Berchtesgarten and the Pang Beer Festival

Trip Start Mar 22, 2010
Trip End Jun 10, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Thursday, June 3, 2010

We awoke this morning after a night of heavy rain, not to the sound of more rain, but to the sound of explosions. All around the valley, explosions were going off. Some close by, others sounded a long way off. We peered out of the window and probably looked just as bemused as the rest of the camp ground. There was no indication of what was causing the explosions or of any damage resulting. On the bright side, the rain had stopped, although the day still looked threatening.

We found a message on the phone from Kat and Henning, received at 11.30pm. We were obviously dead to the world because we didn’t hear a thing. Kat had offered to come to Berchtesgarten to catch up (we had been playing phone tag trying to organise a time to catch up as we came back through Bavaria). We had so much that we wanted to do in Berchtesgarten, but little time to do it, so we decided since we were heading to Prague for the weekend and Kat’s place was pretty much on the way, we would head back to Bad Endorf later this afternoon to catch with them. We packed up and headed up the road to the Konigsee, the highest lake in Germany. Its obviously a bit of tourist haunt, because after we parked the van, you had to walk down and alley of tourist shops and stalls before actually getting to the lake. We had originally toyed with the idea of catching a boat across the lake (apparently there is a point where the boat is stopped and the captain blows a flugel horn that echos around the valley 7 times), but given that a boat trip would take 2 hours, we decided to go for a short walk along one of the trails and see if we could see anything. We were well rewarded with the trail cresting a ridge and following the shoreline for some distance with spectacular views of the lake and the valley. We managed to find a secluded spot (after crossing a waterfall) and eventually stopped when there was a sign saying to stop as the track beyond was not insured. The real reason was that it was starting to rain again and the waterfall  was already washing across the trail from last nights rain, let along getting any bigger with more rain.

Despite being a little damp, we both felt really good and were glad we got to see the lake. We fired up Hans Bubi again and made the short but steep climb up to Obersalzburg to go to the Dokumentation, a museum that chronicles the Nazi’s history and their involvement in the area. Apparently Hitler enjoyed spending time in the area as a younger man and when he took power, set up a second seat of government in Obersalzburg (which is a tiny little town). The British heavily bombed the town after the surrender of Germany. It was quite interesting reading and hearing about the contradictions of the Nazi’s, part socialist, part facist and completely totalitarian. Under the Dokumentation museum is the remains of the bunker networks that linked the town. The bunkers were designed to be self contained but were never completely finished. You wouldn’t want to be in them for too long as it was damn cold down there.

When we finished at the Dokumentation, we went looking for the ticket office for the bus to the Eagle’s Nest, a meeting house built on top of a mountain and given to Hitler by the party fro his 50th birthday. Apparently Hitler had vertigo and hated going up. The Allies had wanted to destroy it after the war, but the locals had successfully argued to preserve the building.  Well, we went up to the upper parking lot looking for the ticket office. No luck. Went to a shop that said ‘Information’. They were distinctly lacking in information (just lots of kitsch). We eventually found a small sign that said the ticket office was 150m away in a lower parking lot. Eventually found it, got our tickets and straight away a bus pulled up. We jumped on (along with some painfully loud young Brits) and headed up the mountain. The road is only about 6km long and along with the lodge was built in 18 months. We managed to get some spectacular views of the valley as we climbed the mountain before sinking into the mist of the clouds, after which you couldn’t see anything more than 20 metres away. At the top of the road, we got out, booked our seat on a bus back down the mountain and made our way down the tunnel into the mountain. The tunnel ended after a couple of hundred metres with a large round room lined with sandstone blocks and an elevator door. When the elevator opened, we were bedazzled by the shiny brass elevator (look at them shine, look at them shine…). The elevator took us up the final 124 metres to the Lodge.

