This past weekend was Pfingsten (aka Pentecost) and many Germans travel during the holiday weekend and the weeks afterward. Since Pentecost usually falls in late May/early June, it’s an excellent time to travel before the chaos of the peak summer season.
S’s family decided to hold their annual family reunion this year during the Pentecost long weekend in Berchtesgadener Land in southern Germany. This district is a popular winter holiday spot for skiers but is also visited in the summer by hikers and nature lovers. Having never been south of Munich in Germany before, I was eager to see what this much-loved corner of Germany had to offer.
We stayed in a beautiful and traditional Gasthaus (a German-style inn/guesthouse) in Bischofswiesen, a small town in the southern corner of Berchtesgadener Land. The day before we left, we heard that the weather would be rainy and stormy all weekend long. Nevertheless, the cool dampness and fog rising off the alpine mountains only added to the cozy charm of the region.
On our first full day, the entire family did a group tour of the Salt Mine in Berchtesgaden. S had been with his parents and older sister when they were little kids and they were looking forward to experiencing it again after so many years.
Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take any photos inside the mine, but you get to go on a train ride, see the salt cathedral, slide down 2 steep slides (highlight of the tour for me!), take a boat across a mirror lake and taste the salt water inside the cave. It’s a great activity for kids and adults alike.
Later in the afternoon we went on a hike in Bischofswiesen where we stumbled upon some alp cows (with cowbells!) and some gorgeous mountain scenery.
The next day, S, some of his siblings and I went to Obersalzberg, the mountainside retreat above Berchtesgaden. Obersalzberg is infamously known as the location of Adolf Hitler’s mountain residence, the Berghof. Most of the former buildings at Obersalzberg have been destroyed, but a new Obersalzberg Center of Documentation museum has been built to provide historial information about the use of Obersalzberg by Nazi leaders. The museum showcases photos, letters, articles and other artifacts concerning Obersalzberg leading up to and during World War II and even includes a large section of the bunker Hitler started to build in the mountain which is accessible to the public.
To say that the museum was disturbing and chilling would be a gross understatement. However, I think it’s an important part of German and world history to see and learn about. You could easily spend a few hours walking around the museum. The information posted is exclusively in German but there were foreign language brochures with selected translations in each section of the museum for non-German-speaking visitors.
In the afternoon, the entire family went to visit the Königssee (aka King’s Lake), a breathtaking natural lake in Berchtesgaden National Park. Despite the chill and rainy afternoon drizzle, I think this lake trip was the highlight of my visit to Berchtesgadener Land. The lake was so majestic and peaceful with the steep alpine mountains jutting out of the lake. The scenery reminded me of Milford Sound in New Zealand, one of the most beautiful nature vistas I’ve ever seen. Königssee is known for its crystal clear water and for being one of the cleanest lakes in all of Germany.
The little port area of the lake was bustling with small cafés, Trachten (aka traditional dress) shops and ice cream stands. On one side of the lake, you can see (and visit) the Königssee bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track which was completed in 1968. Its claim to fame is that it’s the first artificially refrigerated bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track in the world.
This was my first visit to this particular part of Germany but I certainly hope it’s not my last!
Have you visited Berchtesgadener Land?