Around Basel: Historical secrets on the hike from Rodersdorf to Flüh

The area around Basel is full of secrets. 

Source: Swiss Mobile (with my notes added) 

In October 2020, I hiked from Rodersdorf to Flüh (red line), and discovered five secrets:

  1. Historical border stones from the years 1817, 1890 and 1951 between France and Switzerland – why from 1817? And can you see the “D” (Germany or “D”eutschland) hidden “behind” the “F” for France? 
  2. Biederthal and its castle, Burg (Biederthal) – why are they separated by the border between France and Switzerland?
  3. Why does the canton of Solothurn (SO) “own” an exclave within Basel (BL)? What can the Burg Rotberg tell us about this?
  4. Why did the Romans dig a cart road (“Karrweg”) into the rocks to get from Flüh to Hofstetten – avoiding the valley? 
  5. The Chälegrabe above Hofstetten – why is this spectacular gorge called “Chäle”-Grabe”?

In this blog, I will start with secrets #1 and #2, while leaving the other secrets for the next blogs.

 

1 The historical border stones between Metzerlen and Burg

Where the (car) road from Rodersdorf up to Metzerlen reaches the highest point of the pass, it touches the border between France and Switzerland.

The hiking signs to the Remel (or Raemel in French) are on the French side.  

Here we find stone #109 that is from 1890. It shows the edge of the French/Swiss border pointing to the wooden steps,…

… where the path lined with more historical border stones starts. The stones are either

  • from 1817 (just after the Congress of Vienna, 1815),
  • from 1890 (the Alsace belonged to Germany since 1870/71) or…
  • from 1951 (which happens to be my year of birth). 

After having climbed the wooden steps, we come across stone #110 from 1817. Why 1817? At the Congress of Vienna, in 1815, statesmen and diplomats had reorganized Europe, which needed to be documented.

All border stones from 1817 show the coat of arms of the Swiss canton Solothurn with S and O engraved to the sides.

On the French side, the French engraved the fleur de Lys. After 1870/71, the Germans, having conquered the Alsace, removed the flower to replace it with “D” for Germany. After World War I (1918), the Alsace became French again, and the French changed the  “D” into the “F” for France, but the “D” can still be seen (border stone #110). 

There must have been an inventory of the country borders in 1890. The Alsace was still part of Germany and Bismarck had just resigned. The 1890 stones have an “S” with a cross engraved on the Swiss side (stone #116).

The stones from 1951 have been produced more “efficiently”: A plain “S” and a plain “F” mark the countries (stone #115).

The pretty path with the border stones winds through the forest and crosses the romantic Y-shaped canyon of the Geissberg above Biederthal.

At Burg, we leave the canton Solothurn. We are now in the former Prince-Bishopric of Basel. 

 

2 Biederthal and its castle Burg (Biederthal) – why are they separated by the border between France and Switzerland?

In 1168, Friedrich Barbarossa, the one with the red beard, gave the area to the Habsburgians, as a fief. They built the castle or Burg Biederthal in 1250 to watch over their tithe courtyard Biederthal (Dinghof). In 1269, the archbishop of Basel bought just the castle/Burg of Biederthal, without its tithe courtyard Biederthal, which remained with the Habsburgians and later became part of France. This is why the country border separates the castle from “its” village. Burg now became a village of its own.

In 1946, Burg selected this coat of arms.

Source: wiki entry for Burg

Where does the coat of arms come from? The answer: The archbishop of Basel granted Burg as a fief to the noblemen von Wessenberg. They owned it from 1401 to 1793. Around Burg  we can find the historical border stones of the Wessenberg. One well-kept stone is a few meters below the summit “Remel/Raemel” above Burg. From the Wessenberg, the community of Burg took the coat of arms in 1946.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna decided to merge the former Prince-Bishopric of Basel with Switzerland; Burg became part of the canton of Bern, belonging to the district Laufental. Later, in 1993, the Laufental (with Burg) voted to join the canton of Baselland instead. Nevertheless, many border stones around Burg have kept showing the coat of arms of Bern, the bear. This stone with the bear of Berne marks the border with France, just below Burg.

Border stones from 1817, 1890 and 1951 and a castle separated from “its” village by the border of France and Switzerland – yes, the area around Basel is full of secrets that can be discovered hiking.

 

Sources: https://www.baselland.ch/politik-und-behorden/gemeinden/burg-il/unsere-gemeinde/geschichte-wappen

 

 

Four days at Salgesch – discovering Leukerbad, the underground lake and the Pfynwald

In September 2020, we spent four days at Salgesch. In my former blog, I have already talked about discovering Salgesch and the area around it.

Let us now move a little farther away, to Leukerbad, to the underground lake Saint-Léonard near Sion and to the Pfynwald or Forêt de Finges.

Source: Google Maps

 

Leukerbad – discovering the hot springs

On our second day at Salgesch, we visit Leukerbad, located on 1400m above sea level surrounded by an amphitheatre of steep rocks. Crossing these steep rocks, the Gemmipass connects Leukerbad in the Valais with Kandersteg in the Bernese Alps.

Emerging from these steep rocks, the Dala has eroded a deep gorge above Leukerbad. We explore it using the so-called “Thermal-Springs Gangway”.

I  hear a a rattling noise. My friend uses the rope winch to pull up a bucket from the well basin far below. The water in the bucket and hence in the well below us is warm, almost hot.

This is one amidst 65 hot springs in the Dala canyon, as this panel tells us: The yellow-browinsh area follows the Dala, and it is here, where the 65 hot springs of Leukerbad have their sources. Some of them have temperatures up to 51 degrees.

The water emerges in the Dala canyon, after having been heated up at 500m below seal level. Originally it is rain water from the mountains east of Leukerbad (Torrenthorn and Majinghorn) that takes about forty years to seep deeply into the soil, where it is heated up to emerge in this canyon. Already the Romans made use of the hot springs of Leukerbad – the hottest in Switzerland.

Now I understand, why the gangway along the Dala gorge is called “Thermal-Springs Gangway” (Thermalquellen-Steg).

A series of ladders take us out of the impressive Dala canyon.

Looking at the creeks and meadows nearby, I can hardly believe that this narrow and steep canyon is so close.

In the warm sunshine, we eat our sandwiches at the romantic green lake Majing…

… with some branches in it.

We return to Leukerbad. Strolling through the village, we touch the water emerging at the fountains – most of it is warm, one fountain is even hot.

We visit the church of Leukerbad. The original choir is from the late 15th century. Some frescos have been restored such as the crucifixion at the back. In the late 19th century, the church was enlarged and the old choir became a side chapel.

We round off our day at the Alpentherme enjoying the gorgeous view of the mountains in the outside pool, while being massaged by bubbling jets.

 

The underground lake Saint-Léonard

On our third day, the sky is cloudy and temperatures are cooler. Just right for a visit of the underground lake Saint-Léonard that I had always wanted to see one day.

