Europe 2017: German Alps, day 2
Day 2 of our stay in the Bavarian Alps was all about the Königssee. This fjord-like lake in Berchtesgaden National Park is surrounded by mountains rising steeply to 2,700 m (8,900 ft), including the Watzmann, Germany's third highest peak. The setting is drop-dead gorgeous.
|St Bartholomew's Church on the Hirschau peninsula of the Königssee|
The easiest way to see the lake is by boat. A fleet of electric boats provide service to St Bartholomew's Church about half way up the lake and to Salet, the terminus at the far end. The trip takes about two hours, there and back.
The boats are quite low so it feels like you should be able touch the water if you reach out the window (close, but not quite).
About ten minutes into the tour, the captain stopped the boat and the other crew member got out his trumpet and played a mournful tune that echoed back from the sheer rock cliffs. It was one of those moments that sends shivers down your spine.
The best known spot on the Königssee is St Bartholomew's Church (German: St. Bartholomä), named after the patron saint of farmers and dairymen. It can only be reached by boat or a long and strenuous hike across the mountains. Its origins go back to the year 1134 (wrap your mind around that!), and in 1697 it was rebuilt in the Baroque style is still sports today. The nearby hunting lodge, also dating back to the 12th century, was at various points in time the private residence of the Berchtesgarden Prince-Provosts and then the kings of Bavaria. Today it is a lodge.
|For one brief moment, there was nobody in this spot. A minute later, there were 20 people.|
After an hour of so we took the boat to Salet at the northern end of the lake. Other than the boat dock, a small restaurant and a farmstead, this is unspoiled nature at its best.
A 20-minute walk...
...through a lush forest...
...took us to the Obersee, a much smaller lake separated from the Königssee by a glacial moraine.
From the Obersee you have a good view of the Fischunkelalm, a farmstead occupied only in the summer, and the Röthbachfall, Germany's highest waterfall with a drop of 470 m (1,540 ft).
How many ways are there to extol the beauty of this area? It's no surprise that the boats we took were full of visitors from all over the world. In fact, we heard more foreign languages spoken than German.
One final view of St Bartholomew from the boat ride back:
On the south side of the lake adjacent to the boat dock is a sprawl of inns, restaurants, souvenir shops and food vendors. This is where you can eat and shop to your heart's content. While that may sound tacky, it's actually quite scenic.
Seriously, how can you not be charmed by houses like this one?
Or this one further up the street near the giant parking lot?
Yes, there is a McDonald's across from the parking lot, but not even it can detract from the scenic splendor all around you.