Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany. D-Day plus 11

by - September 05, 2010

From Munich we travelled into the Bavarian alps, to Berchtesgaden which is famous as the alpine retreat of Adolf Hitler.  It is also well known as one of the most spectacular areas in Germany.  We arrived at about midday and then went food shopping.  For some reason they didn’t have carrier bags, so we had to get the bus back to the campsite with a box full of food (and wine)  We arrive at our campsite at the nearby village of Konigsee in the early afternoon.  For those of you who speak German, you will know that this translates as “King’s lake” and it was actually really epic - a glacial valley with steep alpine slopes either side.  After setting up our tent and having a traditional meal at a local restaurant we went down to the waterfront and hired out a rowing boat.  By now the sun was coming out and we had a pleasant 4km row round the lake.  There were lots of tour boats out, and many of them would play trumpets to demonstrate the “Konigsee echo” - the steep rocky sides meant that sounds would repeat 5 or 6 times up the valley.  At the top of our journey we dropped off Tom, who wanted to jog back to the campsite, while Daniel and I rowed back as quickly as possible to avoid paying for another hour of boat hire - such is the traveller’s logic.

Our evening meal was the trangia friendly spagbol, which was cooked by Daniel while the rest of us pretended to be of use.  We had bought some beers and wine, so that evening set up a campfire and sat around talking about the glory days. And such.  It turned out that the German wine we had bought was poor - Tom told us that the only Germans he knew that drank the stuff did it to keep the business afloat, so we ended up using it to douse the fire. That’s what you get when you set yourself a 2 euro wine budget.

That night it rained really heavily, so when we woke up we found that everything was a bit wet.  Our plan for the day was to climb to the Eagle’s Nest which was at the top of a 1900m mountain.  There was a bus service to the top, but as it was expensive and unadventurous, we decided to go on foot.  The story, and it is an epic one, began pleasantly as we caught the cablecar up the first 800m of the journey.  The weather was nice and we got some lovely views of the Konigsee and valley.  From there however, things deteriorated.  For a start, it coulded over and began to rain.  Then, Emma decided that the going was too tough and (as it turned out very sensibly) chose to turn back to camp.  The three of us guys then ploughed on, with the footpaths getting worse and worse.  Eventually, after several hours of torrential rain and cold, it became clear that the paths we were following were made by deer rather than humans.  As if to prove this, we found a bottle in a clearing, which we think came from the 1930s - quite possibly the last time anybody had got so lost in that section of the Bavarian alps.  The going underfoot was now ridiculously hard - we were pretty much climbing up sheer rock faces, in the rain - I was wearing suede shoes believe it or not, as I didn’t think that we were going to be doing any major walks.  Without a shadow of a doubt, as the weather continued to deteriorate and we continued to climb without any visible paths, this was far more dangerous than any of the hiking we had done in Costa Rica.  Eventually we decided it was right to turn back and luckily came across the road again.  In hindsight if we had stayed out much longer it, the dark would have set in and we would have had no choice but to phone mountain rescue.  Once on the road again (by now we were relieved that we were all alright, rather than gutted at missing the Eagle’s Nest), we headed back into Berchtesgaten for a well earned hot chocolate.  Our spirits through the entire ordeal were actually surprisingly high - when you are lost on an alp, cold and saturated with rainwater, all you can really do is laugh.  Eventually we made it back to the campsite. Emma, who had spent the afternoon relaxing and had showered, found the site of the three of us, soaked to the skin and having not reached the Eagle’s Nest, quite funny.  The four of us decided we couldn’t face cooking on the trangia in the rain, so treated ourselves to a massive meal in the local hotel on the lakefront.  This meal, after such a day, was so epic that it deserves a special photo on the blog. So here it is:

In the morning, onto Salzburg. And a shower.

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