At the entry gate, we have to rush. A few seats are still free in the boat, and we can immediately join the next tour that is about to start. Ladders lead down to the cave. The boat takes us along the lake that is some 300m long and 20m wide. At the end, we find another boat…

… and the trouts swimming around with agility and indicating that the water quality is good.

The guide explains to us that the underground lake has been discovered in 1943. At that time, the water level was much higher. An earthquake of 5.6 on the Richter scale made the water level go down. In1949 the cave was opened to the public.

 

The Pfynwald / Forêt de Finges

Below the village Varen, the Rhone (called “Rotten” in the Upper German speaking Valais) meanders along the Pfynwald (on the left side of the valley, photo taken from the road to Leukerbad). In the upper forest, the place names are in German and in the lower forest, they are in French, as the language border between the French and the German language crosses the Pfynwald.

The Pfynwald is a nature reserve, and it is one of the largest contiguous pine forests in the Alps.

With astonishment, we notice quite some birch trees amidst the pine trees.

South of the Pfynwald are the Illgraben (canyon of the Ill creek) and the Illhorn (the corresponding mountain peak). Very steep and rough here.

The Bhutan bridge crosses the canyon of the Ill creek. The suspension bridge symbolizes the link between the languages (French and German) and between different cultures (Alps and Himalaya).

This bridge was engineered in Bhutan and implemented by a construction company of the Valais, guided by an engineer of Bhutan. It was an interesting cooperation, where both sides learnt from one another. This is what the panel on the other side of the bridge explains.

The Buddhist sanctuary, a “chort”, greets hikers at the foot of the bridge. It has been built and blessed by Bhutanese Lamas from France.

After a two hours’ walk in the forest, we return to Salgesch to have our last wine tasting at the cellar of our winegrower and to eat a delicious Raclette at the restaurant Barrique in the centre of the city.

 

Enjoying the balcony of our BnB

The south facing balcony of our BnB with the view of the Pfynwald (forest) and the Illhorn (mountain peak) was a great place to be in the early morning, when the sun rises behind the glass wall…

… or when it rises behind the clouds.

After our last late summer evening on the balcony, we say good-bye to Salgesch and the Valais. We leave it using the Grimsel, one of the passes that the Alemanni used to migrate to the Upper Valais a 1000 years ago. We think of returning to Salgesch next year, when we will have run out of wine from the Valais once again.

 

Soruces:
Hans-Ed. Fierz David, “Über die Leuker Thermalquellen…“, Zürich 1942.
Panels along the Thermalquellen -Steg
André Beerli, “La Suisse Inconnue: Valais”, TSC and Shell Switzerland, oJg.

Four days at Salgesch – hiking in and around the vineyards

In September 2020, I stayed four days at Salgesch. With a friend, we had booked a studio in the beautiful BnB Vino Veritas.

Source: Google Maps

Let us start by exploring the village centre of Salgesch and walking above Salgesch along the Suone (water channel) to the Raspille canyon.

Salgesch – the centre

Salgesch is surrounded by vineyards that form kind of an amphitheatre above the village.

Some vineyards are very steep.

The centre of Salgesch is pretty with houses typical of the Valais…

… such as the wine museum.

In the 13th century, Saint John’s association (also called the Order of Malta) founded a hospital at Salgesch. Presumably due to that, the main church is dedicated to John the Baptist.

John the Baptist appears on the stained windows. Here, he is dressed in his fur coat and accompanied by the Agnus Dei.

The benches demonstrate that Salgesch is connected with vines.

The bakery and many vineyards at Salgesch are owned by families with the name “Mathier”. Old family traditions. Also “my” winegrower is called Mathier. He sells all the traditional wines of the Valais such as Petite Arvine, Amigne, Heida (white) or Cornalin, Humagne Rouge (red) as well as the “usual” grapes Chasselas (called Fendant here), Sylvaner (called Johannisberg here), Gamay (the Beaujolais grape), Pinot Noir (the Burgundy grape, often blended with Gamay, which is called Dôle) or Shiraz (the Côte du Rhone grape). We will benefit from tasting their wines.

Along the Suone above the vineyards to the creek La Raspille

When walking uphill through the vineyards towards Varon, we enjoy the widening view. Through the vines, we can see the Rhone valley with Salgesch below us.

We catch the Mengis Suone, which is a water channel that is fed from the Raspille; now it is without water.

Such water channels are in use in the whole Valais. They are called “Suonen” in the German speaking Upper Valais and “bisses” in the French speaking Middle and Lower Valais. It is assumed that building these water channels goes back to the 14th century, when cattle breeding came up that required pasture land providing hay as winter forage (see Gilbert A. Rouvinez, p. 5).

The canyon of the Raspille is the language border between German (Upper Valais) and French (Lower and Middle Valais).

On the French speaking side we follow the water channel that leads to Sierre.

Panels explain the geology, biology and culture. On the French speaking side of the Raspille, the text comes first in French and then in German. One panel clarifies the reason for the large barren area above Salgesch, called “Blatta”, which is bordered by steep rocks on the top. In the last Ice Age, the Rhone valley was filled with ice. When the glacier retreated, this slope became unstable. It ended with a huge landslide that broke off from the rocks and slid down over the “Blatta” to create small hills in the valley that are good for winegrowing.

From below, we can see two lines of trees on the “Blatta”; they indicate, where the water channels are: The Menings Wasserleitu (the “small” lower channel) and the Grossi Wasserleitu (the “large” upper channel).

Where the Raspille reaches the bottom of the Rhone valley, water erosion created spectacular pyramids.

The water cemented the pebbles and chalk rocks from the landslide, some parts more, some parts less; the harder parts resisted the subsequent erosion and remained as pyramids.

The pyramids gave their name to one range of wines of our wine grower Mathier: “Les Pyramides”. We learnt that, when degusting at their winery.

The chapel Maria of Seven Sorrows (Kapelle Maria Sieben Schmerzen)

On a small hill, the chapel Maria of Seven Sorrows guards over Salgesch.

The small and steep Way of the Cross winds up to the chapel. It is not possible to get there by car.

The chapel is closed…

… and we enjoy the view of the Rhone valley with the Pfynwald from here.

Post Scriptum: Why is the canton Valais called “Valais” and why is it bi-lingual?

Back at home, I wonder, why the Valais is called “Valais” and why it is bi-lingual with French spoken in the Lower and Middle Valley up to the Raspille/Pfynwald, while in the Upper Valais, the people speak German. They are difficult to understand by us whom they call “Üsserschwiizer” or “Outer Swiss people”. Here is a short summary of what I found.

