Shaped like a figure of eight and pushing south deep into Austria’s Salzburger Land, the compact territory of Berchtesgadener Land contains some of Germany’s loveliest Alpine scenery and, in the south, its third highest mountain, the 2713m Watzmann. Reached most easily via Austria and almost walled in by its mountains, the rugged southern part of the Land has the feel of a separate little country. For much of its history it was an independent bishopric growing fat on its precious salt deposits, in many ways a smaller version of its eastern neighbour, Salzburg; their ways only diverged after the 1803 secularization, with Salzburg ultimately passing to Austria and Berchtesgaden to Bavaria. The region attracted notoriety in the 1930s and 1940s as the preferred holiday-home (and putative last redoubt) of Adolf Hitler, whose “Eagle’s Nest” has since become one of its most popular attractions. In the summer months, the Nationalpark Berchtesgaden is a paradise for hikers and day-trippers alike; in winter, there’s skiing on the Jenner, at Rossfeld and on the Hirschkaser west of Berchtesgaden, though at times the region’s scenic beauty can be wreathed in dense, icy fog. Capital and natural focus of the Land is the little town of BERCHTESGADEN itself, also known as Markt Berchtesgaden to distinguish it from the wider Land; deep eaves, chalet-style architecture and elaborate Lüftmalerei images give it a quaintly Alpine look, reinforced by the exhilarating mountain views available from much of the town. A second focus for visitors is provided by the prim spa-town of Bad Reichenhall to the north.
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