Germany/Austria 2019: Day 9

The day has finally come. You know which one I’m talking about: the day when I’m ready to go home. I love all the places I’ve seen, but the weather forecast calls for more rain and clouds the next few days, and I just want to sleep in my own bed and stop living out of a suitcase.

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Last night’s hotel, Seehotel Grüner Baum

Hallstatt was a great little town, and being able to wander the streets without the crowds this morning was very peaceful. I did manage to grab the iconic photo with a little sun before the clouds set in. 

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Hallstatt, Austria

I also stopped to take a couple of pictures at the cemetery. Unlike in the US, cemetery plots are rented and not bought in Germany and Austria. If a grave is not tended to regularly, your body and marker are removed to make room for others. Which is why all of the cemetery plots have well-kept mini gardens and people frequently around tending to them.

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St. Peter’s Church Cemetery, Hallstatt
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St. Peter’s Church Cemetery, Hallstatt

I decided I wanted to take the scenic route from Hallstatt to Garmisch (technically, Garmisch-Partenkirchen; the two towns were forced, by Adolf Hitler, to merge for the 1936 Olympics which were held here) rather than retracing my route back through Berchtesgaden. So I took a more southerly route across Austria to Innsbruck and then back up into Germany. Which would probably have been nice if it hadn’t been overcast and then drizzly. The route is surrounded by mountains. The only stop I made was in Gosau to see the beautiful Gosauseen (probably much prettier on a sunny day!). 

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My Bavarian-style hotel is just a couple of blocks from the town center in Garmisch. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Garmisch, but I would describe it as the North Conway of Bavaria. Picture a few souvenir shops mixed with Bavarian restaurants and designer clothing stores and you’ll have Garmisch. Dinner was roast pork with potato dumplings and an amazing apple strudel at Restaurant Alpenhof in Garmisch.

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Restaurant Alpenhof, Garmisch
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Restaurant Alpenhof, Garmisch

Germany/Austria 2019: Day 8

This morning I had to pack up and leave Berchtesgaden. I could easily have spent another week there. The sun was shining, the temperatures were in the low 50s, and it was a beautiful morning in the mountains. The rainy days had their beauty too, but this is what the pictures in my head looked like before I came here. After breakfast, I walked around the town taking pictures and then saw a sign for a hike up to a lookout point.

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Overlooking Berchtesgaden

On the way, I came to Kirchleitn Kapelle, this tiny yellow chapel on the meadow-like hillside with a stunning view overlooking the mountains. Church bells were ringing in the town below and I spent time just sitting outside taking in the view. I can’t imagine a better way to start the day.

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Kirchleitn Kapelle

Then it was off to Hallstatt, Austria. You’ve probably seen pictures of this little town on the edge of Lake Hallstatt with its iconic church. I’m hoping to get some iconic pictures too, but the lighting today was all wrong. Many people day trip to Hallstatt from Munich or Salzburg, but from everything I read, you need to be here before and after the tour buses to really appreciate the town which means spending a night. There’s no parking in the town itself, so day visitors and overnighters like me have to use the remote parking lots and either walk or take the hotel shuttle into town. I dropped off my things and then set out to explore the town (along with all the aforementioned daytrippers – it was pretty busy!). You can walk the length of the town from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. There are souvenir shops, several salt product shops (Hallstatt is known for its salt mine), a few restaurants, and lots of window boxes and Bavarian architecture. It’s really a cute town.

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Market Square, Hallstatt
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Hallstatt, Austria

What if I told you you could visit a 12th century chapel filled with bones and skulls? Would you do it? It’s one of the interesting tourist attractions in Hallstatt, and of course I had to go in. Since cemetery space is at a premium in a small town like Hallstatt, bodies would be buried for 10 to 20 years, then exhumed to make room for the newly dead. Those that were exhumed had the bones and skulls bleached in the sun and moved to the “Beinhaus”, literally “bone house”. Many of the 1200 skulls in the chapel are artfully decorated and include the names and/or initials of the deceased. Kind of a morbid attraction, but neat to see.

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Beinhaus, Hallstatt
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Beinhaus, Hallstatt

Hallstatt has a funicular to the top of the Salzberg (salt mountain) with a suspended “Skywalk” platform overlooking the lake and town. There is also a restaurant at the top, and it was the perfect setting for today’s lunch/dinner. The food was average (spaghetti bolognese), but the view was to die for. 

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Lunch at Rudolfsturm, Hallstatt

After my meal, I walked around town some more and then headed back to my hotel. An evening spent sitting by the water on my balcony was the perfect end to the day!

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Hallstatt, Austria