After 1000 B.C, Celts immigrated to the secluded Rhone valley and called it just “valley” (Nant in the Celtic language). The Rhone valley is indeed secluded, surrounded by rough mountains in the north, east and south. The Rhone valley only opens to the Lake of Geneva in the west. The Romans conquered the area in 57 B.C. and named it “Vallis” (=”valley” in Latin). They Romanized the Celts, and until the eight century, their variety of the Latin language evolved to something called Franco-Provencal (also “patois” which translates to “dialect”). In the 6th century, the Burgundians and later the Francs conquered the Valais, while north from here, Alemannic tribes slowly migrated into the Bernese Alps.

Until the 9th/10th century, Franco-Provençal was spoken in the Lower, Middle AND Upper Valais. Village names in the Upper Valais tell us about that: “Geschinen” comes from “Casina”, and “Gestelen” originates from “Castiglione” (Meyer, p.3).  In the 9/10th century, the Alemannic tribes from the Bernese Alps immigrated into the Upper Valais, probably using the Lötschenpass, the Gemmipass and the Grimselpass. They “imported” the Alemannic Dialect, as it was spoken in the Bernese Alps. Now I understand, why I hear similarities between the dialects of the Bernese Alps and the Valais (which I both do not always understand easily).

Around the year 1000, the king of High Burgundy handed over the Upper and Middle Valais to the bishop of Sitten/Sion, and at about the same time, the Savoyards conquered the Lower Valais along with some places in the other parts of the Valais. They strived to subdue the whole Rhone valley or Valais. However, they met resistance. In the 14th century, the Alemannic people from the Upper Valais were inspired by the will of freedom of the original Swiss cantons, and they took over the lead to fight against the Savoys. The Alemannic speaking Upper Valais conquered the Middle Valais up to Sitten. The bishop had to give special rights to the German speaking people from the Upper Valais for supporting him against Savoy.

In 1475, an army from the Upper Valais, assisted by the original Swiss cantons (“Eidgenossen”), defeated the Savoys near Sitten. The French speaking Lower Valais became a subdued area of the Upper Valley (“Untertanengebiet”; many original cantons had such subdued zones). The German language was now the ruling language in the Valais, while the French language had the stigma of being related with the enemy, Savoy. The prevalence of the German language lasted until 1798.

In 1798, inspired by the French Revolution, the French speaking people from the Lower and Middle Valais demanded their rights and the German speaking people granted them more rights, however, too late. Napoleon conquered the Valais and made it a French province in 1802; in 1810 it became the Département du Simplon. Now, under Napoleon, the French language dominated.

In 1815, during the Congress of Vienna, the Valais joined Switzerland. From now on French and German formally had equal rights, which was confirmed in 1844, when French and German became both approved national languages in Switzerland. However, the majority of people living in the new canton Valais spoke French and therefore French dominated over the German language. With the construction of the Lötschberg tunnel in 1913, the Upper Valais moved “closer” to German speaking Bern which gave the German speaking people of the Valais more self-confidence again.

Since the 1960’s, the tensions between the language groups have decreased and cross-language communication has improved.

Sources:
Gilbert A. Rouvinez, “Balades le long des BISSES du VALAIS”, 180 Editions 2020.
Jean-Pierre Meyer, “Zur Geschichte des Sprachverlaufs im Wallis”, PDF o Jahrgang
André Beerli, “La Suisse Inconnue: Valais”, TCS Suisse et Shell Switzerland, without date
Further reading: Excellent blog by the Freizeitfreunde.

Exploring culture in and around Spiez on two rainy days

In August 2020, my friends from Regensburg stayed in their apartment at Spiez and I joined them. We went for nice walks on two sunny days and now, I will tell you, how we benefited from the rain to explore some culture in and around Spiez.

Source: Google Maps

Our cultural excursions include the castle of Spiez with the exhibition about the paintings of Friedrich Dürrenmatt, the charming church of Einigen and the museum of the Abegg Foundation at Riggisberg.

 

Dürrenmatt’s paintings in the castle of Spiez

The castle of Spiez (facing the mountain Niesen) and…

… the adjacent Romanesque church are two gems above Spiez.

Until October 2020, the castle shows the paintings of Dürrenmatt as a special exhibition. Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990), well-known Swiss author, was a gifted painter, too. He said: «Ich male aus dem gleichen Grund, wie ich schreibe: weil ich denke.» (I paint for the same reason that I write: Because I think).

As a child, Dürrenmatt created this charming map of his village of birth and childhood (“Geographie der Kindheit”).

I find details that are important for a child such as “Mist” (dung heap, I imagine, it “stinks” here), the places, where the presumed “Hexe” or “Gespenster” live (a witch and phantoms, I remember such scary places from my own childhood), the “Lieblingspaziergang” around the “Ruine” (the favourite walk around the ruin), the artists of the village (painters, poets, the place with access to Karl Mai etc), the main intersection, where accidents (“Unfall”) happen, the mountains surrounding the village, and the way out, to Burgdorf, Thun or Bern…

After having decided to write books, Dürrenmatt continued painting, often accompanying the themes of his books. For instance, he illustrated his ballad “Minotaur” (“Illustration zu Minotaurus, Nr. IX”).

I shiver looking at these birds threatening the labyrinth.

Illustration Nr. II shows the world as seen by the minotaur in his labyrinth. He is caught in a maze of mirrors, where he sees his image reflect, and he sees the reflections of the reflections of his image.

The ballad is a parable for the individual being caught in an increasingly non-transparent world, where he will pay for a crime he has never committed, as the exhibition comments explain. I can somehow empathize with this feeling of being caught, though Dürrenmatt wrote his ballad some 40 years ago; I feel like reading it soon.

Meanwhile, after having returned home, I read “der Richter und sein Henker” (“the judge and his hangman”), where the criminal business man, Richard Gastmann, will be sentenced for a crime he has not committed, but he has committed many crimes before that. In “Der Verdacht” (“Suspicion”) a doctor managing a clinic is uncovered as being one of the doctors at the former German concentration camps and he ends up being forced to commit suicide by one of his former victims that had to undergo surgery in the concentration camp. These are two thrilling and interesting criminal stories solved by the inspector Mr Bärlach, about to retire from his work.

 

The charming Romanesque-gothic church of Einigen above the Lake of Thun

Above the Lake of Thun is the charming church of Einigen, dedicated to Saint Michael. It goes back to the 7th century and is the first of 12 church foundations around the Lake of Thun (“Thunerseekirchen”, see Jungfrau Zeitung).

The existing church dates back to the 10/11th century. It is the oldest of the churches of the Lake of Thun, all early Romanesque with the pilaster strips and the friezes of round arches on the apsis, typical of that time .

Below the church we find a nice place to sit with the view of the lake.

The church is a stop on the pilgrimage route of St. James. You can acquire your pilgrim’s stamp here.

Inside we find the sober atmosphere that is typical of protestant churches, with the late gothic baptismal font in the choir.

