Solo Traveling through Austria, the Bavarian Alps, and Berchtesgaden. Day 7


Alright, so I return again to write about heading towards Berchtesgaden, Germany, which is a National Park, still in the Bavarian Alps. If you haven’t yet seen the pattern, insert bus and train problems here. Worse this time. I’m skipping this because even I’m tired of reading about it. The gist is that I woke up around 6 in Salzberg, and made it to Berchtesgaden at about 12, and my hotel at about 2. Moving forward now:

  • I ended up in my first hotel of the trip (as opposed to another AirBnb), and it was a nice transition since in a hotel you are being taken care of. This hotel was actually a little ways from the center of Berchtesgaden, called Bischopscweden, and unfortunately I was unable to walk there, as it is about an hour and a half’s walk, but only 10 mins on the bus. So… I still can’t escape the buses. Since it was about 3 when I finally checked in at the hotel, I didn’t really have an opportunity to see the things that I really wanted to see there that day,because everything closes at about 4pm. Very frustrating. I asked the manager at the hotel what she recommended, and she said that I should go see the salt mines. This was shocking to me, as I didn’t know there were salt mines in Berchtesgaden, and I just came from Hallstatt and Salzburg which are famous for their salt mines. The salt mines seemed to be my only option and sounded interesting, so off I went to battle the buses again.

Nice hotel room overlooking Bavaria:

  • When I eventually arrived at the salt mines, I went in the front door, payed a suspiciously high number of euros for the tour, and was handed a work jumpsuit in return. Well this would normally be my cue to turn around and leave, but trying to battle for my money back in German would be a lot more work than it was worth. When they finally had about 30 people signed up, mostly families with small children, all in jumpsuits, they piled us on to a roller coaster style ride, without railings, and we headed off. The tour turned out to be interesting as I learned a little about the salt mines, and we were actually in live mines; but as I had suspected, this tour was made for 5 year olds and their parents. It was a rough experience for me, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

  • After what felt like an eternity, the tour ended and I headed back out to take more buses. I eventually gave up. It was about 35 degrees (which is a wonderful temp for me), I had my jacket and a beanie, and decided that walking seemed to be a good alternative to waiting 30 mins for the next bus. Of course, it soon started to rain, but luckily I had brought an umbrella and it didn’t take away from my enjoyable stroll while taking in some beautiful scenery. The houses and rivers surrounded by the picturesque mountains were breathtaking. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see all of this area, however, after about 40 mins, the temperature was dropping drastically and the rain falling harder than before. It was time to find a beer. I checked my maps, found a nearby brewery, and headed that way.

Some Berchtesgaden scenery:

  • Far below 32 degrees Fahrenheit and still pouring rain/ice, I opened the giant doors to the Hofbrau House. I was immediately met with fireplaces, the smell of amazing meats, and the sound of laughter and clinking glasses throughout the brewery. I was led by a large friendly woman named Helga in full Bavarian attire to a section of a large table of other people, and handed a menu completely in German. Despite being half-frozen, I still had enough of my wits about me to remember that beer is the same in English and German. Helga asked, “helles or dunkle,” which I am also familiar with (light beer or dark beer). Not more than a minute later, a beautiful and gigantic dark beer was placed in front of me in the form of a litre stein. The sweet caramel and bready aroma reached me faster than I could lift the beer and I knew that I was right where I needed to be. I pointed to something on the menu in the food section, and enjoyed being right where I was right then. I wasn’t worrying about buses or my next stop; how I was going to get home or what I was going to have to eat; I was surrounded by pleasant people, with pleasant food, in a warm house, with great beer. There’s not much more that I could ask for.

  • I very much enjoyed the food that was brought to me; beef goulash with potato dumplings, horseradish, and sauerkraut, among other things. I decided that I would have one more stein of beer before braving the weather and buses, and this time ordered a helles which turned out to be equally as enjoyable. As I finished up the beer, I could here that the rain was stopping, and I started to research when and where I should catch the next bus back to my hotel in Bischopscweden. I checked the schedule, and then my watch; then the schedule again, and back to my watch… I had just missed the last bus of the night by about 5 minutes.

  • It was still only about 8pm, and though it was going to be quite a walk, I didn’t have much else to do. I also still hadn’t seen the downtown area of Berchtesgaden, and would go straight through it to get back. As I set out, I had decided that was going to a lot more fun than if I had caught the bus and gone to bed early. As I walked about a half-mile uphill, I reached the center of Berchtesgaden, and it was a ghost town. Everything was closed, but there were a few street lights on that helped me to see some gorgeous old churches and other architecture. I followed the map that I had on my phone which had been set to show me the most direct walk back. At a certain point, in the middle of the small town, I couldn’t figure out which direction the map was taking me. I went to the left, then to the right, but neither seemed to match the map. It almost seemed to indicate that i should go right through a building opposite the town church. I then thought, maybe it is wanting me to walk on this narrow ledge that leads upward, in between two buildings. I attempted this route, and sure enough, the map followed.

  • After climbing this narrow ledge for a little ways, it opened up to a staircase that straddled the quaint residences and continued steeply upwards. I took a few unusable pictures (due to the darkness) and went on following the map. It was quite eerie, as the unfamiliar cottages had decorated their small yards with real and fake mushrooms. Some where as small as the palm of my hand, while others were more tall than me. It was really very interesting and pretty, however I couldn’t help but feel as if I was in a scene from Alice in Wonderland. I climbed and climbed and climbed, until finally I reached the top of the stairs where I was met with a road. I turned around and almost lost my breath at the view of the town below illuminated by the moonlight. The pictures that I took don’t even begin to do it justice.

  • I continued onward, following the map on my phone, and this led me into darkness. I followed the road, and it eventually became more and more narrow, until it was only one lane wide. About the same time, the sidewalk disappeared, and I was left walking in the middle of the street, up a mountain, into the woods. I remember the exact moment when I realized that this had become a very bad idea: I heard a speeding car in the distance, and suddenly became aware that I couldn’t see further than 5 feet in front of me in any direction. Even with my cell phone glowing brightly, I was in the middle of nothingness. At this point, I considered turning back, but I had been walking for so long that I might as well just continue forward and hope that I ended up alive and near my hotel. I was aware of every step, every sound in the distance, every potential movement around me, but was so engulfed in darkness that I could have walked off of a cliff and not known the difference until hitting the ground.

  • This adrenaline fueled stroll in the darkness lasted for a lifetime. I took every step carefully but with pace, and tried to be as alert and aware as possible. As I came to the top of a hill on the side of the mountain, I could see a little more than before due to the trees not covering every foot and also due to my eyes adjusting for the last hour. I could see just enough to notice that the road was heading downwards now and as I took a few steps, suddenly, out of the darkness something moved less than 2 feet from my head. I froze and slowly turned to face that which I had disturbed. Ready to fight or flee as needed, I faced right and realized that it was only a wooden sign with a motion sensored light, shining on German words which I interpreted to be an advertisement for the Hofbrau House. After taking a few breaths, I eventually reached some residences that had outdoor lights, and then entered the town of Bischopscweden. When I did reach this area, the outdoors became more visible and I met a recognizable road which led me back to my hotel. It had been quite an experience, and now I was back, a beer in hand, and about to head to bed for some much needed sleep.

Light sensor sign:

A nice last beer of the night after my journey: