The chance spotting of a Wohnbmobile Stellplatz at Bad Reichenhall gave us a wonderful base for three days to explore this beautiful corner of Germany.
The Berchtesgaden National Park is framed by six mountain ranges, including the Watzmann (2713m) Germany’s second highest mountain.
Bad Reichenhall is an historic spa town built on the fortunes of its salt mines. The streets are wide and gracious and boast mainly luxury hotels and (yet more) orthopaedic kliniks.
It also has a fabulous bar and eatery where we were immediately treated as locals on finding it on our first evening foray into town, and to which we returned after every tremendous day of sight-seeing!
Up and out soon after the hooting Semmelvan arrived with fresh bread at the Stellplatz at 8.30 we used the clean, fast and reliable local train service to explore the national park.
The tracks wound through picturesque farming villages now filling up with chic weekend homes of wealthy Salzburgers and some Munichers and featured every modern comfort – wooden balconies, solar panels, under floor heating, glass panelled rooms onto the view and wide and expensively tiled garden terraces. Fantastic!
Our first venture was by foot from Berchtesgaden to take a ride on the Obersalzburgbahn cable car up to just under 1000m.
From there we wandered along a snowy hiking path to the area’s big historical attraction the Dokumentation Zentrum, which details the history of the idyllic mountain community in the early 20th century when it found itself the unwelcome home of the Nazi’s in the south.
The exhibition explained how centuries old farming families were initially bought and then bullied out of their homes to make way for bulldozers and the building of a complete complex for the so-called ‘Nazi elite’.
A striking documentary featured original footage of the farms and then the compound, specifically Hitler’s self-designed own Berghof as filmed by his mistress Eva Braun.
A late addition to the complex was a huge network of bunkers which mirrored the life above ground and was intended to continue Hitler’s ‘government’ should he be forced underground. We wandered around a small corner of the huge 14km subterranean system.
Waiting for a bus down the icy mountainside we got chatting to Mark, who had tried to visit the bunker system at the nearby Zum Turkum Hotel – once home to a local switchboard of more than 1000 connections and the powerhouse of the Nazi telecommunications system.
The hotel had changed hands and so tours were closed but the new owners hoped to start them again soon – another example of how open German communities are about their dark past.
Stopping at the fabulous Schwabenbrau pub on the way back to Bertha we planned a German treat for dinner – leberkase!
Literally translated as liver cheese this traditional meal is actually pork wurst meatloaf, which we served with some obligatory white cabbage kraut, and then added some oven fries and a good dollop of strong mustard senf. Washed down with a good cheap Chilean plonk (£1.90 for Cab Sauv) – this may not sound particularly appetising but it was actually delicious!
On Jo’s birthday we spent a fabulous day cycling and hiking around Koningsee at 630m Germany’s highest lake and beautifully emerald green and ringed by mountains.
At the picturesque lookout point at Malerwinkel we were joined by two jovial Austrian brothers who broke into a spontaneous mountain song. Their lovely melodic voices pitched and bounced together off the towering walls of the fiord-like mountains and they ended their celebration of the moment with a round of yodelling. A real treat!
Pushing the bikes up the steep wooded pathway to the top of the mountain we then flew down the other side in an exhilarating, brake-frying flash, stopping momentarily at an inviting stream to greedily gulp down the pure water and cool the tyres.
The cable car up to Jenner at 1802 meters was closed as was the bus and elevator route up the mountain side to ‘Kehlsteinhaus’, Hitler’s Eagles Nest, built at 1837m as an official 50th birthday present ‘to the Furhrer from the people’ but which he hardly visited as he was afraid of heights and probably attack by the RAF which actually never regarded the site as worth bombing. It is now a restaurant but until mid-May remains ‘geschlossen’ – closed.
We contented ourselves with the view of Eagles Nest from sunny Berchtesgaden down below and then partook of a MaccyD’s cheeky birthday fillet of fish treat in probably the best located McDonald’s in the world, ever.
We pedalled back to catch our train, bumping again into Mark at the station. He advised us to visit Werfen across the border in Austria to see the historic medieval Schloss which featured heavily in ‘Where Eagles Dare’.
On our third day we took the bikes and pedalled around the fast-flowing River Saalach and its wide green plains to visit local villages and admire onion-domed churches.
At Marzoll we found a very sweet pink and turreted castle and neighbouring domed church and in nearby horse riding centre Turk, we stopped for coffee at the village shop – a wonderful store of fresh vegetables, bakery and a delicatessen array of meats and cheeses. The village shop!
Back at Bad Reichenall and discovering that the town’s cable car, which would have afforded a fabulous view of Bertha at her riverside camp was ‘geschlossen’, we discovered a new burst of energy and set off on an 11km route around Thumsee, a lake high up above the town. A sunny bank of lively and photogenic frogs caught our attention!
Having carted the bikes more than 1000 miles already it was good to clock up some miles on them and over two days we totalled more than 30 on them, so not bad going on tyres and legs!