Berchtesgaden is located in the southeast corner of Germany, near the Austrian border. The closest large city is Salzburg, Austria, Mozart’s birthplace.
Most of the information I have below is from the book Your Complete Guide to Berchtesgaden by David Harper, an American living in the town of Berchtesgaden. The book has general information about the area. It also has tidbits about the folklore, some history, and other interesting related topics. And best of all, it’s in English.
You can pick it up at the information center when you first come to town. It costs about 20 DM. I think it’s well worth it.
I only put down the few things that I’ve seen (well, I didn’t really see the salt mines), but there’s a lot more do see and do here.
[ Map of Bavaria]
[ Hotel Info]
The Watzmann is Germany’s second highest peak at 2,713 meters (8900 ft). While the Zugspitze is the highest peak in Germany, Watzmann is the tallest that is not shared with any other country, giving it special distinction.
There are several “peaks” on the Watzmann. According to the legends in these parts, a cruel, hard king, with his queen and seven children, once ruled the area. They treated the people harshly, trampling their crops during hunting trips, taxing them to the point of starvation, and not letting them have any cable tv. The people of the land prayed every Sunday to rid themselves of these tyrannical rulers. One day, the people’s prayers were answered when the king and his family were hunting in the mountains and got caught in a great storm and turned to stone while listening to ELO. They’re still there today, the “king” as the main peak, the “queen” as the secondary peak, and the “children” as the peak between them.
It’s not as good as the claw in the door handle of the caras it sped away, but it’s okay.
You can hike all the way to the summit with only a jacket and a good pair of hiking boots, according to the book. However, it’s 12 hours to the summit. Or you can hike a little more than halfway to the Watzmanns Haus in about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. The Watzmanns Haus is like a little inn at 1928 meters (6325 ft). You can overnight here before going on to the top.
Although I saw senior citizens, kids, and even a mother with her baby strapped to her back, this was a pretty tough climb for me. Actually, it was three of the most miserable hours in my life. But I’m glad I did it. I’d rate it higher if it wasn’t for the climb.
The literal translation for Königssee (pronounced roughly: koh nigs say) is King’s Lake (well, I’m kinda sure about it). It lies between the mountains of the area, making it appear like a Norwegian fjord. It is about 5 miles long and 3/4 mile wide. The deepest part of the lake is an incredible (to me) 650 ft. According to the tour book, this is supposed to be drinking quality water. I don’t know who’s water quality they’re referencing this to, but I’m not planning on trying it. This is Germany’s deepest and cleanest lake.
They have been using electric boats here since 1909 to minimize water and noise polution. The price of the rides vary depending on your destination, but figure about 20-25 DM per person. The brief tour of the lake is generally in German. About 15 minutes into the ride, you reach Echo Walls (my translation again). Here, the boat will stop and the tour guide will play a horn so you can listen to the echoes. (He will also take a collection after playing. Something about his grandmother in the hospital needing an operation. Usually 1 DM should do.) You should also be able to see the “Sleeping Witch” from the boat.
There are two main destinations - St. Bartholomä (St. Bartholomew) and Salet. St. Bartholomä is a church on the banks of the Königssee. There is a pilgrimage from Maria Alm in Austria to the church that has taken place almost every year since the 14th century. It is generally accepted that the origin of the pilgrimage is to give thanks for wiping out some plague (probably medieval SUVs). Today there’s a beer garden there where you can eat and drink and view the east face of the Watzmann.
Salet is on the far side of the lake. There is also a beer garden here (this is Bavaria, after all). You can walk 10-15 minutes to the Obersee. You can walk to the other side of this lake in another 15 minutes or so. If you keep walking, you can go further inland and see a pair of waterfalls. It’s not possible to get very near the falls, however.
Be aware of when the last boat leaves both of these places. It’s a long walk back to the docks.
The Eagle’s Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus, is located on the Kehlstein mountain. It was built by Martin Bormann as a present for Hitler. Originally designed as a “tea house” where Hitler could impress foreign diplomats, it is now a restaurant with a panoramic view of the surrounding area. This was also the only place I visited during my trip where I saw (or heard) Americans. I think it’s because you can take a bus to the top.
The bus follows a windy path carved in the side of the mountains. There is only room for one bus on the road at a time, so they time their runs carefully. Once on top, you walk through a tunnel (124 meters) to an elevator. The elevator goes up 124 meters to the “tea house,” or former conference hall. Stepping outside, you can seem many of the mountains in the surrouding area, such as the Watzmann and the “Sleeping Witch,” as well as the Königssee. (Hitler had both acrophobia and claustrophobia. I’m sure he had a few other phobias, but those aren’t covered in this website. He only visited the Eagle’s Nest a few times.)
You can even go on a hike from the Eagle’s Nest. I don’t know where the trail leads (I was all hiked out), but my guess is up Kehlstein. The book said that tours of the bunkers are available. We looked, but we couldn’t find the bunkers up there. You may have to sign up for the tour at the bus station at the bottom of the mountain. Possibly. I’m never sure because it’s ALL IN GERMAN!
As a side note, if it’s a foggy day, don’t bother coming here since you won’t see anything.
I didn’t go here, so I can’t speak too much about it. However, I’ll describe it based on what I’ve heard and read, plus stuff that I’m just making up.
The salt mines were opened in 1517, and are still in operation today. Tours of the salt mines began in 1840. You start off by donning “miner’s clothes.” Once you have those on, you board a train that takes you uphill to the heart of the mountain. From there, you go down a 134-foot slide. Once inside, you can see a grotto dedicated to King Ludwig II (of Neuschwanstein fame), mining machinery, and a salt mine museum.
I’ll try to go there at a future time to have better information.