Sunday, January 13, 2013

Berchtesgaden and Salzburg

As you know from our last post, Kyle's parents made the long journey to Germany to spend Christmas with us along with Kyle's brother, Cory, and his wife, Lynn. Kyle's parents got in on the 14th, and before the rest of the family got here we took off on the 15th for a trip to Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps.

We headed out in the morning and the sun was shining...a pleasant surprise! On the autobahn, just as we got out of Stuttgart, traffic came to a standstill. Ironically, we were telling John and Diane just the day before about staus, or traffic jams, in Germany. Apparently, when there's an accident, before they clear anything from the roadway the polizei do a complete investigation, leaving traffic to stop and back up without even a trickle getting through. We've heard horror stories about people being stuck for hours, which is why we're told that Germans keep blankets, water, and chocolate in the car. We sat on the autobahn for an hour and fifteen minutes before we were able to move again. We watched a helicopter fly in, and men relieving themselves on the side of the road. I think if we were there much longer it would have turned into a big tailgate party. The stau turned what was supposed to be a reasonable four hour trip into a five and a half hour trip. I guess that was the price we paid for having such an amazing trip the rest of the time.
It was dark when we arrived at our apartment in Berchtesgaden, Germany.  We had driven past a beautiful lake, through rolling hills and snow, and finally just as the sun was setting we came to the Alps.  Our apartment was up the side of the mountain above the town.  We took a crazy winding, steep, and slippery road to get there in the pitch dark.  The owner of the apartment met us there with her middle school aged son, to translate for us.  They showed us around the apartment, showing us how to use the heaters and such.  They also took our order for bread delivery in the morning.  Pretty sweet!  The apartment was very nice and comfortable.
Our apartment building
Once we unloaded the car, we headed back down to town to check out the Christmas market.  Berchtesgaden is a beautiful Bavarian town with fountains, murals and paintings on the buildings, ancient churches, and a palace.  The market was scattered throughout the old cobblestone streets.  As we sipped our Glühwein, we browsed the stalls and were serenaded by an oompah band.  After finishing his Glühwein, John dubbed it "wobbly juice", because it made him feel wobbly.  That didn't stop him from drinking it at the Christmas markets to follow!
We finished the evening at a traditional restaurant with all of the favorites like schnitzel, cheesy spätzle, and sausages.  Back at the apartment, we changed into our cozy clothes and warmed up with hot chocolate and Christmas cookies.  It was a great start to our trip!

The next morning we finally got to see the best part about the apartment...the view!  As the automatic shades lifted, we saw the breathtaking view of the town with it's church steeples, surrounded by snow capped mountains.  It's a view that you could look at all day.  It was wonderful to sit and sip our coffee, just taking it all in.
View from the apartment in the morning
View from the apartment in the morning
That day we headed to the nearby town of Schönau Am Königssee to take a boat ride on Germany's cleanest and most pristine lake.  The town and lake are of course surrounded by mountains.  The water was crystal clear and bright blue on the few occasions that we saw the sunlight hit it.  The only boats allowed on the lake are quiet electric tour boats.  The mountains looked like they rose straight out of the lake.  About halfway to our stop, the boat stopped and one of the guides played a bugle so that we could here the echo off of the cliffs.  Our destination was a beautiful, secluded pilgrimage church called St. Bartholomä.  It is so quiet and peaceful there.  We carefully walked around on the snow and ice, enjoying the surprising sunlight while we were there.  We even saw a small avalanche!  We had a warm traditional lunch at the restaurant there before catching the boat back to town.
That afternoon, we headed to the Berchtesgaden salt mine for a tour.  Before the tour, they make you put on miner suits to protect your clothing.  At first we didn't see the coat rack on the other side of the wall, so we put our suits on over our clothes and looked like Oompa Loompas.  The salt mine tour was a lot of fun.  We started off on a mining car train that took us deep into the mountain.  We learned about the salt mining process through the audio guide that we wore since the tour was conducted in German.  We also took a short boat ride on an underground lake.  My favorite part of the tour were the miner slides that took us quickly from one level down to the next.  We sat straddling two slick polished pieces of wood and linked up before we zoomed down into the dark.  We went so fast that John said his buns were on fire!  We got to go down two of the slides, and we were just like little kids, giggling and yelling as we slid down.  We got to keep the picture they took of us going down the slide.  (Sorry, Diane!  It was too funny not to post!)
Oompa, loompa, doompa di doo...
The next day we headed to Salzburg, Austria which was a short, gorgeous 30 minute drive.  On our way there, we passed the Von Trapp family house from the Sound of Music.  We easily found a spot in a parking garage and headed straight to the castle overlooking the city.  We toured the castle and admired the amazing (but very chilly) views of the city.
After a delicious and hearty lunch, we toured the city, stopping in the Salzburg and St. Peter's cathedrals, St. Peter's cemetery, and Mirabelle gardens.  We warmed up with orange punch at the famous family owned schnapps shop on the most popular old shopping street.  (Kyle and I had been there before, thanks to the tip from Rick Steves!)
That evening we wandered around the famous Salzburger Christkindlemarkt.  It was huge, taking up two town squares with stalls selling ornaments, pastries, chocolates, sausages, Christmas decorations, and of course  Glühwein.  John bought me a cute little smoker at this Christmas market.  (Pictured in the previous post.)  As we were shopping we got to listen to a men's choir singing in front of the Cathedral.  Salzburg is a gorgeous city, and Kyle and I were glad to be able to see it again, this time decorated beautifully for Christmas.
We headed home the next day.  Instead of staying on the autobahn the entire time, we decided to take more of a scenic route.  We stopped in Augsburg on the way to stretch our legs and break up the trip.  It is a decent sized city, and is very beautiful.  It's definitely a place I wouldn't mind going back to see more of in warmer weather.  Augsburg had a large Christmas Market as well, so we checked it out and had some sausages for lunch.  It definitely beat the drive-through at McDonald's!
Our little road trip was a great way to start John and Diane's visit here.  As I usually say after a trip, I would love to go back and see it again, maybe when it's nice and warm!  If you didn't see it before, you can read about the rest of their visit here and Christmas in the previous post.  Thanks for reading!

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