Dave the motorhome is sat in the corner of a mountainous field full of motorhomes, an official stellplatz in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany (N47.65104 E13.07115). It’s one of those places we’d never have found a few years back, tucked away, needing continual signs to draw you along an ever narrowing path, finally turning to gravel. 60m the last sign says; we guess a few people must have turned around and found a campsite at that point.
Our blowout evening meal on our 5 star campsite last night was tasty and entertaining. We’d nipped into the green-watered natural pond for a dip, doggy-paddling it up and down a few times, listening to the fizz of high voltage lines overheard. Until a frog appeared. Ju and frogs don’t see to eye, she front-crawled to the steps, exiting like Thunderbird Ju.
Walking into the polished restuarant once dried and cooled off, a couple of ladies legged it out carrying five or six plates of meatballs in a thin sauce, familiar looking sticky potato dumplings in attendance. Either short on staff or long on punters, German efficiency wasn’t going to be enough to make up for the shortfall in grub and beer being slid onto empty tables. Amid grumbling, raised eyebrows and screaming nippers, lightening fingered the flatlands, we got a table outside under a wide awning and watched. When the food arrived, it was delicious, crumbling suckling pig for me, fancied it since holding an entire frozen one in a Spanish supermarket. A dunkel (dark beer) topped it off.
The morning after, the Ju machine swung into motion. Somewhere in the book of rules 11am was mentioned, and Dave was hidden amid a fence of fluttering damp clothes, the fridge floor was unhealthy, the loo needed emptying… A mini-whirlwind, some dodgy German language skills at reception, and we were off.
First job: fuel and tyres. A friendly Scottish chap (aren’t they all?) pointed out there was a station nearby selling at less than €1:40, cheaper than any German stations around. Our tyre pressures hadn’t been checked against a proper gauge in forever. It transpired the station was cheap as it was in Austria. European borderlessness may reduce the feeling of adventure, but surely simplifies it. In we nipped, queued up, filled up, and marvelled at the little portable inflater. It sat on a pipe which, it appears, inflates an internal reservoir; you simply lift it off and carry around your vehicle, fantastic, no dragging pipe across the bonnet (if we had one).
We’re almost full circle here, a black line on our map skates around, starting at Salzburg, up into Czech Republic, west in Germany and back to, almost Salzburg. Bad planning, or a demonstration of our freedom? You decide. We’ve headed back south to see the Eagle’s Nest. Of course, the desire to see it is more mine than Ju’s, our friend Chris reminding me of its presence here. The Band of Brother’s TV series, favourites of mine, may not be entirely accurate in claiming Easy Company got to the castle first, quite a few folks claim that vertigo-inducing distinction.
The fastest route here was through Austria, about an hour and a half. Trouble is, our toll road vignette has expired, and we’d have to stump up for an entire 10 day one. Instead we swung about, making U turns amundo as we weaved between Germany and Austria. The mountains rose up, initially wooded hills, evolving into freshly broken grey and jagged peaks. In terms of all the high places we have seen, these rate as pretty good, falling behind the Italian Dolomites and the Moroccan High Atlas, in pure panoramic excellence, in my humble opinion.
Having said that, our wander around the town of Berchtesgaden, a few clicks away, was a delight. The sun cast short shadows on the stone streets and a high path was found bolted into the rock above the town. The mountains and meadows met the stereotype of the summer Alps; I’d love to be back in winter, with chains. Neck craning eventually paid off as we spotted the Eagle’s Nest, a rounded dot on a high mountain, and gawped at the detail-less height of the thing. At this point I left Charlie’s green lead in a green field, Ju eventually tracking it down as we walked like crop circle hoaxers.
More Brits here! Les and Jill were hiding from the sun as we arrived. We’d turned up a road in search of possible freebie camping, Ju spotting the 24% sign just after we’d spun the steering wheel. Dave was feeling bloated, diesel, LPG and water tanks all brimming, a 1 in 4 wasn’t going to work. We halted aside a tiny side road, stabbed at hazard warning lights, and waited for the queue behind to wheel spin off up the hill, before dipping tail between legs, we turned around. Les, an outdoor expert at everything and long-time entrepreneur, told us the other roads around here are fine and has loaned us a map with contours on.
The thunder has started again, drums in the heights. We’ve full cloud cover and a hope of a lightning show, before our ascent of the great hill tomorrow, via bus and a brass lift. Bring it on.