It is not easy to spot the devil’s face on the wooden ceiling.

I like the stylised cross made out of branches and decorated by a bunch of flowers.

The glass windows from the early 16th century show the coat of arms of the noble family Erlach.

Peter, the Bavarian friend, stands in front of the stand with the bible and murmurs something like “is this a catholic bible”? Yes, it IS a catholic bible, translated by the professors Hamp, Stenzel and Kürzinger (Pattloch Verlag Augsburg 2002). Here, in the protestant church of Einigen! I value this sign of respect between Catholics and Protestants.

The illustrations by Rosina Wachtmeister are beautiful. Below is the painting of the creation of the world, day six.

I do not know, what these wonderful animals stand for, I just admire the paintings…

… and I leave a note in the guest book to express my pleasure about this bible that convey the sign of tolerance.

 

The Abegg Foundation (Abeggstiftung) in Riggisberg: Impressive textile collection

Abegg was the owner of textile factories in Northern Italy, and he sold his factories in the late 1940-s, anticipating the decline of the textile industry in Europe.

He built his noble villa just outside of Riggisberg in the Bernese Prealps.

In addition he founded the museum for textile and applied art with a centre for conservation and restoration of textiles.

The collection includes artefacts from the Ancient Near East, the Silk Road, Antiquity, Middle Ages and Renaissance/Baroque.

No photos allowed in the museum. My friend just takes some pictures of the postcards sold in the entrance hall. The museum website gives an excellent overview of the beauty of the museum. To give an impression, I include two postcards.

This beaker from Persia, 6th-5th century BCE, is called Lapis Lazuli Rhyton.

This medieval embroidery, showing a man doing falconry, is a good example for the textile artifacts.

I do recommend visiting the Abegg Foundation at Riggisberg.

 

Good-bye Spiez, I hope to return in winter…

With the view of the Lake of Thun with Giswil, taken from the Spiezberg, I now say good-bye to Spiez, after four beautiful days. I hope to return in winter to go for skiing in the area. However, I am afraid that under the current circumstances, alpine skiing will be different this year.

 

Spiez – always my entry point to the Bernese Alps – again in summer 2020

Spiez is a small city on the lake of Thun. My friends from Regensburg in Germany have an apartment at Spiez. They take it as a entry point to hike or ski in the Bernese Alps. I regularly join them and stay in the friendly hotel Seegarten bordering the lake, where I love to fall asleep, while the ducks and the crested crebes are quaking under my balcony.

Source: Google Maps

In winter, we like to ski in the Mürren-Schilthorn area. From Spiez, we reach the cable car to Mürren in about half an hour. From the revolving restaurant on the Schilthorn, we have the gorgeous view of the “Grand Trio” of the Bernese Alps, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau…

… and, after a turn of 180 degrees, we enjoy the view of the Lake of Thun and the bay of Spiez.

When skiing, we love to have lunch on the Schilthorn, where we hear the voice of James Bond saying: “My name is Bond – JAMES Bond”. And we see him fight wearing a perfect suit with tie.

The bay of Spiez is dominated by the castle and the church as well as by the Spiezerberg (mountain of Spiez) with vineyards facing the sun.

In February 2020, I took the small path called “Strandweg” from Spiez to Faulensee. The “Strandweg” has been installed by August Mützenberg in 1914. Mützenberg was a hotel owner at Spiez. He even invoked the federal court to expropriate land to build the continuous path along the lake (see Hans Wininger, “Hundert Jahre Strandweg, Spiez – Faulensee”, Werd und Weber Verlag Thun 2014).

Football players stand here. They remind us of the “miracle of Thun” (“Wunder von Thun”), when in 1954, just after the Second World War, the German team won the championship against Hungary, after having formed “the (team) spirit of Spiez” or “Geist von Spiez” by walking along this path. Among others, I get to know Sepp Herberger, the trainer, …

… and the scorer Helmut Rahn (he scored two goals).

Across the lake I can see the Niederhorn (right) and the Sigriswilgrat (left). The valley between the steep and rocky slopes is called “Justistal” and it is famous for the “Justistal” cheese.

In the middle of the lake is the iron bridge that is to shorten the distance to the opposite shore of the lake creating the illusion of meeting others (Marianne Lütz, Burgdorf, see Wininger, p. 65).

There is more art to see such as the “Gegen-Teil” (“Opposite Part”) by Zryd Björn from Adelboden (not exactly a name that I have met in the Bernese Alps so far…).

At this beach, people and dogs can go for a swim. But dogs, please, do behave yourself, as the sign tells you: “When I take a swim here, I am respectful – NO – (and) walkers will stay dry”. I must admit, I have not observed one dog studying this sign…

The small bar “Pura Vida” is closed now. At Costa Rica, “pura vida” alludes to how great life is, and the Ticos keep on saying “pura vida” at all circumstances such as “how are you?” – “pura vida!”.

Yes, pura vida! I always enjoy it at Spiez.

 

Kiental

In August 2020, I am back with my friends, and we enjoy two sunny days to go for walks in the mountains.

Our first walk takes us to the Kiental. From Griesalp we walk up to the “Oberi Bundalp”, where Peter, being a typical Bavarian, has a beer and we, the ladies, have  “lighter” drinks.

After about two hours, we have our next stop at Gamchi, a friendly restaurant that serves an excellent cheese melted over bread.

The friendly Gamchi dogs enjoy to play with Peter. They come back again and again and Peter throws the ball again and again.

Walking back to Griesalp along the canyon, we enjoy the view of the Blüemlisalp chain…

… and we also look downstream to the Prealps around the Kiental.

We continue along waterfalls…

… that shape rocks.

For me, it was a very intense feeling to return to the Kiental, where I had been with Ernst so many times (my husband who now watches from above). Every winter we came here to climb the Bundstock with skis; I spotted the route to the top that we used to take. I also identified the slope that we once skied down in great powder snow, after having decided to stop and return – there was danger of avalanches and it was not recommended to cross the so-called “Bärentritt” which is  very steep. Near an alpine hut, away from that slope, we had a relaxed picnic in the sun, and about an hour later, the whole slope had slid down – yes, we were right to return –  there WAS danger of avalanches! And it was a shock for us.

 

Doldenhornhütte (Doldenhorn hut)

Our second walk took us to the Doldenhorn hut that sits on the top of a rock like an eagle’s nest, some 800m above Kandersteg and below the Doldenhorn.

When going up, the view broadens: Kandersteg and the Kandertal are below us.

The climb is rewarded by this wonderful view of the Oeschinensee…

… and of the Kandertal with the mountain village Kandern.

The Doldenhorn hut serves excellent Röschti (grated potatoes).

Unfortunately hiking wears the boots and the sole came off. Luckily, the hut manager had a solution: Cable straps…

… which allowed us to continue walking. It was a steep and winding path, going down some 800m, up to Kandersteg.

