Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Berchtesgadener Land, Bavaria

Go as far southeast as you can in Bavaria and you will encounter one of the great corners on this beautiful planet. A little finger of an alpine valley jutting into Austria, Berchtesgadener Land has beautiful mountains, alpine lakes, national forests, historically significant sites and magical things to see and do.
There is a small little forest, an “ecotype” called the Zauberwald. The name literally means “Magic Forrest” and it is the very stereotype of a fairy-tale landscape. Spreading from the Hintersee to the town of Ramsau, it has lots of uniquely shaped boulders covered by moss throughout. It is easy to imagine gnomes making their dwellings in and among the rocks, under the roots, and along the streams that cut through the alpine rock.
Several miles away to the north there is an ancient salt mine (stile operational) that is amazing to visit. The tour begins with a ride on a small train through a very small hole in the mountain. (If you don’t duck you will not fit if you are a full grown man.) This claustrophobic ride lasts forever or at least a kilometer or more into the mountain. Deeper access into the mine is attained by sliding down wooden chutes, and in the very heart of the mountain, you are treated to an underground boat ride across a pitch-black lake. One cannot help but remember the travelers in The Silver Chair as they traveled deeper and deeper into the underworld of the Green Witch.

For the WWII buff, there is the Eagle’s Nest high up above K√∂nigssee where the Nazi leadership spent there free time when they weren’t planning terrible events that would shape the Twentieth Century for the worse.
And those are just a few of the innumerable treasures one will experience in Berchtesgadener Land. Check it out.

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