The lodge itself was fairly small. From the elevator, you went through a door, past the kitchen and down into a round room that is now the restaurant and souvenier stand. The fire was going in the corner and we got a seat by a window. Unfortunately the view was rather white. Oh well. We ordered a bite to eat. Rach ordered a vegetable soup that arrived with a single sausage floating in the soup. Obviously don’t believe in that vegetarian malarkey.  We had a bit of a laugh that we couldn’t actually see anything, but the picture on the walls gave a fairly good idea of the fantastic view to be had from the Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest). After lunch, we went for a bit of a walk around outside. It was bitterly cold and the snow was still on the ground. So what did we do, frolic in the snow of course. By the time we had finished and were a bit cold, it was time to head back down to the bus and head back down the mountain.

It was nearly about 4.30 by the time we reached Hans Bubi and got back on the road to head down the Bad Endorf to meet Kat and Henning for the evening. The drive back down the seemed a lot quicker and easier than the drive up (not flogging down rain for a start) and within an hour we were in Bad Endorf trying to find Kat’s place. We parked near a giant strawberry on the edge of town and sent Kat a quick message (since the phone was on its last credit). When we eventually told Kat exactly which giant strawberry we were parked near (they are everywhere, giant strawberry stands by the side of the road. We were wondering who made them???). It was so good to see Kat and Henning. They took us around to Kat’s grandmother’s house where we all caught up and planned our next move. The plan was to go via Kat and Henning’s house (which was nearing the end of its renovations) and head to a local beer festival in Pang (and hopefully find a camp spot on the way).

We couldn’t believe how much work had been done to the house since the last time we saw it. New balconies, the house was finished and the unit was nearing completion. Henning looked like he was over the whole thing (as you would be spending everyday for 5 months working on it). They were hoping to have the house finished in the 10 days before Henning’s family arrived from South Africa. After the tour of the house we headed out of town and found a campground on the lake near Schwabering. All was good, we said to Kat we were old hands at checking in and getting set up, however Kat (in her mischievousness) asked if we had tried to bargain at all. We said we hadn’t and hadn’t managed to offend anyone yet (not knowingly anyway), but Kat insisted on bargaining. Kat and the lady at the camp ground had quite an animated discussion (of which I only picked up bits and pieces), before Kat turned around and said, “Sorry, no bargain”. Really, for €20, it was a really nice campground and we were happy. Not quite sure what the campground lady made of it all, but she smiled at nicely (in the ‘You poor man’ kind of way). Anyway, we were in and in 10 minutes we had set up the van, got dressed and were ready to go.

It was about a 20 minute drive to Pang, and when we got there, got lost and found it again, we saw people dressed in traditional clothing, but no signs to show where the festival was. We stopped at a hotel and Henning went to ask where the OTHER party was on at. It seemed  to work and we were soon at the festival. It was very much like a carnival with sideshow alley and then a huge bigtop, that inside was full of tables and decorated in the blue and white diamond checks of the Bavarian flag. A band was playing away at one end of the tent and we took up a table somewhere in the middle of the tent, ordered a few ‘festival’ beers and some food. The food was delicious, although we all had a laugh when Henning proceeded to cut off the crackling and fat from the pork belly bites. Kat said to him they were the best bits and that she was out with 3 tourists. It was all very funny. The beers tasted really good and it was so great to be able to catch up again.

Apart from a few of the locals getting a bit rowdy (ie. Fisty cuffs over a spilt beer…..don’t get between a Bavarian and his beer..), we had a lovely evening, particularly when the kids from a few tables over got up and started dancing to the band. By the time we had finished our third or fourth mass beer and polished off the strawberries dipped in chocolate, it was time to head back home, and a good thing too, because I think the festival beer is juiced up a bit and I had definitely had enough, and by the looks of Henning, he had too.

Kat kindly dropped us off back at the camp ground and we said our goodbyes and thanked Kat and Henning for their kind hospitality during our stays in Bavaria. I poured myself into bed. I blame the festival beer.
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