On the Edge…Literally (in the Bavarian Alps!)
The adventure to the Bayerische Alpen began with an evening in München like no other. I caught a train headed east with a couple I had never met before in order to stay overnight in München before heading to Berchtesgaden on Saturday morning. Rather than taking the U-Bahn (subway) from the main train station to my friend’s apartment, I decided to walk about 8 km using a map with scarcely-labeled roads, a GPS lacking European maps, and a malfunctioning cellphone. Nonetheless, my sense of direction got me there as the sun was setting, and though the scenery was nothing near as impressive as the sights we were soon bound to see, I enjoyed the little adventure.
The people I had planned to meet were out at the Hofbräuhaus, the most popular restaurant in München for tourists from around the world. With its enormous seating capacity and €7 Maße (liter-sized beers) that are served upon taking a seat, it’s not hard to see why this restaurant stands out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hofbräuhaus brings in over a hundred grand per night–with a large chunk coming from the two Bavarians at our table.
Later in the night, we had the opportunity to meet more lively German locals who invited us to enjoy the evening with them after meeting us on the U-Bahn. Unfortunately, it led to a loss of one member of our group who attempted to walk home on his own. We found him later sleeping on a bench in the U-Bahn station. It was time to get him home. All would be well soon, but…he wasn’t on the train with us anymore. We had lost him again. One moment we were saying goodbye to the kind locals, and then we were on our way back in the subway with our friend nowhere in sight. Later in the night, our new German friends proved once again how kind they were by bringing our friend back home. We were all set to leave at 7am–in just a few hours–on our way to the mountains.
As our luck would have it, we missed the train. Others were headed in the same direction, so we weren’t completely doomed yet. We didn’t know if our ticket was valid for these trains, but we kept to the philosophy of “don’t ask questions.” Sure enough, we were forced off the train, left in a small town of which we had never heard. Nonetheless, we boarded another one headed south, still unsure if our group ticket was valid. For some reason, the ticket was indeed valid this time around, but we woke up to another roadblock on this ride. We awoke simultaneously to an empty train and the conductor kindly urging us to run to the bus. There is no way to express our confusion in words. I still do not know what town we stopped in, why the train was de-boarded of all passengers, or where the bus took us. I do know that, somehow, we made it to Berchtesgaden later that day, only about three hours past our target time.
Berchtesgaden is a quiet little town nestled between the mountains of the Bavarian Alps. Our hotel was nicely situated across from the train station and beside the river with its pristine turquoise water flowing gently through the town. The downpour didn’t stop us from taking a walk through town as well as the neighboring mountains, which were by no means an indicator of the beasts we would climb the next day.
We started bright and early on Sunday to take a ferry across the Königsee to St. Bartholomä, the hub for the best hikes in the area. On the way across the glacial lake, our tour guide pulled out a trumpet and started playing it to the mountains. We listened intently as the mountains played the tune back to him…Not even sound could escape these beasts.
Our first hike was intended to be a quick visit to the Eiskapelle, a small snowfield about an hour’s walk from St. Barthomolä, but we found it difficult to end our exploration of the ridges and waterfalls of the area.
After breaking for a PB&J lunch, we had our first taste of danger. I was the first to have my leg slip off the side, but I quickly recovered. In the same spot, our friend lost her footing completely.
Luckily, it wasn’t the side of the ridge that was completely vertical. Our second encounter with the danger of the Alps was during our climb up the Watzmann, the third tallest mountain in Germany.
A small plaque in the rock commemorated the death of a hiker who had died a couple years ago hiking on this trail. Some sections of the trail aren’t what you might typically consider to be trail. We climbed up on steel rods anchored into the bare cliff. The awe-inspiring views outweighed the dangers by a long shot, though no photo can capture their glory.