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.

 

 

 

Borders around Basel open again – first short bike tour to Germany

On Monday, 15th of June 2020, the country’s borders have opened up again. The “Regio Basiliensis” (region of Basle) is a “Regio” again. Yes, I can speak my Basel dialect across the border of Basel, in the Alsace (France) and in the Markgräflerland (Germany) – we ARE ONE region. Joking, we sometimes dream of “Greater Alemania” unifying those areas, where our Alemannic dialect prevails. To make it clear, we are just joking, and with “immigrants” from the rest of France, I like to switch to French and for “immigrants” from the rest of Germany I go back to my mother tongue, German.

Happy to access to the “Regio Basiliensis” again, I take my bike and drive to Ötlingen (then to Binzen and the Kandertal).

Source: Swiss mobile maps

Ötlingen is on a hill above the Rhine valley and grows wine that their restaurants serve…

… with a great view of the Rhine valley and the Jura as well as the Vosges mountains.

The Regio Basiliensis looks like ONE large agglomeration around Basel, just accidentally divided by country’s frontiers that were closed for three and a half months and now are open again.

Returning to Basel, I cross the Langen Erlen, which belongs to a recreational area along the Wiese, partly in Germany, partly in Switzerland.

Source: Swiss mobile maps.

Along the path marked in red (between Eglisee and the Laguna), there are “dialect” stones displaying expressions used in Basel and across the border in Germany (Markgräflerland); the same expressions are also in use in France (Alsace). Here are some examples.

“Fäägnäscht” is, what we call a person that cannot sit or stand still – he/she is in move all the time. I like this word, I can hear the moving and rustling of the unsettled person: -f-f-f-scht-scht-scht-f-f-f-scht-scht-scht. And I know, some people would call me “Fäägnäscht”.

“Blagööri” is what we say to a person that shows off. He/she thinks, he is the “best” and knows everything. The extended “öö” illustrates, how great he/she thinks, he is – ööööööÖÖÖ.

A “Schluufi” does not have control of his life or his work or he is simply not interested in that. He is “dragging along”. I can hear that clearly from the “sch” and the two “uu”:  sch-sch-uu-uu-sch-sch-uu-uu.

A “Schnääderänte” keeps on talking and talking “schnääder-schnääder-schnääder” and it sounds like “Änte” which are ducks. I can hear the chattering of the ducks: schnääd-schnääd-schnääd, also onomatopoeic.

Also the “Laaferi” talks a lot, and what he says, is meaningless, a bit like “ob-la-di, ob-la-da“, I think, the Beatles used the same onomatopoeic picture.

This is a difficult one. It means, I disdain you totally. I would never say this word to anyone. It is not nice, simply not lady-like. But its background is a good example of the Regio Basiliensis reaching into Germany and France.

Let us dig deeper. This word has an interesting origin in French with a detour to Latin that entered the Alemannic language. Instead of “Schooffxxx” (as on the stone), we also say “Schooffsurri” which, I believe, goes back to “chauve-souris” in French (“bat” in English). Digging deeper into late Latin, “chauve-souris” comes from “cava sorex” that means “chouette souris” or “marvellous mouse”. Hence a “marvellous mouse” (cava sorex) turned into a chauve-souris (“bold” bat”) in French, then into a term of disdain in the Alemannic dialects (Schooffsurri) and into the even uglier expression “Schooffxxx” that you find on this stone. This expression is known in Basel and in the whole Region Basiliensis across the border in Germany and France. But it is rude and I never use it.

The path with the “dialect” stones starts at the Eglisee in Switzerland and ends in Germany near the Badeland Laguna. It shows, how much the Regio Basiliensis, the region of Basle, belongs together: Across the borders we speak the same dialect (almost, we can hear nuances), and now, the borders have opened and we can visit one another again.

Let us take care and protect one another from the virus resurging; I observed that in Germany shops require medical masks, and I put on my mask, when buying fresh bread and cherries in “my” farmer’s shop in Rümmingen near Binzen.

I feel freer and I am happy that now the Regio Basiliensis is within reach again.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From the Feldberg to St. Blasien

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source. This is day #4.

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Day #4: Herzogenhorn – Bernau and along the Bernauer Alb back to St. Blasien

It is now Saturday and our fourth day hiking. After an excellent breakfast at the hotel Lawine we want to take the 8:48 bus back to the Feldberg. We wait at the bus stop next to the “Lawine”. Our watches show 8:48. No bus? Why? We check the timetable. A small “d” next to the Saturday 8:48 bus? Ah, we see, the Saturday 8:48 bus only runs between Christmas and March. It is a skiers’ bus. And now, with this warm weather the skiing season is far – it even seems unreal that there will be a skiing season this year. We wait for another half hour, more or less patiently (me a little less so, Richard a little more so), until the 9:18 bus arrives.

