Bavaria is sometimes compared to Texas because this region’s culture tends to bleed into the whole of Germany for many foreigners, the way cowboy hats and cattle ranches have become symbols for the entire USA. Lederhosen, beer halls, women in dirndls carrying multiple beer steins, the Alps, Edelweiß, brass bands, etc. -these are all Bavarian, which is why it is such a top tourist destination.
For my parents and I however, we went to Bavaria for one thing -the Alps. My parents have been hiking in the Alps several times, in Austria, Switzerland and Italy so I followed their lead and we went on a three day hike in Berchtesgaden. We drove past the road to Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest,” the area’s most famous attraction, took a boat across Königssee and began our hike at Germany’s most photographed church. It felt great to leave the masses of people behind as we started walking south along the lake shore and slowly began ascending into the forested slopes.
There’s no wild camping allowed in the Bavarian Alps, so we stayed each night in a Berghut (mountain hut). These are large houses high in the mountains that are only accessible by the trails (their supplies are brought in by helicopter or hoisted up from the valley floor on long pulley systems). They have big restaurants and sleep over a hundred hikers, often in communal rooms for dozens of people. In this way, we met a lot of nice people that we continuously met on the trail over the next days.
The hiking itself was very lovely, but much more difficult than I had imagined. I thought after our first day’s ascent, we would plateau and have some level hiking. But the the second day was a steadily upward traverse across the Steinernes Meer (the stone ocean). We were above the tree line and gone where the green meadows, waterfalls and wildflowers. It looked like we were on the moon and the rocky terrain was difficult to navigate. Occasionally, we had to cross treacherous ice fields that threatened to dump you into a ravine of spikey stones with one slip. Marmots would occasionally crawl out and sound a shrill warning call that echoed across the weird landscape.
At the end of the three-day hike, we were all quite sore and exhausted and spent a day wandering around Salzberg. Then we drove to Garmisch-Partenkirche, another part of the Bavarian Alps to meet up with Christian and his uncle and his husband. We all did another big hike up through the Höllenklamm (the hell gorge) which was like Ithaca on crack. The trail continued towards the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany but we took a turn to head back to the valley. Thunder began to rattle through the crown of peaks and we had to take shelter in a Chamois cave (I was sure we were going to get hit by lightning). After that we pretty much took it easy with gentle hikes and big dinners. We definitely got a chance to indulge in the beer and meat dishes that Bavaria is famous for before heading back to Berlin.