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Honeymoon Travel Guide: Berchtesgaden, Germany

Entry No. 36 / Bavaria & Berchtesgaden

I don’t think any other country does Christmas quite as spectacularly as Germany does so I’m having a tough time this holiday season with my traumatic diagnosis of missingeurope-itis. In an attempt to relieve some of my aches and pains, I thought I’d share one of the last vacations J&I took while living in Deutschland {and I’ll share a few of my favorite German Christmas Markets on the blog tomorrow}. Two weeks before we moved from Europe back to the States, we decided to spend a long summer weekend in Bavaria. We rented a car {VW Golf which seemed all too apropos} and hit the road for Berchtesgaden {or bust!}. If you’re looking for a non-tropical honeymoon that’s beautiful in a completely different way {and shrouded in dark history}, this is the vacay for you!!

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If you look really closely, that’s Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at the top of the mountain.

Since I had lived in Germany before, I had already visited Munich and a nearby resort called Chiemsee years before but the magic of this land had long faded from my memory and as J&I descended into the lush valley of Berchtesgaden, J&I looked at each other with dropping jaws. Pictures honestly do this land no justice. I had to keep closing and re-opening my eyes to convince myself it was all real – it seriously felt like we were in a dream.

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After checking into our hotel, we walked to the town center of Berchtesgaden to explore. I was really taken with one of the antique shops along the main road – how killer are those oryx horns? I’m still kicking myself for not bringing those and that little darling deer on top home but his prices were a little steep for my liking.

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A big reason we chose to visit Berchtesgaden {like most tourists that come} was because of its dark and stormy past. Adolf Hitler fell in love with the small + charming mountain town and built his sprawling Berghof vacation mansion in the Bavarian Alps of Obersalzberg, a small town overlooking Berchtesgaden. He spent more time there during WWII than anywhere else and it became one of his private Nazi headquarters. His influence is felt throughout the area and his sister, Paula Hitler, is buried in the town’s cemetery. To protect the grave from vandalism, her name was changed on the headstone years ago.

Our second day, we drove over to the Dokumentation Center in Obersalzberg and caught a bus up the mountain to visit Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest {or Kehlsteinhaus}. The Eagle’s Nest was Eva Braun’s idea and her present to Hitler on his 50th birthday. However, due to his fear of heights he only visited the small chalet a handful of times. The history of this structure is pretty fascinating and sad {many lost their lives during the construction phase} – you can read more about it here.

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After lunch at the Eagle’s Nest, we drove over to Hotel Zum Türken to explore the underground bunkers beneath the hotel. During WWII, the hotel served as a headquarters for the SS and the bunkers below connected to next-door neighbor Hitler’s residence, the Berghof. The bunkers were intended to be used as an escape route but were never used. You can read more about the hotel here.

To call these bunkers creepy would be an understatement – they were so eerie that when J would say something, I would jump because I was so on edge. The lighting is poor, the floors are wet, the walls damp and then there’s the historical reason for their existence – you basically feel like you’re in a horror movie and something bad is about happen any second. To make it worse, these bunkers aren’t very well known so there are very few tourists that visit. We encountered one other family while we were touring them – one! Pictured above {left} is one of the many machine gun nests scattered throughout the tunnels. There are rusty ladders that lead into them and yes, both J&I found a bit of courage and climbed up for the view. The bricked-in door {right} is the path that used to lead directly to Hitler’s Berghof.

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After touring the bunkers, we took a short walk down the hill from the hotel to a discreet path which led into the woods. And down that path, we found the remaining foundation of Hitler’s Berghof {above}. We were the only ones there as this is also not a well-marked tourist spot. It was certainly creepy but there was something about all the new life that had sprung forth that seemed somehow peaceful and reassuring.

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To counter-balance our heavy WWII-soaked day, we decided to drive to nearby Lake Königssee the next day for some light-hearted hiking. This lake was incredibly popular with the SS during WWII – they would often stay at the hotel pictured above. Eva Braun also loved to sunbathe here … and honestly, I think anyone can see why – it’s one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever visited. I don’t think my eyes ever fully adjusted to the beauty around me that day – it was just too much. The glassy green water, the rolling fog, the majestic mountains, the quaint Bavarian boathouses … it just never felt real!

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We took a beautiful electric {and wooden!} boat all the way to end of Lake Königssee and our captain treated us to a little show halfway there. He turned the boat off, grabbed a shiny horn and played a melody toward the surrounding mountains. Due to how sheer the mountains are, we heard the melody repeated seven times back. It was magical. Oh, and there are waterfalls like that one {above right} dotting the lake. After the third, the captain quit pointing them out.

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In the middle of the lake is a lovely little island home to beautiful St. Bartholomew’s church. The crimson onion domes are striking against the emerald water and it was so relaxing to walk around the island. There’s a fishery and a few other buildings.

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We continued with our boatride and took it to the very last stop as we had heard it was worth it to come here and take a hike over to the next lake. A short way into our hike, we discovered this too-adorable-for-words restaurant. I seriously expected a gnome to peek out from behind that tree and greet us – it was nuts. Seriously, some Hollywood director needs to film a fairytale right here.

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J found a hiking stick and we were off … soon we came upon this:

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It’s hard to see because the water was sooooo still and is reflecting the mountains perfectly but this lake was like a prettier, more glassy version of the Lake Königssee. J&I sat on the bank and just soaked it all in. If you look really closely, you’ll spot a tiny house in the green valley – there was a German blowing a horn over there and just like on the lake, we could hear it repeat again and again and again. It was amazing.