We had dinner in the restaurant Altels in Kandergrund and watched the clouds cover the sky. Now we look forward to two days of culture instead of hiking. And there is some culture in and around Spiez waiting for us.

 

 

On the road: Following Romanesque and Gothic heritage in Oberbayern

In August 2020, I spend four days in Upper Bavaria with my long-time friend from Munich. The weather is very rainy and we take the opportunity to learn about the cultural heritage of Bavaria that goes back to Romanesque and Gothic times: The church of Sankt Georg at Ruhpolding, the chapel of Sankt Servatius auf dem Streichen, Sankt Valentin at Zell (part of Ruhpolding), Sankt Nikolaus at Einsiedl.

Source: Googlemaps

 

Ruhpolding: Church of Saint George

Not far from our hotel is the Church Saint George, nicely located on a hill above Ruhpolding. After the rainfalls, when the sun has returned on the last day of our vacation, I take this photo with the Sonntagshorn in the background.

This church has the typical Bavarian Baroque or Rococo appearance, whereby the right-hand altar embeds…

… the beautiful Madonna with the Child from between 1190 and 1230.

The people from Ruhpolding call her proudly the “Ruhpoldinger Madonna”.

 

Chapel Sankt Servatius auf dem Streichen

It is drizzling, when we park our car close to the border between Bavaria and Austria, above the Schlechinger Tal. In the misty forest we walk uphill to the Chapel Sankt Servatius auf dem Streichen, located on a path for traders that transported goods from Bavaria (Unterwössen) to Tirol (Kössen). The attribute “auf dem Streichen” alludes to the trading traffic: “Streichen” is an older word for “Säumerpfad”, and “Säumer” or “Streicher” are the people transporting goods; “Säumerpfad” translates as mule track – the Anglosaxons seem to think of the mules on such  tracks.

Saint Servatius is an unusual patron in Bavaria. He was a bishop in today’s Netherlands (Maasland) that died in 384.

We reach our chapel Sankt Servatius in the mist. It is a mysterious atmosphere.

The booklet of the chapel, edited by Schnell and Steiner, assumes that the nave has been constructed in the 13th century, though the first records of the church appear only in 1440. At that time, the apsis was replaced by the more spacious choir with the rib vaults that we see today. In addition, the chapel was then decorated with frescoes that, with some changes in the 16th century, have been preserved under whitewash. It was a cultured and art-minded priest that initiated the uncovering of the frescoes in 1943/44. The stepwise renovation of the chapel was completed in 2014. Most of the windows in the choir are the originals; the glass roundels have been preserved.

An iron grating prevents visitors from entering the nave. We look at the precious frescoes of the nave from behind the grating. Above the entrance to the choir, I discern the annunciation scene with Maria and the Archangel Gabriel. The next fresco to the left shows Saint Leonhard, patron of the prisoners, with two prisoners whose feet are fixed in a block. Below, to the right hand side of the choir, the three Kings are visiting Christ after his birth. The writer of the booklet edited by Schnell and Steiner is of the opinion that this is the most precious fresco of this church.

There are more frescoes in the choir, on the wall separating the choir from the nave. One of them illustrates the Last Judgment. We cannot see them.

Saint Christopher greets us from the sidewall; Jesus child sits on his shoulder becoming heavier and heavier. Christopher is the patron of the travellers, ready to be invoked here by those who once transported goods across this pass.

The altar in the choir was created in 1524. Saint Servatius is flanked by Saint Dionysius and Saint Wolfgang. It is interesting that Saint Dionysus or Saint Denis carries his head in his hands, but also has a head where it belongs. In Paris, he just has that one head in his hand, whereby sometimes the nimbus is around the head on his hand, sometimes above his headless body; he was bishop of Paris and was decapitated in the third century. Saint Wolfgang was bishop at Regensburg in the 10th century.

This small box altar (to the left of the choir, 1400) is deemed to be the most precious piece of art in the chapel. Only two of the eight figures can be seen, Sebastian (with the arrows) and Laurentius (with the grill). The figures are graceful, the style is called “soft gothic”.

We enjoy this lonely solemn place in the middle of the forest and say farewell.

Below the chapel, there is a mountain inn that is closed today.

 

Ruhpolding/Zell: Sankt Valentin

Ruhpolding and Zell have been unified to one village. Zell is proud of their church Saint Valentin.

The frescoes in the gothic choir are from 1450. They have been uncovered in 1955. Christ is in the middle.

In the altar we can see Saint Valentin in the middle, Saint Dionysus to the left (again with his second head in his hand like in the Streichen chapel) and Saint Conrad of Konstanz (his typical sign is the cup) to the right. In the wings are Saint Augustinus and Saint Zeno (the latter we have already met at Bad Reichenhall).

Looking back at the gallery with the organ, we can see the wooden ceiling that is still the original. the brochure says.

Also the church Saint Valentin has its Saint Christopher; the fresco is baroque, from the 17th century.

 

Einsiedl: Sankt Nikolaus im Oberland

On our third day, the sky is brightening up, and we go for our first hike. We visit the nearby small church Sankt Nikolaus im Oberland in the hamlet Einsiedl. The church was built around 1200. Legend tells that a duke serving Barbarossa fought war against Salzburg and destroyed the city. This was too much. He should not have destroyed the city. Barbarossa banned him and sent him to this lonely place, where the duke built the small church dedicated to Saint Nikolaus and a farm.

The farm is called “zum Einsiedl” and the family living here looks after the church. The owners have a talent to cultivate flowers.

Wooden shingles cover the roof, the tower and one side of the church building.

Inside the church shows its original gothic habit.

In the altar from 1940 are a figure of Saint Nicolas (around 1700) and Stephan (to the right) as well as Laurentius with the grill (to the left, both early 16th century).

The cross in the arch to the choir has been created in the late 14th century and renovated in 1997.

The booklet by Heinz Scholz mentions the old window from 1420 showing the Annunciation and the birth of Christ. We look for that window everywhere. We see a coloured window near the entrance to the church. My friend looks through the key hole of the entry on the gallery, but no, this is not this window. What has happened to this treasure?

Or have we just not been able to find it? Perhaps we should have asked the farmer? We will do so the next time.

This ends our tour discovering cultural treasures in and around Ruhpolding. On our last evening in Upper Bavaria, we enjoy the sun set from Maria Eck.

And on our fourth and last day in and around Ruhpolding we climb the Unternberg with a magnificent view of Ruhpolding.

We say good-bye to Ruhpolding and, after a swim in the small and chilly Tütternsee, we return to the traffic jams of Munich to celebrate the sixth wedding anniversary in the restaurant with the Venetian name “Canal Grande”.

