On our last full day in Europe for 2019 we woke up in Saalbach-Hinterglemm in the Austrian Alps. We had terrible weather the whole time we were there, so it was so nice to see a glimpse of blue sky. We packed the car up and headed off right after breakfast. We had a full day planned and couldn’t wait to get started. We were spending the day at Berchtesgaden before staying in the little village of Hallbergmoos right near the Munich airport.
Our plan was to spend the day at Berchtesgaden in Germany. It was about a ninety minute drive between the two towns over some stunning mountain passes. We were finally seeing some of that beautiful spring scenery in the mountains rather than low clouds and rain. The road followed along a river for quite a while as we got closer to Berchtesgaden, and the water was the milkiest pale blue I have ever seen. The minerals in this area must be different to the other places nearby.
We arrived in the centre of Berchtesgaden mid-morning. There are some lovely buildings to explore here in the Old Town, but I also found that it didn’t feel too touristy. This still felt like a town filled with locals, and it was nice to see them out enjoying the sunshine, socialising over coffee or doing their daily shopping. I really enjoyed just wandering the streets, window shopping (looking for a dirndl or lederhosen? There were some lovely ones here!) and enjoying the sunshine myself.
We came across one of the strangest fountains I think I have ever seen. The water feature was topped with a donkey, simultaneously pooping and vomiting coins and other bits and pieces. I had absolutely no idea what would have been the idea behind this, but a couple of Facebook followers let me know that it is to do with a fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. A bit of internet searching and I have found that it is called “The Wishing-Table, the Gold-Ass and the Cudgel in the Sack”. Here’s the Wikipedia link for you to have a look.
There are of course a few churches to admire in Berchtesgaden and like every good European town, a castle too. Schloss Berchtesgaden was originally built in the 12th century, and since 1810 has been the summer house of the Bavarian royal family. It still has this purpose today, which Duke Franz of Bavaria enjoying time here during the summer.
Visits to the Schloss Berchtesgarden are available through guided tour only during the summer months. We were lined up at the ticket window and the couple in front of us were having an animated conversation with the ticket lady in German. I didn’t quite catch the full reasoning due to the language barrier, but basically we unfortunately couldn’t do a tour. Maybe the Duke was in residence!
It was our last lunch in Germany, so what else could we do but hunt down a bierhaus. A quick Google told me about the Berchtesgaden of the Hopfbrauhaus. Open since 1645, this one is only a baby compared to the famous bierhaus of the same name in Munich. We indulged in bratwurst and schnitzel, sauerkraut and dark bread and it was absolutely delicious. Since Simon was driving he passed on the small (500ml) beer, so know that it is possible to go and eat in a bierhaus and not order beer. They may look at you a bit funny though 🙂
While Berchtesgaden is a lovely little German town with great food and a relaxed atmosphere, the reason everyone actually comes here is because of a nearby house on a hill. Supposedly this house has one of the best mountain top locations in all of Europe with sweeping views over the Alps. I am, or course, talking about the Kehlsteinhaus.
Better known as The Eagles Nest, this house is rumoured to have been built as a gift for Hitler for his 50th birthday by the Nazi Party. Other sources say that it was just for party meetings and social events. Either way, Hitler visited here a few times after it was completed but apparently didn’t like it much because he was scared of heights and the weather was almost always bad.
Today part of the Eagles Nest has been turned into a restaurant with amazing views, and it’s possible to tours through the remainder on the building and see some of the rooms as they were as well as allied graffiti and historical information.
Getting there can be a bit of a challenge though. My research had told me that Eagles Nest was open from May to October. It’s not possible to drive there though. Instead visitors need to make their way to Obersalzburg, to the Documentation Museum. This museum provides history about the Nazis in the area, including information about the Eagles Nest and what went on there. From here you buy the ticket to visit the Eagles Nest and are taken up in a bus to the entrance through the mountain tunnel that was originally used by the Nazis.
After we had lunch we made our way up the nearby hill to Obersalzburg with hopes to visit The Eagles Nest. Even though all the information I had been able to find said it opened from the beginning of May, we discovered once we arrived that due to the bad weather, the road is still not opened, so no visit for us! We weren’t having a whole lot of luck with attractions here in Berchtesgaden!
So we ended up starting the two hour drive to our hotel in Hallbergmoos, a little village near Munich Airport, earlier than expected. It meant that when we hit an awful traffic jam due to what looks to be the building of a new motorway it was not an issue. We then learned that we could not get off the motorway at the exit Google Maps was telling us and we had to loop around. We took at least an hour longer to do the drive than we expected. About now I was so glad I had decided to stay the night here before our flight rather than do the drive on the day.
I had booked the cheapest place I could find here, which was a little place called Hotel Hallbergerhof. We ended up with a twin room with a shared bathroom – but the way it was set up I think the bathroom was actually private, it was just a little down the hall from our room. Part of the hotel also functioned as a hostel for even cheaper accommodation, but I didn’t see anything about the hostel rooms before I booked. We didn’t bother with breakfast as we knew we would have lounge access once we got to the airport in the morning.
Hotel Hallbergerhof was quite comfortable for our brief stay. The room was clean, roomy enough and with everything we needed. In fact, it also came with a small sink and microwave and a few plates and cutlery. Unfortunately there was no fridge – but it looked like there had been one in the past so maybe there is in other rooms. The typical double rooms looked nice too as I was able to be a bit nosy the next morning as we were leaving.
The sun was shining so we went for a walk to enjoy it. We stopped off at a local supermarket for some snacks, and checked out the options for dinner. For such a small village there was a surprising variety of restaurants available. Of course there was a bierhaus, but also European restaurants, Asian restaurants, other bars and cafes. It was a hard choice to decide where we were going to have dinner.
We ended up choosing a little Greek restaurant called El Greco. I was just after something light so ordered an octopus starter and a salad, Simon got some traditional souvlaki. The food was good, but it was the service that really made this restaurant stand out. As soon as we sat down we were served a free shot of Ouzo each. And when we were finished, out came another shot of Ouzo with a free dessert – a small cake with cream. The funny part is neither of us can stand aniseed, so we really don’t like Ouzo. But we couldn’t refuse, it would have been rude, so we were pulling all sorts of faces as we downed the drinks as quickly as we could. The restaurant was popular with locals too, as all tables inside and out were full when we were there. Well worth the effort if you are staying in the area for a night before a flight like we were.
The next morning I again had time for a walk around the area in the sunshine before we made our way to the airport. It looked like now that we were leaving that the bad weather was leaving too. Funnily enough, at home this very same day, the first really cold day with a lot of rain hit after an extended autumn. Yes, we were on our way back to more rain!
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.