The hidden beauty of Berchtesgaden

Beautiful Berchtesgaden | Photo by O12 on Unsplash
Beautiful Berchtesgaden | Photo by O12 on Unsplash

The hidden beauty of Berchtesgaden

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Romantic fairytale villages, bustling cities and the majestic Alps coupled with a fascinating history make Bavaria one of Germany’s alluring states. While many visitors flock to Munich’s Oktoberfest in the fall, the ski slopes and hiking trails surrounding Garmisch-Partenkirchen or peruse one of the oldest Christmas markets in Nuremberg, there is a hidden beauty just waiting to be discovered in Berchtesgaden.

Perched high in the Bavarian Alps approximately 30 kilometers south of Salzburg, Berchtesgaden impresses with its stunning vistas and complex history. Dating back more than 500 years, salt mining was the primary industry. Visitors can explore Germany’s oldest active salt mine at Salzbergwerk Berchtesgaden. Wooden slides and a mine train take you 650 meters into the mountain where you learn about different types of salt and how it’s extracted. One of the highlights of the tour includes a boat ride across a briny lake 130 meters below the surface.


A family restaurant now sits on Kehlsteinhaus | Photo by Amanda Palumbo

World War II

Berchtesgaden has a complicated past. During the 1920s, a young Adolf Hitler was so enamored with the area that it quickly became one of his favorites. During World War II, he built Kehlsteinhaus, or the Eagle’s Nest, as a retreat for himself and other high-ranking officials within the Third Reich. When the area was liberated by the U.S. Army, it served as a military command post. Today, the building has been transformed into a restaurant and Documentation Center. Visitors can tour the grounds and different rooms with a guide.

Another less-visited relic is Hotel zum Türken. Originally built in the late 1600s, the hotel took its current form beginning in 1911. In the war, it was frequented by many members of Hitler’s regime. Beneath the foundation was a series of underground passages and hallways, allowing senior leaders and their entourages to evade advancing forces. In the 1945 air raids, the hotel was all but destroyed. Rebuilt to its former glory before the war, visitors can stay and enjoy the crisp Alpine air and discover the bunkers which remained intact.


View from the top of Kehlsteinhaus | Photo by Amanda Palumbo

The great outdoors
One of Germany’s most stunning lakes is located just south of Berchtesgaden. Königsee is the third deepest lake in the country. Visitors can trawl the lake via electric-powered tour boats, rowboats or paddleboats. Shaped more like a narrow fjord, sheer rock walls lining the water’s edge create a unique medium for noise reverberation. Tour boats often stop and a trumpeter will play. The sound bounces off the cliffs up to seven times. The glass-like water is so clear, you can often see the bottom of the lake.

In the winter, Berchtesgaden is a hotbed for winter sports. Home to the International Luge Federation (IFL), world-class racers and athletes can be seen on the icy tracks in the area. Watzmann, Germany’s third highest peak, offers fantastic skiing and snowboarding options. In the summer, hiking trails crisscross the craggy landscape. With an abundance of fascinating sites and lush landscapes, the beauty of Berchtesgaden should not be missed.

 

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