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Germany - Bavaria

Berchtesgaden

A Karen Brown Recommendation


Leaving the Chiemsee, continue east along the scenic autobahn to exit 115 at Bad Reichenhall, following signposts to the mountain town of Berchtesgaden. Set in a crescent of towering mountains, Berchtesgaden, an ancient market town, is a very popular tourist destination. Explore the Schlossplatz (the picturesque castle square) with its ancient granary, accounting house, and the Residenz that was transformed from an Augustinian monastery and is now an interesting museum full of weapons, tapestries, paintings, and porcelain. (10 am–noon, 2–5 pm, last admission 4 pm, closed Saturdays Easter through September and only open on weekends October to Easter.) Berchtesgaden is a lively town which is packed with visitors in summer. Confine your sightseeing (Königssee, Salzbergwerk (salt mines), and Kehlstein (Eagle’s Nest)) to early mornings and spend your afternoons on the well-marked walking paths. Located 4 kilometers south of Berchtesgaden, *Königssee’s setting and beauty are comparable to some of the world’s most magnificent fjords. Steep walls enclose this idyllically beautiful Alpine lake, which is accessible from the tip of its one small resort village. It is a popular excursion, and overhead signs direct you to the huge parking lots (paying, of course). Traffic on the lake is restricted to electric boats, which glide on a half-hour journey around the bend of the glass-like green lake, where the picturesque 18th-century chapel and settlement at St. Bartholomae are built on a pocket of land near the lake’s edge. A backdrop of maple trees and mountains completes the idyllic scene. There are cafés, restaurants, and walking paths to explore before the return boat journey. (Sailing every 10 to 20 minutes, 8:15 am–4:15 pm, May to September.) Salt was the principal source of Berchtesgaden’s prosperity in the 16th century and now the *Salzbergwerk (salt mines) are one of the town’s principal tourist attractions. Don miners’ garb, sit astride a mining wagon, and travel through tunnels of gleaming salt crystal. On the hour-long tour you’ll raft across an illuminated subterranean lake, slide down two long, slick, wooden banisters, and learn how they mined salt long ago. (9 am–5 pm, May to mid-October, 12:30–3:30 pm, mid-October to May, closed Sundays, tel: 08652 60020, fax: 08652 600260.) Hitler’s Alpine retreat Kehlstein (Eagle’s Nest) is overrated and should be visited only for its view, not for its associations with Hitler who visited there only five times (go only on clear, sunny days). The road from Berchtesgaden to Obersalzberg winds two-thirds of the way to the summit where the parking lot is crowded in summer. A shuttle bus takes you on the narrow, winding road with its hair-raising hairpin bends over the Scharitkehlamn gorge. An elevator whisks you the last 125 meters to the foreboding, granite-walled structure. (8 am–4 pm, May to end of October, weather permitting.)
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