Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Königssee Bavaria

The Königssee is a magnificent lake just south of our Campingplatz at Schönau, near the town of Berchtesgaden. It is about 7.7km long, 1.7km wide, and 190m deep. At its northernmost end there are a fleet of boats leaving about every fifteen minutes to take tourists down to the southern tip of the lake at Salet, stopping off at St Bartholomew's church en route, and taking a pause whilst the tour guide blows a trumpet so that you can hear its echo off of the mountain cliffs that flank the lake.

The lake is said to be the cleanest lake in Germany, and since 1909 when tourism here really took off, only electric and sail boats have been allowed to travel on it.



The first stop (after the trumpet demonstration) is St. Bartholomew's church ( St. Bartholomä ), on Hirschau peninsula, Königssee. The mountain behind the church on the right is The Watzmann, and is the third highest mountain in Germany at 2,713m.


The church dates back to a chapel built in 1134, and was rebuilt in this baroque style in 1697. It is only reachable by boat or by a long trek through the mountains. It is a Wallfahrtskirche, or pilgrimage church, and every year on the Saturday after 24th August (which is St Bartholomew's Feast Day) some 2,000 pilgrims come here, hiking the difficult terrain over the mountains from Maria Alm near Zell am See in Austria. It's something to do with giving thanks for not being taken by the plague back in the sixteen somethings. Why no-one has yet said 'ok guys, I think we're safe now!' I don't know.


We found the stop-off here most pleasant, and though the church isn't all that exciting inside (unless you are a devotee of St Bartholomew of course), there are scenic walks from here beside the lake and to the Eiskappelle, or ice chapel, about an hour and back up 250 metres to the Watzmann glacier. We stuck to the shade of the large Biergarten and a lovely Apfelstrudel and glass of cold Holunderblütenschorle ( a spritzer of elder-flower syrup ).

It is all very Alpine here, though you wonder how much of it is for real, and how much for the tourists.




If nothing else catches your interest, you can merely chill out and look at that amazing crystal-clear Königssee glacier water and sheer-sided mountains. Bliss.


If you wish, you can just take an electric boat from Schönau to St. Bartholomew's church ( St. Bartholomä ) and back. But you really would be missing out if you didn't continue on another boat down to Salet on the southernmost tip of the Königssee.

Here is the landing stage at Salet, and one of the many elegant 1960's built electric boats.




At Salet there are the usual Biergarten and souvenir shops, but we would recommend the small cottage at Saletalm that sells the most delicious and full-bodied bowls of fresh Buttermilch and platters of Bergkäse and bread. They also have a really cute kitten!

You will notice the 'alm' suffux, as in Saletalm, on a lot of place names in the Alpine region. The translation of Alm is a bit long-winded, but it means 'the pasture where cows are seasonally moved to' when Spring has arrived and the meadows are full of lush grass and flowers.


For sure, you could spend a delightful afternoon just sitting here, drinking your Buttermilch, whilst listening to the bells of the cows who provided it, and stroking the kitten, or ... you can take a short hike to Obersee and one of the most gorgeous lakes you will ever see.

Here is your first view of Obersee, and it should ideally be accompanied by a fanfare of celestial trumpets. You can walk along the right-hand side of the lake all the way to the green Alm you can see at the end. It's not too strenuous a walk, about 30 minutes, but there is a little bit of scrambling half way along so don't take a child's buggy.


The turquoise colour of the water is a result of the way light bounces off a suspension of very fine grained rock particles, known as 'rock flour', which are caused by glacial erosion. You wouldn't think there was a suspension in the water from looking at it - it seems totally crystal clear.



The geology alone is a marvel, and you certainly don't need to know your Dachsteinkalk from your karnisch-norischer Dolomit to appreciate the forces of nature that created cliffs like these.


Part of the way the path climbs and looks down on the lake. The water is so clear that you can often see fish swimming way below. Here are some enormous pikes for example, basking in the sun.



At the eastern-most end of the Obersee is Fischunkelalm and a wonderful view back along the lake to Salet.


Oh so divine. Here's another of the view in portrait, without the pebble sculpture.


From here you can carry on to see close-up the Röthbach-wasserfall, but it was such a hot day, and we were already blissed out on the beauty, that we'll leave that for another day.

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