A favourite weekend destination for Munich’s city dwellers, Bad Tölz is a picturesque hillside town that tumbles over the glistening blue and white crested river Isar.
We stayed along the water in the company of ducks at a riverside aire and next to the cycle path that took us exploring in both directions.
Initially a customs stop along the river between Germany and Austria the town grew prosperous in the Middle Ages as a place for traders to store and sell their quantities of salt, fresh from the mines at Bad Reichenhall.
The main streets, called Salz Strasse and Markt Strasse, both attest to the heritage of the merchants’ individual and the town’s municipal wealth. The old Post Haus and many breweries are a reminder of the service industry’s accommodation of a busy community of travelling traders whose journeys ended in a good night’s rest, having stabled weary horses and taken refreshment.
These days of course, the historic inns are casual lunch-time eateries or ice cream bars. We were delighted to find an authentic Turkish kebab bar where the pide bread was freshly rolled and cooked in a wood-fired oven. Our cheap-eat lunch outside the Rathaus was a crispy green salad served with delicious home baked falafel.
The garden of the town’s pretty and pavilioned Kurhaus, completed just one month before the outbreak of world war one, was being set up for the annual herbst fest. Pegged out areas for flower, fruit and vegetable stalls were tightly packed around the colourful planting and a central pavilion. The festival was not for another week.
A strangely neglected building caused us to wonder at its large art deco and circular reception that fronted a long windowed hallway. Used now as an indoor rifle range, it was designed as a pump room and meeting house for locals and visitors to enjoy the rich mineral spring waters. Outside, draping vines and ivy showed neglect. We wondered why when just 50 paces away the sparkling new spa and swimming centre was reeling them in.
Wanting to explore further we set off early the next morning in surprisingly hot sunshine and up into the hills. Passing the Kalvarienberg, where a town’s mason had constructed a pitiful garden of Gethsemane, complete with sleeping apostles and anxiously-awake Jesus, we headed into the valley.
Our cycle ride took us endlessly uphill through low pasturelands and grazing cattle, smart goats, free-ranging chickens and the occasional lama towards the inky thick brown waters of the Kirchsee.
Bypassing lunching day trippers at the popular Kloster Reutberg we pushed onwards and pitched up alongside the dark waters and trespassed onto a moored party raft. People were arriving in cars and on bikes with parasols, blankets and picnics for a last day’s sunbathing in the hot temperature.
The water is safe for bathing but not at all inviting as its dark depths, even under clear blue skies, reflected a peaty brown surface, busy with water boatmen feasting on midges.
Scooting downhill through fields where farmers collected yet more silage, surely their third or fourth cut of the glorious late summer, we arrived back in the town, where the main street had been claimed by the parasol-clad tables and chairs of cafes and bars.
Once again the forecast was for summer to end overnight, and a happy party atmosphere prevailed along the river bank as small children fed the ducks, friends picnicked together and old timers sat on the benches in cool shade happily chatting. It was a lovely to stroll and sit amongst the locals as happy visitors in their pretty town.