Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer in the Berchtesgadener Alps

As we set out for our second day of hiking in the Berchtesgadener Alps around Königssee we encountered a neat little patch of snow. I couldn't believe my eyes. Yes, the mist just about lifted and the air certainly had a chill to it - but we spent five hours climbing that mountain in 30-degree heat the day before. It was hot! And yet, snow!

Incredible, I tell you.

The white patch of sand in the photo may seem just as out of place. A beach in the middle of the mountains? Well, sort of. The Alps around Berchtesgadener is home to an abundance of white quartz. This may be why the sand in the area tends to be white, especially around the glittering lakes. The water coming from these mountains is known to be the purest in the whole of Germany - and Germany's water is rated pretty high in general. Swimming in a lake as crisp fresh as this after two days of intensive mountaineering is a regenerating experience to say the least.

But - let me start at the beginning. We (myself and a couple of expat friends) made a three hour train trip from Munich to Berchtesgadener - home to another fantastic beer brewery, just by the way. From here we walked along a footpath that follows a mountain stream running into the Königssee (King's Lake). We continued our journey by boat halfway down the lake to St Bartholomew, a small pilgrimage church and inn. I was totally enchanted by the epic surroundings - yet the challenging climb ahead quickly brought me right back down to earth. The Alps may be pretty - all butterflies and forget-me-nots - but they are deceiving. Every time I thought we had reached the top, there was another climb ahead. My thighs were complaining but my eyes were (almost) in heaven.

Heaven being the view from the Kärlinger Haus mountain hut - once we finally reached it. The tiny little Funtensee (Funten Lake) was almost like a dream image, greatly enhanced with each sip of well deserved Berchtesgadener beer. All the hikers at the hut were on a tangible high - there's something about the fresh air, the altitude and the gentle yet challenging beauty of it all that is a total rush.

At the end of our two day hike, after our swim in the lake on the picture above, we rewarded our tired bodies with a smoked trout meal at a pub around Königssee. Slow food, locally caught, smoked and cooked. Here, we lingered a little longer than planned, unsure whether we were too tired to rush, or too reluctant to leave. I may need a little time to recover, but there may just be another Alpine mountain ahead.

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