to get up and down the mountain. I finally picked up some new classes from another school, and my Thursday afternoons are now in Bad Windsheim, train strikes or not.

November

BV and I hopped a train down to Munich yet again, this time to see a Richard Avedon exhibit in its last weeks. The exhibit was wonderful, and we spent the rest of the day walking through the city enjoying the golden light and warm temperatures. A friend of mine met us for dinner, happily we caught her in Munich right before she was planning on moving back to Erlangen!  The rest of the month was pretty quiet, and ended with us hosting our third Thanksgiving for a very full house of friends.

December

Another year, another busy last month. This was the first month I was officially insured in Germany, so bring on the injuries! Originally we had planned to visit the Christmas market in Dresden with BV’s mom. She changed her mind though, and now we’ll probably get up there sometime next spring or summer. Cancelling that trip gave us a free weekend though, which was much needed. Another weekend was spent back in the Oberpfalz with the villagers, making Christmas cookies with the kids, and enjoying some home cooking from Costa Rica. The weekend before Christmas, we drove down to Salzburg for the night, to visit their Christmas market, and soak up some more of the delicious Salzburg-ness of the city. Happily we didn’t have to do any more traveling for our holiday celebrations; BV’s mom came to us on Christmas Eve for some rouladen and spinach dumplings. The first Christmas Day was spent with his dad, brother, and a very delicious goose. That was it for this year’s activities, and we laid low until last night. Much like last year, we started NYE at the world’s largest Feuerzangenbowle, but this year we were smart enough to skip the extra shot, and didn’t go back there after dinner. Dinner was Greek again this year, and we left just too late to catch the last train. We wandered around Fürth, drank another beer at one of the last open bars, and finally taxied ourselves back home just about 5am.

Talking at dinner last night, we decided that the year wasn’t particularly good or particularly bad, but leaned more positive. There are a lot of things that I’d like to do in 2015, and I’m hoping that we laid some groundwork for more travel plans last night. Someone in Berlin owes me a week in Italy, that’s for sure. 2015 will bring thesis time for BV’s Master program, so I’m sure there will be a fair amount of stress to come this year, but I’m optimistic that we can find a good balance.

Here’s hoping that 2015 finds everyone reading this happy, and healthy. May I offer a virtual cheers/prost, to the year ahead. A big thanks to all of you for following along!

Silly Questions, Mountain Answers

On more than one occasion, friends have incredulously questioned the fact that I enjoy hiking in the mountains. Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Friend: So you like this hiking thing, huh?

Me: Ummm…. yes? If I didn’t like it, I probably wouldn’t do it… it’s kind of a lot of work.

Friend: Yeah,  I wouldn’t do that.

This confuses me to no end. Perhaps I don’t look like the type of person that hauls themselves up and down large expanses of rock (see: This Guy), or perhaps they just don’t get why anyone would do that for fun. But I do, and I love it.

Ages and ages ago, I wrote this post about why I love the German mountains, and every word of it is still true.  After this weekend’s trip, I thought I’d share two more reasons why this question baffles me.

I give you: Sunday’s sunset…

hochries sunsetAnd if that doesn’t convince you, how about Monday’s sunrise…

hochries sunriseYes, that is a very poorly placed flagpole, at least from our room’s window.

Flagpole or not though, those views aren’t happening at sea level.

So. Does that clear it up for anyone?

 

*Ironically, this Wednesday post is brought to you because I’m home sick from a cold that came on after sweating my way up and down this mountain.

So. Worth. It.

Gone Hiking: The Hochrieshütte

Spring here in Germany has been truly glorious. So glorious in fact, that we decided that the time was ripe to take the first hike of the year. April is a bit early to go into the mountains; a lot of my students are still going skiing on the weekends, but last weekend we thought we could give it a try. There is still quite a bit of snow in Austria and in the higher parts of the Alps, but we chose a lower mountain and hoped to avoid any major weather issues.

Continue reading

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! 

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 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….

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. 

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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.
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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?