GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Tour of Lake Königsee / St. Bartholomä
The boat cruised up to the pier of St. Bartholomä, tied up to the dock, and the captain gave the all clear for all passengers going ashore to exit the vessel. There was so much to see and the clock was ticking before the time came where I would have to rendezvous with my ride back at the parking lot. I had to hustle and it took some time for the jam packed vessel to empty. The church site first began as a hunting lodge way back in the 12th Century and although the original structure is long gone, a hunting lodge has always accompanied the chapel on the peninsula. The hunting lodge was reserved for royalty and was last used as a outdoor retreat by members of the House of Wittelsbach who took control of the area in 1810. Today the lodge building has been reinvented as a popular restaurant and beirgarten, which patrons can reach only by using the cruise ships. It would be worth the trouble; where else could you enjoy a meal with such a spectacular view. I followed the foot path and rounded the perimeter of the church and decided to skip the chapel's interior for a walk along the Lake Königsee shoreline. The incredible mountains loomed high above, creating a backdrop scene that was so awe inspiring, it was hard to accept as genuine. There were a few couples in rowboats out on the lake and one elderly pair appeared as if they might be multitasking as nudist sun bather boaters! Thankfully, I would have needed to use my zoom lens to find out for sure and decided to focus on the geological natural beauty of Mother Nature instead. I continued on my merry way down the sandy path away from the boaters before either passenger suddenly decided to stand up! Thank you for not sharing!
Sandy Path Along the Shoreline
The mountain face along the lake was scarred with several long rough hewn crooked lines that ran perpendicular to the lake. They were carved into the solid rock by the rushing waters that only appear when the mountain top snows of winter submit and give way to the spring thaw. Now in July, they appeared as dry cuts in the mountain face and would remain so until they would transform back into mountain streams flush with falling water in late March. The path along the lake continued to wind through the shade of trees that shrouded from view the destined route ahead. Once I started following along, it was impossible to stop, curiously determined to see where it would lead. There were rustic wooden benches along the water's edge, which invited me to stop for a few minutes to take a drink of water and listen to the sound of the small waves of the lake lap against the rocks. I encountered very few other people on the trail, enhancing the peaceful atmosphere of the lake, woods, and surrounding mountains. As I continued onward toward the end of the shoreline, the pathway appeared like it might just run straight into the side of the rock wall of the mountain but then suddenly took a ninety degree turn into the forest. The trees were tall and full of green foliage, serving as a curtain for the grand spectacle just beyond my line of sight. Every once in a while, a hole in the canopy above provided a hint of the hidden majestic giants known as the fabled Alps of the Watzmann Range. The wooded pathway began to open up into a man-made clearing that finally revealed the incredible grandeur of the rugged mountains overhead.
Watzmann Massif above St. Bartholomä
The mountains were so impressive! Despite the summer heat, many crevices still contained pockets of winter snow still visible in defiance of the bright warm rays of the sun. In fact, the mountain group is home to the Watzmann Glacier that is broken up into several pieces contained within several cirques. Previously in recession like most glaciers in the world, the Watzmann Glacier has recovered over the past two decades and now is the size of about 25 acres. There was a fork in the trail marked with signs designating one route heading back to St. Bartholomä and the other snaking through the forest toward the Eiskapella, which translates as Ice Chapel. The Eiskapella geotope is one of the lowest and most accessible permanent ice and snow fields contained within the Alps. The ice field is fed each year by heavy snow and ice avalanches during winter that collect within the basin. In summer the site can be reached by an hour and a half long hike by way of the path in front of me, which can be steep and challenging the final 30 minutes. The geotope gets the name Ice Chapel from the arched concave shape created in spring and summer when the ice melts and water erodes through the bottom half level of the ice. You can even walk inside but at your own risk since it is far from stable. I wish I would have had the time but headed back toward St. Bartholomä to continue my journey to the far end of the lake. The walk through the wide path in the woods towards the shore really did remind me of the Middle Creek nature preserve back home since the majestic mountains were once again concealed behind me by the trees.
Small Farm / Big Mountains
As I continued down the tranquil path through the woods, the area opened up to reveal a small farm, accompanying barn, and cleared green grassy meadow. It was a scene right out of German folklore and I wouldn't have been a bit surprised if Heidi and her grandfather suddenly appeared in the doorway. Keeping an eye on the clock I made my way back to the dock and boarded the next vessel heading out to the far edge of Lake Königsee known as the Salet. It would be another half hour ride until we reached our destination. I once again found a seat near an open window directly behind the captain's seat. What a great job to have! You couldn't get a better office window view anywhere else in the world. Plus, the panoramic view was constantly changing as the ship moved forward across the water. And, you could never get lost! I could only imagine what the view contained during the other three seasons of the year. The deep emerald green water was again a unique attractive characteristic of the unfolding scene during our voyage. I just wanted to jump in for a swim as the water looked inviting in the heat of early afternoon. I later learned that swimming is not permitted in the lake, not that you would want to try it even if you could... The water temperature of Lake Königsee rarely rises above a frigid 65 degrees, even on a hot day like today. The entire area is part of the area known as Berchtesgaden National Park, ensuring the beauty of nature will be preserved and protected for future generations. As award wining documentary film maker Ken Burns stated... National Parks, our best idea ever!
