‘Alpenstrasse’ to Austria

On Saturday 2nd August, we drove the 120km from Ulm to Fussen in the foothills of the Alps. Not exactly following the Danube? Well we fancied something a bit different (Peter wanted mountains!) …and to be fair, nearly all the rivers and lakes on this side of the Alps flow into the Danube. So we were just checking out more ‘sources’.

We managed our usual trick of finding a parking spot just outside of town and after lunch and a cuppa, cycled the 4km into Fussen old town centre. We then cycled along the River Llach (looking very full and fast! At this rate most of Hungary will be under water by the time we get there!).

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We followed the signs to Schwangau, where, each on their own hilltops, two large Schlossen face each other. The first is the Schloss Neuschwanstein , built by king Ludwig II. The castle is world-famous as it is the model for Disney’s fairy-tale castle. Ludwig was obsessed with Wagner and medieval knights. It was designed with the help of a stage designer rather than an architect, making the palace like a giant stage on which he could recreate the world of German mythology and the operatic works of Wagner.

Schloss Neuschswanstein (not a PB original!)

Schloss Neuschwanstein (not a PB original!)

The second castle is the Schloss Hohenschwangau where Ludwig grew up. They are amongst Germany’s top tourist attractions, so in high season you have to queue at 8 o’clock in the morning to be sure of getting a ticket to visit the castles. It was so busy we didn’t even attempt it!

The Original 'Hohenschwangau'

The Original ‘Hohenschwangau’

So we headed back to Fussen where they were having a Jazz Festival, to enjoy some refreshments and music. Unfortunately the now ever so common cloud burst curtailed most of the music. We managed to find ourselves a table for hot chocolate and strudel just in time; just what was needed on this cold AUGUST summer festival! Once the rain eased we made our way back to Heidi, whereupon the sun came out just long enough to enjoy drinks on the ‘terrace’. Mad MAD weather!

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Sunday was a total wash-out. I don’t think we even went outside! Rain, rain RAIN! Monday, after a Lidl shop, we headed off along the Alpenstrasse (The scenic route along this side of the Alps).

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Our lunch stop was Oberammergau, which sits in a surrounded by the Ammergauer Alps. This village has plenty of traditional painted houses as well as’ Luftmalerei’, houses painted in an illusionist style with ornate pillars and window surrounds painted onto what is just a flat rendered wall. Very impressive work. Not sure Peter is up to being a ‘decorator’ around here. The village is most famous for its Passion Play that has been performed since the late 17th century as a thanksgiving from the villagers for being spared from the plague. The Play is performed every ten years (next performance 2020). More than half the village takes part.

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Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood

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Be Prepared time flies fast?

After a stroll round the village we continued along the stunning Alpenstrasse, passing through Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the foot of Germany’s highest Mountain Zugspitze (A very dramatic wall of rock rising above the town to 2962m). We continued along the River Isar to Fall, a little hamlet with allocated Motorhome parking a short walk from the Sylvensteinsee. It was a warm pleasant evening and so Peter went for a late swim in the surprisingly warm lake but was interrupted by ANOTHER thunderstorm that lasted much of the night!

River Isar

River Isar

Sylvensteinsee

Sylvensteinsee

Tuesday morning we waited in vain for the sun to come out so we could enjoy a swim in the lake, but by late morning we gave up and continued our Alpine journey to the town of Tegernsee, which sits on the side of a lake of the same name. With the rain finally easing we took an early evening passeo along the lakeside (yes, umbrellas were needed!)

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We spent the night in a quiet car park at the bottom of the Wallberg cable car a few miles away. Very quiet, apart from a loud ‘bump’ in the night. In the morning we discovered paw prints on the windscreen and that two out Heidi’s three windscreen washer hoses had been chewed through – what a cheek. The paw prints were quite big but we don’t know what creature they belong to (a polecat?)

Finally! we awoke to a beautiful sunny day and blue skies, ideal for going up a mountain. At just after 11o’clock we started the almost 1000m climb to the Panorama Restaurant, which is just below the peak of the Wallberg, and after we climbed above the tree line we were rewarded with fabulous views. We managed the assent in two and a half hours, although Peter would have been quicker if he hadn’t needed to wait for the slower members of the party! Of course the benefits of parking at the bottom of a cable car station is you can take the easy way down!

The 'other' quick route!

The ‘other’ quick route!

We tried again to find a spot to park by the lake for the night and although we could have parked in a side street we decided after a brief dip, to drive the couple of hours to Berchtesgaten. We stopped just short of our destination, waylaid by a lay-by with stunning views, and enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in our own Panorama Restaurant.

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Thursdays 7th August was another sunny morning so after enjoying our view over breakfast, we moved to the Koningsee, the highest lake in Germany with its beautifully clear, drinkable quality, waters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6nigssee

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We took an electric boat tour along the lake, which is really the only way to see it. With the pristine mountain scenery of this stunning national park forming almost vertical sides, there are very few paths. Those that exist are more often than not marked as ‘climbing routes’.

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So clear it makes your eyes go funny

The Obersee – so clear it makes your eyes go funny

We stopped at St. Bartholoma, a monastery on the western shore, on the return trip. It is a stunning and very isolated spot. From here, you cannot see the end of the narrow lake and the only way in, other than by boat, is a pretty serious undertaking on foot.