 

Sources:

“Ruhpolding”,Verlag Schnell und Steiner Regensburg 2002
“St. Servatius auf dem Streichen”, Verlag Schnell und Steiner 2017
Heinz Scholz, “Pfarrkirche St. Michael, Inzell”, A. Miller & Sohn Traunstein 2004

On the road: Thoughts about Corona in Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria)

In August 2020, we spend a four day vacation in and around Ruhpolding in Oberbayern (Chiemgau). It has been the first time since the start of the pandemic that I am staying in a hotel, going for shopping and eating in restaurants every day.

Tourists are back in Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria). The hotels seem to be well booked. But the atmosphere has changed. The tourists are primarily Germans, except for a few Dutch, a few Englishmen and a few Swiss (besides me).

In shops, we have to wear masks. Some shops take great care, have installed separate entry and exit doors, restrict the number of clients inside and offer disinfectant. In these shops, I feel safe to do shopping. Other shops are careless: Entry and exit are not separated, many clients crowd between narrow shelves. Such shops I leave out.

In restaurants, we have to put on our masks, when moving away from our table and the waiters also wear masks (or vizors).  While some waiters follow the rules carefully, others do not cover their noses with their masks which makes it all useless. In our hotel, there is no breakfast buffet. Instead we have to indicate on a list, what we want for breakfast, and in the morning, we receive everything on a tray. The bar is lonely, the jolly barkeeper of last year has left the hotel.

Some beach places at the lakes are crowded, while others allow to keep distance, and the personnel respects the rules. We particularly enjoyed our swim at the small and less well-known Tüttensee with the friendly and corona conscious personnel and with corona aware guests.

 

The Bavarian language gives orders a friendly touch

In a restaurant in Ruhpolding, I found this invitation to pay attention and to keep distance. “Obacht geb’n” means “pay attention” (“Obacht” = “Achtung” or “attention”).  “Abstand hoit’n” stands for “keep distance” (“hoit’n” means “halten” or “keep”). And, of course, you have to wear the mask inside (“hier bitte mit Mundschutz”).

In this restaurant, guests are invited to come in (“kemmt’s eina”) and the invitation to keep distance is kept in “normal” German (“bitte Abstand halten” = “please keep distance”).

 

Touching testimonies of children about the pandemic

In the baroque church St. Pankratius at Reit im Winkl, we come across these thoughts about the pandemic written down by children.

Let us zoom in some of the testimonies.

“Keine Trachtenprobe” means “no trying on traditional costumes”… and “und Pappa ist öffter daheim” translates as “and papa is at home more often”, whereby “ff” in “öffter” emphasizes “öfter” (“more often”) and also “pp” in “pappa” makes him more present. Children have their own spelling rules to express their feelings.

“Händeschütteln” or “shaking hands” is obviously forbidden.

“Oma und Opa sind alleine” – “grandma and grandpa are alone”. The girl has to stay outside the house of her grand-parents, how touching. She is even wearing a mask.

“Keine Flieger” – “no airplanes”. Yes, the sky has become much more quiet. The girl wears a mask and holds her hair back with a beautiful ribbon decorated with hearts.

“Warum können sich manche Leute nicht an die Regeln halten? Warum?” – “Why can some people not follow the rules? Why?” And “Demonstranten – wieso?” – “demonstrators – why?” The demonstrators want “keine Masken” (“no masks”), postulate “wir wollen raus!” (“we want to go outside”) and claim that “Corona ist blöd” (Corona is dumb”).

I do feel with these touching observations and remarks of the children of Reit im Winkl. They are so young and go through this pandemic experience with their eyes open. The pandemic is even difficult for us adults. I heard a high level Swiss politician say: “Life has become less safe and it is less fun”.

The baroque church that displays the children’s thoughts is painted in soft pink. Pink is the colour of happiness. The pink colour contrasts with the moving observations of the children, but it also gives an atmosphere of hope… I do hope that these children and all our children will go through more serene times with less worries pretty soon.

 

 

On the road: Bad Reichenhall in Upper Bavaria

In August 2020, we spend four days in Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria). We are in the middle of a severe weather front with heavy rainfall which gives us the opportunity to explore the culture of the area (instead of going for hikes). After past night with the splashing rain that made the rivers leave their beds, we visit Bad Reichenhall, where already the Romans had found salt. Bad Reichenhall is near the border with Austria.

 

Eye twinkling at Bad Reichenhall

First we notice nice signs of humour at Bad Reichenhall. “Puffer” (buffer) is a nice name for a zoological shop, and the way they write “ZOO” is very inventive, even “eye twinkling”. It is a nice coincidence that “puffer” is also a fish in English (“Kugelfisch” in German).

“Bärenstark” means “as strong as a bear”. May be, you will be as strong as a bear, after having eaten these berries or Beeren. “Beerenstark” is an allusion to “bärenstark” – the two words sound similar. May be, the driver is also “bärenstark”, as he has to carry the boxes with the berries when delivering them.

This whale reminds me of the whale that swallowed (and gave back) Jonah. Nice children’s paintings!

 

Welcoming city centre of Bad Reichenhall

The city has an old tradition, but in 1834 a fire destroyed it completely. The city centre has been reconstructed nicely after 1834 and is now a pedestrian area.

Here we stand in front of the old townhall built in 1849.

The frescoes show Saint Rupertus (7th century), Charlemagne (emperor of the Romans 800-814, king of the Franks from 768), Frederick Barbarossa (Holy Roman Emperor, 1152-1190) and king Ludwig I of Bavaria (1825-1848). To their sides stand Caritas and Justitia.

I shake my head wondering: What an interesting mixture of personalities across so many centuries! But then I learn that they are all connected with Bad Reichenhall. Rupertus is said to have rediscovered the existence of salt after the Romans had left, Charlemagne seems to have supported the foundation of the first Zeno church (which later became the Zeno monastery), Barbarossa is one of the patrons of the Zeno monastery and Ludwig I ordered the salt factory to be rebuilt.

The pedestrian area with the Church Saint Aegidius in the background is pretty and tidy…

… with inviting backyards. Everything is just a bit wet at the moment after that much rain.

We enter the church Saint Aegidius. It has been remodeled in gothic style in the 15th century and had to be reconstructed entirely after the fire of 1834.

 

The baths of “Bad” Reichenhall must have seen better days

In the 19th century, Bad Reichenhall started to make use of the medicinal benefits of salt. In 1848 the Bavarian king Maximilian recovered here for five weeks, and then, Bad Reichenhall was an important venue for High Society. Art Nouveau buildings and the garden (Kurgarten) of 4 hectares remain from those days. During National Socialism Bad Reichenhall became a garrison city and after the Second World War, the caserns were used by the Americans and then by the German army. The first casino of Bayern was built here in 1955. In 1996 the German Health Care System was reformed and Health Insurance stopped paying for treatments at health resorts. Bad Reichenhall lost its main clientele. Though their government started to adapt the offerings to a younger clientele, the signs of past grandeur can be seen. For instance one of the luxury hotels offered rooms for 39 Euros per night and this “Curhaus” looks deserted.

