Germany’s Highlight: Berchtesgaden National Park
When the cold dark days of winter are finally behind us, something magical happens. The sun shines a little more, flowers and trees start to bloom, and everyone has a spring in their step. If you want to experience the magic of a European spring, head to Berchtesgaden National Park.
Bavaria’s Berchtesgaden is 130 square miles filled with mountains, valleys and crystal-clear waters. While you can do just about any outdoor activity in this park, there is also a small historical gem everyone should visit at least once.
What makes this park so unique is its diversity. Berchtesgaden is known for its rugged cliffs that offer views so picturesque, they’re hard to put into words. I remember standing on one of the many lookout points, gazing out at bright blue water winding between snow-capped mountains with dense, dark green forest running along with it and thinking, “Is this place real?” Never in my life had I seen a view so utterly perfect, even Bob Ross couldn’t have painted a clearer picture.
The sweeping Alpine pastures will have you wanting to live your Julie Andrews fantasy, spinning around and singing, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” Nobody will care because they’re all secretly wanting to do the same thing. The film is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year!
The motto for Germany’s national parks is, “Let nature be nature,” and that is quite conspicuous here. The park boasts 700 different kinds of butterflies. Wild goats and deer run around in their natural habitat and eagles sore over the sky. You could sit in any part of the park and watch the wildlife for hours while breathing some of the freshest air your lungs will ever take in.
Whether you’re an Olympic skier in training or someone who just wants to sit in a quiet area and sip wine, there is something for everyone here. There is no shortage of nearby ski resorts with 72 ski lifts and nearly 112-miles worth of slopes. If you’re uncoordinated like me, you can still partake in the snowy fun. There’s plenty of sleigh rides, sledding and even luge at most of the resorts.
Prefer liquid water to frozen? On a hot summer day, you can take a dip in the Berchtesgadener Ache at Seimei Beach. Or, hop on a boat ride that takes you through Lake Königssee’s emerald waters while the captain plays trumpet so you experience the famous echo that bounces off the mountains and cliffs.
Hikers will naturally have this park on their bucket list. There are well-marked paths for all skill levels, whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll or scaling mountains and cliffs. There is no camping in the park, so make sure you get to your endpoint before it closes.
The Eagle’s Nest
The Kehlsteinhaus, or Eagle’s Nest, sits atop the Kehlstein roughly 6,000 feet high. This was once the Nazi Party’s primary hangout in Bavaria, where key government meetings and social events were held. When you reach it, you can see why. It offers sharp and bright views of the park’s mountains, rivers and valleys.
When the Third Reich fell, a charitable trust took over ownership and turned the next into a restaurant. If the weather is nice, I recommend sitting outside to dine while gazing on the magnificent view. But, the greatest view may, in fact, be inside the restaurant. Watching families of all different nationalities, cultures and religions, laughing and enjoying a beer and a brat in a place birthed out of such blind hate.
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