German Alps and the Austrian Border

[Alpspitze] This whole area is very scenic (and I really do mean that). This is a view from the Alpspitz, a mountain near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. When I was here, there were some mountain climbers on that practically vertical slope on the left edge of the picture (they are much too far away to be visible in this picture).

Nearby is the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain. That one can be reached by gondola or train from either the German or Austrian side, and there's an official border crossing station at the top.

This area is also the home of King Ludwig's Castles.

[Wendelstein] This is the top of Wendelstein, a small mountain further to the east that you can take a gondola or train to the top of. The train emerges from the tunnel in the lower right corner (dark area) of the picture. You'll see many mountain peaks with crosses erected at the top; this one has a church at the top.

Berchtesgaden and the Königssee

[Königssee Dock] We now continue east along the edge of the Alps until we reach Berchtesgaden and the Königssee in extreme southeastern Germany.

Our first stop will be the Königssee. I recommend taking the boat ride to the far end of the big lake and hiking from there up to the smaller lake. This is where the boat leaves from.

[Boat] You'll ride on an electric battery-powered boat like this (no gasoline or diesel powered boats are permitted on the lake). You can get off partway down the main lake, where there's a church and several other buildings at one of the few places that the mountain doesn't come straight down into the lake. The name on this boat is the Grünsee, or Green Sea. This lake is very clear, with a greenish tint. The dark area to the left of the boat is the boat's shadow on the bottom of the lake, in fairly deep water, visible only because the water is so clear.

[Obersee] Continue on down the lake to the end of the big lake and hike up to the Obersee (smaller lake). Once you reach the Obersee you can hike along the edge to the far end.

If you want to hike further there's a waterfall beyond the lake. I didn't go that far myself, we had to get back in time to catch the return boat ride (at least we thought we did). This was on my 1991 vacation in Germany, and I didn't know hardly any German. This was on about a Tuesday or Wednesday, and we still hadn't realized that the Sunday before the Germans had turned their clocks back for the end of daylight savings time. Little things like this can really foul you up when you don't know the language. For several days we'd been having problems with the usually punctual Germans seemingly being off-schedule with everything. Breakfast at our room wasn't served at the agreed upon time. Boats (here and at the Chiemsee) weren't there at the scheduled time. Banks were open when they were supposed to be closed. In Salzburg, Austria even the parking meters had the wrong time. At first we thought that maybe Austria was in a different time zone. Finally on Wednesday we figured out that we'd been off by an hour for the last 4 days.

Besides the Königssee there are several other things to see in this area:

While you're here, you should also visit Salzburg, Austria which is just across the border.

Places to Stay

[Zimmer] Time for a little tangential discussion on places to stay. You can of course stay in hotels, but another alternative are private Bed and Breakfasts, often in private homes. You'll see many of these in this area, and many other areas (mostly the more rural ones) frequented by tourists. It helps to know German, since many of the people running these won't speak English, but these can be a nice alternative to a hotel room. You can just look around and stop in to one and ask for a room, or you can ask a tourist information office to set you up in one. They'll have a sign out front like this, reading "Zimmer frei" (room available) or "Zimmer belegt" (rooms filled). This is one I stayed at in Berchtesgaden. They generally prefer people staying several nights and may not want to rent for a one-night stay. Often you'll have just a room to yourself and may share other parts of the house with the family.

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Created June 9, 1996
Updated June 27, 1998
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Copyright © 1996, 1998 Gary Strait all rights reserved.