chapter 10 german military and the king’s lake

Sitting in Salzburg I was wondering where to go next. I casually told Tom I always wanted to see the Königssee – the “king´s lake” in Berchtesgaden, famous for its salt mines, so we went for a spontaneous trip as it is only 30km from Salzburg. Packed our backpacks and tents and started walking out of Salzburg in a particularly nice sunset. We missed the bus that takes you to the southern part of town so then just walked, talking and not caring about time until it was pitched dark. But we had luck, without any waiting time a car pulled over and drove us across the border from Austria to Berchtesgaden, Germany, about 10 kilometers further than he had to go. He was a military worker, instructing recruits and one-year-volunteers. So, we made it even at night! In Berchtesgaden we were dropped off right in front of a supermarket with open dumpsters and took advantage of the situation. There had been people before us, but we still found some good bread and vegetables. The last 4 or 5 kilometers from the city to Königssee we had to walk, but it was very nice, lots of stars and mountain tops. We pitched the tent somewhere between the walking path and the lake in the forest were we thought no one would see us too early in the next morning. Woke up with a stunning view, and found out people could see us pretty clearly from the path, but no one worried or called national park authorities. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe next days we went for nice walks, up the hills surrounding the lake. To cross it the boats were quite expensive, so was the lift, but everything is reachable by foot. There is a super big touristic structure, big hotel complexes, restaurants, SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESlots of coaches arriving with families and old people, but we found out they all take the boats and lifts, everywhere else it´s quiet. During these days the temperatures reached 35 degrees, for me the perfect weather. Nice to jump into ice cold streams, too. Even the cows found it hot. The one on the picture was determined to eat with us, she didn´t want to go away. On the top we took a nap in the shade and then slowly went back down to our tent which we hid somewhere different every night.  The next day we relaxed our legs and hitched to Berchtesgaden to check out dumpsters and eat ice cream somewhere. Our driver told us about some waterfall we didn´t quite understand where it was. It was sunday and then some public holiday, so no dumpster luck for two days, but we had nice ice cream and at night lentil-rice-carrot-nettles meal cooked on the fire. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhen we hitched back the guy who carried us (“I live next to this supermarket where you just were nosing about”) had an old green VW military pick up with open top, he had bought on ebay and repaired. He was just going for a drive to the lake and back to see how it drove. The next day we looked for another camping spot and then climbed another hill on the other side of the lake called Grünstein. It was easily doable in half a day despite the heat and had very nice views from the top, looking over the lake, Berchtesgaden, the barracks, and across to the Watzmann with his altitude 2713 . Afterwards we jumped in another ice cold stream again – the best feeling after such a walk! Then we lay in the grass with the butterflies and ants and cooked food, wrote letters, read and played chess. At night a deer visited our tent.

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maybug or cockchafer

The next day we hitchhiked to the city again because we needed food. And walking around Berchtesgaden our friend with the military car drove by and shouted greetings. We found a place to lay in the grass by the river and read until the supermarkets closed and then jumped in Rewe and Tengelmanns dumpsters. We found more than we could carry! chocolate, bread, sandwiches, pralines, müsli-bars, ciclers´ proteine-bars, vegetables, plants, charcoal, chicken and lots of spices. We walked back to the roundabout to hitch back “home” and after 5 minutes our friend with the military pick up arrived – coincidentally. He and his girlfriend were going just a bit down the road, but then wanted to drive us all the way. So nice to see the Watzmann peak in the pink evening light with the moon rising! They told us to be carefull with wildcamping as the military is starting it´s practices around the national park and he already experienced awkward surprises in the forests with them being around. So, therefore we saw all the helicopters flying around all the time. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe sat on a bench under a street light right by the lake, started eating from our full bags and backpacks and reading some good night chapters from the book we started in Wasserburg, all the tourists walking by in the moonlight found us “sweet” and wished a nice evening and good night. Tourism business in Berchtesgaden is apparently based on Hitler stories, there´re the hitler-house looking glasses, the guided tours and history magazines everywhere. I read on wikipedia the area was purchased by the Nazis in the 1920s for their senior leaders to enjoy. Hitler’s mountain residence was located here. That´s pretty weird, but apparently it makes money roll. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAt the end of our stay we resumed that Königssee is a small piece of paradise, we definitely want to come back and go hiking in the “sea of stones” -region and the Watzmann. But we also agreed on it being kind of a weird area, they sell genuine marmot fat in small boxes advertising it with sweetest pictures of the alive animals (we asked and were told that marmots are a pest there). Another weird thing: they even have a cleaner for the “public toilet” and “tourism office” -signs, I bet they are cleaned every day!

Before leaving the place we went to look for the waterfall, SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESfound it (you have to walk past the “danger of life”- sign, it´s not an official tourist path. It is amazing! The waterfall is really high, but has various steps and shallow basins so even children can enjoy it. Unfortunately we had little time, but it was the best cold shower in a long time! Then we went back to the village and started hitchhiking towards Munich. We found out that our carefully picked hiding places for backpacks and tent in the forest, under bushes, which we changed everyday when we started in the morning, were in vain, as there´re free big lockers at the tourism office. Our first ride was a young girl just coming from swimming 8 kilometers in the lake. She was doing a voluntary service at the german military base.

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