However, the “Kurgarten” is beautiful…

… and the adjacent Jugendstil Kurmittelhaus der Moderne from 1927 has been carefully renovated.

May the efforts of the city to attract more guests be successful, as it has more to offer than baths and health care: Hiking in the mountains with and without the support of cable cars, the tradition of winning salt (and telling about it in a museum) and the rich cultural heritage.

 

The Church Sankt Nikolaus with the Neo-Lombardian belfry

When entering Bad Reichenhall by car, I can notice the belfry of the Church Sankt Nikolaus.

The original belfry was teared down in 1861 and then reconstructed in Neo-Romanesque Lombardian style.

The apsis is the original from the 12th century. Human sculptures and lions are alternating in the frieze.

I like the lions that look at me.

Sankt Nikolaus is the parish church of Bad Reichenhall. It was built in 1181-1189, enlarged in the 19th century and renovated in 1967 to restore the Romanesque overall impression. The fresco in the choir is from the 19th century.

 

A beautiful Romanesque portal and gothic treasures: The cathedral of Saint Zeno

The Augustinian monastery of Saint Zeno was founded in 1131. The cathedral replaced the former building from Carolingian times (806 A.D.). Saint Zeno protects from floodwater which was a problem at that time and it is still a problem today, as the inundations of this past night show.

The plans for the construction of the cathedral were ambitious – a nave 90m long. Construction halted around 1160, but completing the cathedral was then supported by emperor Barbarossa – the monastery thanks him with his portrait in the cloister (which we cannot visit). Built in Romanesque style, the cathedral was enhanced by gothic elements after a severe fire in 1512. Much of the equipment in the cathedral is from the early 16th century.

The Romanesque portal from the second half of the 12th century is the show-piece of the cathedral. It is assumed that the masters came from Piacenza. The portal is made from white and red (local) marble. Two lions holding prey animals in their paws guard the entry (one of the lions is hidden).

Madonna with the child sits in the middle of the tympanum. She is flanked by Saint Zeno (left, patron of the cathedral) and Saint Rupert (right, the man who rediscovered the existence of salt around 700).

The choir stalls of 1520 are made out of oak wood. Also the Coronation of the Virgin on the altar is from 1520. The fresco in the choir, painted in 1935, follows the tradition of early Christianism showing Christ as Pantocrator.

The altar of Joseph is newer; it is from 1875. I am astonished to see Hubertus with a deer. Later I learn that the baron who donated the altar was a passionate hunter and he wanted to see Hubertus on his altar. Joseph heads the altar and to his left side stands Sebastian.

The beautifully carved wooden pulpit with the evangelists’ symbols is late gothic or even early Renaissance, from 1522.

Also the baptismal font with the frieze of angels carrying instruments of the Christ’s Passion originates from 1522.

To round off our visit of Saint Zeno, we stroll through the romantic cemetery with old trees and enchanted corners.

May be we have to return one day to see the cloister that is mostly closed. This would require some pre-organization.

 

Salt – already used in Roman times

Already the Romans used the salt deposits in the area of Bad Reichenhall. As we already saw, Saint Rupertus found the salt fields again around 700. Even today, 50% of the salt consumed in Germany is provided by Bad Reichenhall.

In the old salt factory built in 1844, salt was produced until 1929. It is now a museum. Unfortunately, the line of tourists at the entrance looks like an hour waiting time or so. We take a photo of the well house with the well chapel Saint Rupertus…

… and start our city excursion without waiting in line. After our stroll through the city centre we return and have lunch in the old salt factory. I love the modern furnishing in this traditional factory building and we enjoy delicious salads. To be recommended.

Our car waits for us not far from the salt factory. Through puddles – some pretty deep – we return to Ruhpolding.

 

Sources:

Markus Moderegger and Martin Wirth: “Die Kirchen in und um Bad Reichenhall”, Verlag Plenk Berchtersgaden 2019;
“Bad Reichenhall – St. Zeno”, Verlag Schnell und Steiner 2008
Bad Reichenhall in Wikipedia
St. Nikolaus in Wikipedia

On the road again: Romance and Romanesque culture at the Chiemsee

In the beginning of August 2020, I visit my friend at Munich and we spend a few days at Ruhpolding in the Chiemgauer Alps of Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria). I am surprised to find so many churches with a Romanesque and Gothic heritage here. So far I have mostly come across churches built in baroque or rococo style in Bayern.

On the way from Munich to Ruhpolding, we visit first the St. James church of Urschalling with the gothic frescoes. Then we take the boat to the Fraueninsel that promises Romanesque culture and romantic gardens.

 

Urschalling  – St. James church with frescoes from the 12th and the 14th century

Since having read Eugen Diesel’s “philosophy at the steering wheel” (1951) earlier this year, the St. James church of Urschalling has been on my travel agenda. Now, I am here, above the Chiemsee, south of Prien.

The church originates from the 9/10th century and has been rebuilt later.

In the nave, an iron grating prevents visitors from approaching the choir. I take this photo standing behind the grating. The frescoes are from the 14th century.

Jesus Christ is in the middle of the choir, surrounded by the symbols of the evangelists. Wikipedia  assumes that in the 14th century, the frescoes from the 12th century were repainted preserving the earlier Romanesque themes. This explains the Byzantine representation of Christ as Pantocrator that was common for early “western” Christianity as well. Below Christ are the apostles.

Female Saints decorate the  vault of the choir. To the left is Saint Hedwig carrying a model of the church.

The presentation of Trinity in the northern pendentive of the choir merits a separate entry in wikipedia. It shows godfather to the right (white hair), Christ to the left (fair hair) and the Holy Spirit in the middle (looks like a woman, whereby it is under debate, whether this is a young man or a woman). At the bottom, the three elements of Trinity end in ONE dress and coat (Brugger et alii, p. 12). This is an exceptional and creative representation of the Holy Trinity.

The south wall shows the passion of Christ starting with the Last Supper that has been cut out partially by the window.

Above the entrance to the tower is the gloomy picture of a hanged boy.

It is difficult to discern all frescoes from where we stand behind the grating. We enjoy the solemn atmosphere.

The church had already been decorated with frescoes in the 12th century. Adam and Eva have been preserved. I took them out of the brochure of Brugger et alii. This fresco is on the northern wall of the choir, and can hardly be seen from the grating.

After a delicious lunch at Urschalling, we take the boat to the Fraueninsel.

The roof of the famous cathedral belfry appears behind the trees.

 

Fraueninsel: The Carolingian Torhalle (gate hall) 

In 782, Tassilo III, duke of Bayern, founded the Benedictine nun monastery on the Fraueninsel. The Torhalle or gate hall has been preserved from those times.