Lonely Cabin on the Lake
As we sailed down the center of the lake we passed by a small log cabin on a tiny peninsula that looked like a scene right off one of those hunting calenders from back in the day that were always hanging up at the local barber shop. Ok, I want to be a boat captain of a cruise ship on Lake Königsee and I want to live... right there! It was so rugged but so beautiful... For a moment, I thought I had walked right into the pages of Field and Stream Magazine. It was like a dream come true but was so far away and remained out of reach. A few minutes later we sailed within view of a beautiful cascading waterfall on the opposite side of the lake. The white water of the Schrainbach Falls tumbles down from a height of about 265 feet. Although we were quite a distance away, the powerful sound of the falling water could easily be heard as it thundered into the lake. What a place! It was simply breathtaking and I was once again in awe, completely surrounded by the abundant beauty of nature! Another tour boat came into view behind us but was running within 25 yards of the far shoreline and came to a stop just in front of the base of the waterfall. I think I just discovered the difference between first, second, and third class tickets... the higher the price, the closer the view of key points of interest. Apparently, third class put you on a track straight down the middle of the lake, causing the zoom feature on your camera to get a workout! Regardless, I was still going to get all the way to the other end of the lake and the landing of the Salet was now within view.
Schrainbach Falls on Lake Königsee
The boat silently glided to a graceful stop alongside the dock and it was time to go ashore again. There had been a lot less passengers on board than during the first half voyage to St. Bartholomä. Fewer people journey all the way to the Salet, which takes an additional 35 minutes and has fewer amenities. It was clear, St. Bartholomä had top billing on Lake Königsee! Nevertheless, I was off on another quest to see what was beyond the shoreline of the lake. At the Salet, despite an abundance of trees, nothing was hidden from view as the mountains soared overhead. There was a gentle sloping meadow that fell from the base of the mountain side all the way down to the edge of the lake. A traditional German style farmhouse was situated in between and the clank of cow bells could be heard from grazing livestock navigating up and down the slope. The cows appeared to have free range of most of the Salet and the bells helped the farmer find any who had strayed from the herd. Another picture straight out of a storybook. After a short walk along the edge of the lake, the path turned into the shade of the woods. Off to one side was a nice former alpine styled lodge that had been turned into a restaurant and biergarten. It looked inviting but after sitting on the boat for over a half hour, I was eager to stretch my legs and continued down the path until I came to a wooden bridge spanning a rushing rocky mountain stream that emptied into the lake. There were large boulders strewn about the meadow, some were huge and even had decent sized trees growing out from their tops. They appeared to be debris left over from the last ice age when glaciers carved out the perpendicular cliffs of the surrounding mountains.
Salet Lakeside Alpine Farmhouse
It was a landscape unlike anything I had ever seen in my life, enchanting beyond description. Above the farmhouse at the base of the mountain the grade of the rock face climbed to soaring heights of a minimum of 7,000 feet. It would be quite a feeling to be the farmer working and living every day in the shadow of such a mountainous giant watching overhead. There was less area to explore so the pathway was more crowded with people of all ages. I continued along the path bordered by unique rock formations, which were accented with wildflowers and covered in various shades of lichens. On the opposite side of the path was a forest thick with large, green shade and evergreen trees. Looming high above the linear line of the forest was the sheer rock wall of a ridge that ran parallel with my course along the path. I didn't realize it beforehand but the path eventually led to another body of water known as Obersee Lake. The lake was much smaller and connected to Lake Königsee by way of the mountain stream I had passed over on the wooden bridge. The surface of the water was as smooth as glass and reflected a mirrored image of colors from above onto the water. The lake appeared to be fed by a slender waterfall barely visible in the distance known as Röthbach Falls that drops from an amazing height of 1,540 feet, the highest in all of Germany. There was a trail that continued on toward the far end of the moraine but common sense dictated I would never have enough time to complete the round trip. I still had an hour long voyage ahead of me back across the entire lake, so I decided just to admire it from a distance. It was time to start retracing my steps back toward the Salet dock but I decided to take a slightly different route off the beaten path and trek directly through the hillside pasture. The dairy cows were nowhere to be seen and had either been collected by the farmer or had moved on to greener pastures... I couldn't resist that one! The area was incredibly lush, green, and just beautiful, sloping down toward the emerald lake.
Boat Shed Lake Obersee
I walked back over the rushing mountain stream and made my way toward the Salet pier but no ship was currently docked. I was really getting hungry so I took the layover opportunity to try and order something to eat at the lodge restaurant. However, chickened out after discovering I would have to order orally from an overhead menu and I doubt they would understand my Germlish. Instead, I decided to wait until I returned to the mainland where there would be a much greater variety of food ordering environments. Soon my ship came in... literally! I went aboard, nestled into my normal seat location, and sat back ready to enjoy the ride. One of the crew members who greeted me as I boarded noticed I was American and struck up a nice conversation with me. I think he was practicing his English by asking me anything he could think of including where I was meeting up with my party for my ride home. I had no way to really describe the big rock near the parking lot so simplified my answer to "McDonald's" which was located nearby. He started rattling off the names of his favorite menu selections and informed me of a recent change where they increased the size of the Big Mac to the standard larger American sized portion. Apparently, it was a third smaller and struck a nerve with this guy who obviously felt a little cheated! If you're gonna eat American, you gotta go all the way to get the "full" experience! Our sparsely filled tour boat soon departed from the dock of the Salet for the open waters of Lake Königsee... Bon Voyage...
Mountainside Cattle Pasture
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!
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Wow, what a place! Why did my ancestors every leave and come to America??? :-D..... Great blog! - Ron S.ReplyDelete