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Hiking the Alps - Germany Part 1

GERMANY | Monday, 19 July 2010 | Views [762]


July 2010


After spending the school year in a hot and barren country where walking takes place in air-conditioned malls, walking in the Alps was a welcomed change.  The weather was cool, the air fresh.  The green scenery and the mountain views were for ever changing as the weather whirled and churned above.  I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the “Alp Triangle” of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

            The hiking holiday started in the national park of Berchtesgaden, Germany to visit Konigssee Lake and then continued to experience two of Rick Steve’s top 20 European getaways: Hallstatt, Austria and Gimmelwald, Switzerland. The spring in Germany leading up to this planned trip was wet and the start of summer looked questionable.  I arrived in Munich on a wet weekend and that lingered until a few days after the official start of summer when the clouds parted, temperatures climbed, and the rains fizzled, for the most part.  I was still happy to be experiencing any degree of rain and cold with the proper gear.  Before leaving Saudi, my traveling friend recommended I bring warm clothes.  With living in a hot and dry climate for 2 years I didn’t have anything heavier than a t-shirt.  Looks like some shopping would be in order.

            Berchtesgaden is located in Bavaria, the south east region of Germany.  This area is famous for its overflowing flower boxes sitting on balconies and window sills.  The drive itself from Lake Chiemsee along route 305 was also a special treat to see the traditional homes, the vast fields reaching up to the high hills, and then seeing peeks of the snow capped peaks.   My long time college friend / traveling companion and I arrived in the late afternoon.  Our mounting excitement made us make a beeline straight to the edge of the glacier lake passing all the tasteful but still touristy shops.  We watched the ferry boats bring back the last of the passengers from the several drop offs along the lake, the most famous spot being St Bartholomew’s church where an old and scenic church sits on the edge of the lake.  Our turn to be on the lake would be the next day after a full day exploring the local alpine trails.  We decided to stay in this tiny lake side village for two nights to make the most of our time in the park.  With all the shops and restaurants closing by 8pm, this left us with getting a good night’s sleep for the first wanderweg of the trip.

            The next day was a full day of hiking from the Jenner station all the way back down to the lake to catch a ferry at Kessell that would take us to St Bartholomew.  Like the saying goes, “what goes up, must come down” and there was a lot of downhill.  My poor feet have been free and happy living in sandals and walking on flat terrain for two years and now they had to be stuffed in socks and shoes and had to cope with walking down steep trails.  Despite the prolonged agony of my feet and toes, all my senses were alive and well by: inhaling fresh air, feeling pine needles and bark, tasting the perfect bratwurst, drinking the coldest beer, and listening to the clanging of cow bells.  By the time we made it to the lake, my thighs and feet were screaming “no more”.  The boat ride was the perfect reward. While there were more trails at the St Bartholomew’s stop, we opted to do a short walk around the church and then to sit and have an early appetizer overlooking a post card view.  The return ride took us to the last stop at Salet to view waterfalls from the boat. Back on shore we hobbled to the hotel for a hot meal and a good night’s sleep to dream about what Rick Steve’s considers as a top 20 destination.

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