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Friday, and a beautifully clear day encouraged us to visit Obersalzburg and take the rather hair-raising bus ride up to the ‘Eagles Nest’ or Mt. Kehlstein (Hitler’s mountain ‘tea house’), specially designed for his 50th birthday. Although, after WW2, much of Obersalzburg was levelled by the Royal Air Force, and subsequently all traces of the fortified Nazi headquarters in the valley below removed, this has remained. It now houses a restaurant donating its profits to local charities. We learnt that Hitler only visited the place 14 times (he was apparently scared of heights and reluctant to near the edge of the panoramic terrace). His supposedly secret girlfriend, Eva Braun and eventual very short-term wife (40 hours before they committed suicide together) however, used to regularly walk up there regularly for the afternoon and entertain friends. It’s a hell of a hike!

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Italian Marble Fireplace - when the Allied Forces captured the Eagles Nest, Soldiers chipped  lumps of it as  a souvenier

Italian Marble Fireplace – when the Allied Forces captured the Eagles Nest, Soldiers chipped lumps off it as a souvenir

Highly Polished Brass Elivator - the lift shaft is 124m, Hitler didn't like small spaces either!

Highly Polished Brass Elevator – the lift shaft is 124m, Hitler didn’t like small spaces either!

Back down the bottom, we visited the ‘Documentation Obersalzburg’, the incredibly in-depth museum of Hitler and the Nazi movement.

http://www.obersalzberg.de/obersalzberg-home.html?&L=1

There was an excellent English audio guide, but unfortunately far too much information for the 2 hours we had allowed before closing time. It is built above the hugely elaborate tunnel complex that was never finished to house the Nazi Headquarters underground (basically mirroring what was above ground) when they began to realise things weren’t going their way and they needed to take up a more defensive position.

We’re still finding the whole thing hard to comprehend. One of the things the ‘Documentation’ illustrated well was how easy it would have been, to have been ‘taken in’ by all the propaganda and offers of a better life.

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Must do some more history reading. As we travel and ask ‘Why?’ it is constantly apparent how little we really know.

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An exhausting day! Must try to do less in our busy lives!

Saturday 9th August brought more Sunshine so after an early morning visit to the laundrette in Berchesgarten, Heidi did a hop, skip and a yodel over a mountain pass into Austria. By lunchtime we parked up by the beautiful Mondsee and went for swim followed by a lie in the sun and then another swim – Bliss!

Austria!

Austria!

 

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “‘Alpenstrasse’ to Austria

  1. Julia

    Another great blog! I don’t know if you knew but you have just been visiting the places Jay and I went to on the holiday where we got engaged. Jay actually proposed at Forggensee which is overlooked, I think by the “Disney” castle. We then travelled via Oberamegau to our next campingsite on the edge of the Koningsee (a very very cold lake but I did go swimming!). We visited the Eagle’s Nest too. Did you go up on the bus with some manic German bus driver? I seem to remember the road up was pretty scary!
    Did you get to visit Salzberg, The Sound of Music place? Definitely worth a look see if you are still around there.

    Reply
  2. John and Wendy

    We are so glad that you finally had some good weather for the lovely Alpine scenery. We agree with Julia about visiting Salzburg if you have time. There are also connections to Mozart – you could go to a concert! You have been in the area before, Peter. In Kitzbuhel you went to an evening “umpa” music evening for the first time and we have photo of you in an Austrian hat! We were also around the area when we stayed on our visit to the Oberammagau passion play in 2000. Happy memories. We are looking forward to the next instalment. Hope the weather stays good.

    Reply
    1. heidihymer Post author

      Certainly sounds as if we should have visited Salzburg! Unfortunately there are far too many ‘should haves’ on this trip …another one for ‘next time’. Maybe you ould post the pic of me in the Austrian hat?

      Reply
  3. John and Wendy

    Did you see anything about the world’s biggest ice cave at Werfen near Salzberg. You went there with us when we were at Kitzbuhel. Wendy always says that she felt sure she was going to die by the time we had finished the one and a half hour tour but the rest of us enjoyed it.

    Reply
  4. Julian

    Shame about not visiting the Schlossen! They are so picturesque and there is something magical about castles when they are perched precariously on top of a mountain. Surely you could have afforded to set aside a day for the task. It’s not as if you have any deadlines. Hungary will still be there tomorrow. lol. I know you share our hatred of crowds though, so it would have been quite a decision. Did the coin fall on tails?
    When I was in Salzburg they kept asking if we had seen the roof made of pure gold. It was hyped so much that when I went in search of it I was expecting something like a shiny gold version of the dome on St Paul’s Cathedral. In the end it turned out to be just the roof of a veranda and was so tarnished you wouldn’t have known it was gold if you didn’t already know. (Or something like that!)
    The mountain scenery is just fantastic. I used to go skiing in Austria every year when I were a lad, and the scenery with the mountains all covered in snow was just as good a reason for going as the skiing!

    Reply
  5. heidihymer Post author

    yeah, maybe we should have done the castles, but there were SOoooo many people, and like the ‘gold roof’, you can never really be sure whether all the people are there just because someone put it in the guide book or whether it is really worth seeing?..

    Reply

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