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At this point we were starving so we turned around to go back to that super-cute restaurant. I wish we had thought to bring snacks with us because I would have loved to keep exploring this beautiful land … maybe next time! 😉

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I so wish they sold prints of this vintage travel poster – isn’t it beautiful?!

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And then we spotted something really spectacular – a cat on a leash! How I wish we could teach our kitty to enjoy this! 😉

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I’m so glad we squeezed the town of Ramsau into our already-packed itinerary. This view is one of the most-photographed scenes in Bavaria {above} and I have to say, it’s so much more magical in person. I felt like we may stumble across Julie Andrews twirling around at any minute! {We actually were super close to where The Sound of Music was filmed}

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So we were headed back to our hotel when I spotted signs for Wimbachklamm and I most definitely let out a squeal. I had seen a travel brochure about the Wimbachklamm and screamed at J to turn and find a parking spot. He may have thought I was having a heart attack, I’m not sure, but the main thing is he turned and found a spot to park and then we were off on another hike to see the most incredible waterfall of our lives. We walked along the stream {I prefer babbling brook} and I was already obsessed. The water was sooooo clean and clear. After paying a small fee, we hiked uphill a bit more and then we were treated to bliss …

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I again have to say these photos do nothing for this waterfall. It was so much better in person and was such a fabulous way to {surprise} end our Bavarian vacation.

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That night, we walked back into Berchtesgaden and explored a bit more, ending the day at the Hofbrauhaus with a perfect view of the Eagle’s Nest.

CB’s Top Tips for Berchtesgaden and Bavaria:

– Stay local. I would highly recommend staying in or around Berchtesgaden if you’re interested in doing the things I highlighted in this post. I loved the hotel we stayed in – it was peaceful and resort-like and a short walk to the center of Berchtesgaden … but … I have to say I would never stay there again because they had a very strict rule that you had to check in before 6p. If you were late, you were out of luck and would have to find a different place to stay. I didn’t read the scary reviews about this until after I booked the hotel and they made me super nervous since we had an 8 hour drive to get there. Since the hotel wouldn’t let me cancel and I had already paid the full booking price, J&I decided to shell out extra money and get our rental car the day before so we could hit the road early in the morning. Long story short, we made it there in time and everything was lovely but the stress and anxiety we {okay, I} felt that day was something I wouldn’t want to repeat. So read the reviews on TripAdvisor and make sure you’re choosing wisely. We stayed at the Alpenhotel Weiherbach, Weiherbachweg 8, Berchtesgaden, 83471.

– Hotel Zum Türken. I already told you about the fascinatingly creepy bunkers beneath this hotel but what I didn’t mention is that you can still spend the night in this hotel! It’s still run by the original family – you have to visit the site and either call or e-mail to reserve a room. I actually did this but I didn’t hear back from them until I had already booked our other hotel so it didn’t work out. I definitely think this would be an incredible experience. The hotel did look like it had seen better days but staying in a place with so much dark history would be pretty crazy. I did read that some guests had ghostly experiences so if you scare easily, this may not be the best place for you. 😉

– Nazi history. If you’re curious about any of it, do your research before going and know what’s where and what you want to see. This area is brimming with stories and I think it’s a shame to go and miss it. If anything, at least visit the Dokumentation Center in Obersalzburg – it’s a great museum educating visitors on the history of the area. It’s also where you can catch a bus {or hike} up to the Eagle’s Nest.

– Hof Brauhaus Berchtesgaden. The lesser known sibling of Munich’s Hof Brauhaus yet with just as much Nazi history. The food couldn’t be more German so get in the spirit and Prost!

– Lake Königssee. If you make it to Berchtesgaden, you may as well save an afternoon for a visit to the lake .. you’ll be glad you did. Make sure you take a boat to the last stop and then take the hike over to the next lake. So worth it.

– Waterfalls. If you see yellow signs ending in Klamm, it’s most likely a beautiful hidden waterfall. I hadn’t planned on us visiting one but I loved that we spontaneously saw the sign and followed it to what was one of our favorite discoveries on the trip.

– Churches. They dot the land and they are gorgeous. Visit a few or at least take photos!

– Surrounding cities + sites. Munich + Salzburg are both very close to Bavaria. I had been to both years before so we skipped them this vacay but they’re certainly worth a day trip {or more}. On a much darker note, Dachau Concentration Camp is right outside of Munich and is an illuminating experience. I visited it when I was in high school and I still vividly remember my visit.

If you have any tips, insights, suggestions or comments, I’d love to hear them! Happy Honeymooning! Did you miss the other entries of CB’s Travel Journal? Click here to catch up! 

All images by moi.

4 Comments

  1. Very pleasant Christmas holiday in Germany.

  2. Hannah Hannah

    Amazing tips, thank you! My fella and I are off to Berchtesgaden next week and you’ve highlighted everything I wanted to do and see!

    • Hi Hannah! Hope you have a wonderful time and glad you enjoyed my post. 🙂

  3. Es ist immer wieder sehr schön, im Berchtesgadener Land zwischen Königssee und Predigtstuhl zu wandern. Besonders schön ist es dort im Herbst. War schon mehrfach dort zum Wandern.

    Die Welt der Almen und Berge lädt ein, auf Entdeckungstour zu gehen im Berchtesgadener Land. Ein großzügiges Netz von Wanderwegen in allen Schwierigkeitsgraden wartet nur darauf, entdeckt zu werden. Allein im Nationalpark Berchtesgaden gibt es 230 Kilometer bestens gepflegte und ausgeschilderte Wanderwege.

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