It reminds me of the Torhalle of Lorsch near Heidelberg that I have seen in 2016.

On the first floor, we find a museum with frescoes and with some interesting exhibits.

This lion served as a door handle to the cathedral. The lion was the heraldic animal of duke Tassilo.

In addition, the elegant wedding cup of Tassilo III and his wife Liutberga has  been preserved.

I liked the vine branches on this gilded cross from the 8th or 9th century.

 

Fraueninsel: The cathedral

The octagonal tower of the cathedral is THE landmark of the Chiemsee region. Originally it has been built as a fortification tower in the 11th century. In the 13th/14th century it became the belfry of the cathedral. In the 16th century, the onion shaped “Bavarian” roof was added.

Irmgard, a grand-grand-daughter of Charlemagne, was the first abbess of the nun monastery. She was beatified in 1928 and was then painted for the altar of her cathedral under the gothic vaults. She is also buried here.

I look back at the organ of 1980 on the gallery.

The plain Romanesque entrance is protected by a second door. Taking a photo is difficult.

 

Fraueninsel – romantic gardens

To round off our visit to the Fraueninsel, we stroll along the so-called ladies’ walk around the island and we see many beautiful gardens. From this small house with the yellow rose bush we can see the big brother of the Fraueninsel, Herrenchiemsee, with one of the castles. Ducks seem to love this garden.

I would like to enjoy a barbecue at this charming spot…

…or just to read and rest here.

All the gardens are well kept – such as this one with dahlias.

The huge oak tree above this garden has been planted in 1901, 120 years ago, as a small seedling that was protected against the sun by a cabbage leaf. The seedling developed marvellously.

The cathedral belfry appears behind these colourful flower bushes.

My friend shows me her favourite swimming spot with the view of Herrenchiemsee.

But – no swimming today. It is already late and we have a date with my friend’s friend at Ruhpolding. We take the boat back and leave the Chiemsee to settle at Ruhpolding.

 

Sources:

Walter Brugger and Lisa Bahnmüller, “Urschalling”, Katholische Filialkirchenstiftung Urschalling, Prien am Chiemsee 2016.
“Abtei Frauenwörth und die Fraueninsel – kleiner Inselführer”, Benediktinerinnen-Abtei Frauenwört im Chiemsee, without year.

On the road again: Oberbayern, where severe weather is announced

August 7th 2020, my friends celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary at Munich, and I visit them. This has been my first vacation abroad since March 2020. From Sunday, 3rd to Thursday, 6th, my friend has ordered two hotel rooms in Ruhpolding in the Pre-Alps of Bayern (Oberbayern, Chiemgau Alps).

The weather forecast announces severe weather conditions for Monday and Tuesday. Let me start with our experience of the changeable and even severe weather conditions.

 

Warm Saturday summer evening in Munich

Saturday evening at Munich is very warm. It is a beautiful summer evening, almost too warm.

My friends prepare a delicious barbecue.

We eat in the shade of their cosy garden.

 

Sunday: Driving to Ruhpolding via Chiemsee. The first clouds start to cover the mountains

The next day, Sunday, we take the busy highway to Salzburg and stop at the lake, the Chiemsee. It is overcast and the mountains are hiding.

We visit the Romanesque-gothic church of Urschalling…

… and the Fraueninsel with their monastery and the beautiful gardens.

In the evening, I enjoy a delicious trout stuffed with herbs at the restaurant Fischerwirt and we close the day with a glass of wine in the garden of our hotel at Ruhpolding. It is still warm.

 

Monday: Excursion by car to Reit im Winkl and the Streicher church Sankt Servatius in the drizzling rain 

On Monday, we go for an excursion by car to do some shopping at Reit im Winkel and order a table for Tuesday in the restaurant Peternhof just across the border in Austria. The rain drizzles, when we walk through the foggy forest to see the charming “Streicher church” Sankt Servatius that hides between trees.

 

Tuesday: The rain splashes all night. We are in the centre of the severe weather front “Gitta”

Monday night, I sleep with the windows open (under the roof), and I can hear the rain splash loudly. It is pouring with rain all night. In the morning we see that the rivers have left their beds.

This is the raging river Traun with the “Traunweg”, the path bordering the river.

The branches are floating on the waves of the river Traun.

The mountains surrounding Ruhpolding have completely disappeared in the clouds.

In the news we read that in Siegsdorf, just 9km away, 146l/m2 of rain have fallen in 24 hours. The busy highway A8 to Salzburg as well as some local roads have been closed. Traffic jams all over. Cars have drowned in the floods. Some policemen are standing in water – up to their hips, also their car has drowned in the floods. In addition, train connections are interrupted. Also the Salzburg area in Austria and Eastern Switzerland have suffered under these severe weather conditions.

Bad weather is good weather for sightseeing. We drive to Bad Reichenhall and explore the charming city centre with the colourful townhall.

In the drizzling rain, we visit some Romanesque-gothic churches and have lunch in the restaurant of the salt factory.

We close the day with an excellent dinner in Austria, just across the border of Reit im Winkl, at the restaurant Peternhof, from where we watch the first shafts of sunlight appear.

We look forward to better weather to do some hiking and to enjoy restaurant terraces again.

 

Wednesday: The “Falkenstein loop path”, the Einsiedl church and dinner with the setting sun at Maria Eck

In the morning, we drive to Inzell to go for our first hike, the “Falkenstein loop path”. The sky is still grey and the paths are wet, but it is no longer raining.

The cooler temperatures are good for walking along the romantic ponds.

In the afternoon, we visit this charming Einsiedl church “St. Nikolaus im Oberland”, covered with wooden shingles.

The sky is blue again. We drive to the monastery Maria Eck, where we have a wonderful dinner on the restaurant terrace…

… and enjoy the sunset above the Chiemsee.

 

Thursday: Ruhpolding surrounded by mountains again. Climbing the Unternberg and cooling down in the Tüttensee

Early in the morning, I go for a walk to take pictures of the St. Georgskirche with the mountains surrounding Ruhpolding, including the Sonntagshorn in the background. It is the first time during our vacation that I can see the Sonntagshorn.

Ruhploding is surrounded by mountains again. As a farewell, we climb the Unterberghorn and enjoy the view of the Sonntagshorn from here as well.

Ruhpolding is far below us, now in the sun and under blue sky.

We take the amazingly slow chairlift to return to Ruhpolding and say good-bye. We have a short swim in the chilly Tüttensee that has been cooled down by the pouring rain. Then we return to Munich on the busy A8 escaping a traffic jam on the first kilometers by using the local roads.

We were perhaps not too lucky with the weather during our vacation in the Chiemgau Alps of Bayern. Nevertheless, we have enjoyed our stay discovering nice places, excellent restaurants and – amazingly in Bayern – quite a few Romanesque-gothic churches that I will talk about in the next blogs.