After having reached the Feldberg pass we head off to the Herzogenhorn (1415m). From the summit we see down to Bernau and to the hills that we know from winter, when doing cross country skiing here. Now I understand, the Herzogenhorn is the “Hausberg of Bernau” or “THE local mountain of Bernau”. Next winter,  I will have to look around more carefully to spot the Herzogenhorn and say hello to the “Hausberg” of Bernau.

The sky is less blue today, but the weather is still dry. The Albsteig squiggle leads us straight down to Bernau. We come closer and closer. As it is Saturday today, we meet many hikers.

In Bernau the path takes us to the Bernauer Alb that originates at the western slope of the Herzogenhorn (I was a little sad that I had not seen the sources). Near the Alb we play with the green color shades and the clouds.

Then we take some impressions from the Bernauer Alb with us. When approaching St. Blasien, the Bernauer Alb becomes more romantic than it is around Bernau.

Near the sawmill “Glashof” the Bernauer Alb and the Menzenschwander Alb join to become THE Alb. Here we miss the squiggle Albsteig marking that would have taken us along the “merged” Alb. Instead we walk uphill to the “Untere Pulverbrücke” and from here down to St. Blasien. This was an involuntary loop – I think that the markings of the Albsteig could need some improvement near the Glashof.

In St. Blasien, we are welcomed in the Domhotel. “How was it – here is your luggage – sure, have a seat on the terrasse…”. We enjoy another one of those excellent German coffees with cakes (Kaffee und Kuchen) and admire the dome of St. Blasien from the terrasse of the Domhotel.

At 17:30 we take the bus to Waldshut. What a great view from Höchenschwand to the Alps! From Waldshut we return to Basel by train. We are back at Basel at about half past seven p.m.. This was an efficient connection that our SBB timetable had revealed to us.

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Conclusion: The Albsteig would be worth doing with a group, just with some slight modifications

The Albsteig was a great experience. Especially at the start on day #1 we forgot the time while taking photos. Would I return to do Albbruck – Immeneich with a group, I might consider taking a bus from Wilfingen to Immeneich, to allow spending the time along the romantic waterfalls and swirls on the way up to Wilfingen. Walking from Wilfingen to Immeneich was somewhat less interesting.

There were many more lovely spots with great views on the Albsteig trail on day #2 from Immeneich to St. Blasien. I particularly liked the views from Wolpadingen and from the Bildsteinfelsen. However, I would leave out the boring loop around the Albsee and up to Häusern and instead directly head to the waterfall above St. Blasien. This would leave more time in the romantic canyon and at the waterfall and perhaps in addition allow us to visit the dome of St. Blasien (which is a “must see”, when in St. Blasien).

On day #3 from St. Blasien to Menzenschwand, I enjoyed the hike to Menzenschwand and to the waterfall, but then I would climb immediately up to the Feldberg and leave out the boring loop back to Menzenschwand (on a higher level) and forego the goats’ meadow. If someone wants to add more kilometers, it is much more fun to do so at the top of the Feldberg, perhaps even walking up to the tower.

On day #4 going down along the Bernauer Alb I would consider taking the bus from Bernau to St. Blasien for those who do not want to continue all the way to St. Blasien on foot. However, the 20kms of day #4 are easier to overcome, because they are mostly downhill, after having climbed the Herzogenhorn in the morning.

All three hotels we stayed in (Zur Schmiede in Immeneich, Domhotel in St. Blasien and Lawine in Fahl) are only to be recommended and so is the company “Original Landreisen” that organized our tour at very short notice.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From St. Blasien to the Feldberg

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source. This is day #3.

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Day #3: From St. Blasien to the Feldberg

After an excellent breakfast at the Domhotel we start our third day walking.Today we will follow the creek Alb up to the sawmill “Glashof” and then continue along the Menzenschwander Alb up to the Feldberg.  It is another day with deep blue sky. The red berries of this sorbus tree above Menzenschwand contrast with the sky.

In Menzenschwand we find another wooden chapel. It is a few minutes after 12 o’clock.

An elderly lady opens the door, takes a red rope from a hook on the wall and devotedly rings the bell – for the midday (or shortly thereafter). I watch the scene standing in the doorway. The situation is to solemn to take a photo. “Yes, I do that every day at about midday”, she tells me in a friendly voice.

Menzenschwand is a romantic village with houses that are typical of the Black Forest.

I could imagine spending a few days here.

I have a long chat with a lady – also retired – that has decided to settle in Menzenschwand with her husband. They own a large house built in the local style of the Black Forest. She is working in her perfectly kept garden, while her three months old dog with still huge paws does not really trust me.

Radon has been found around Menzenschwand and the Radon Revitalbad promises to revitalise your body.

We walk to the end of the trough valley of Menzenschwand and see the Caritas House in  front of us in the saddle – it looks small from here – and we look forward to the waterfall of Menzenschwand and to then climbing uphill in the shady forest to the Feldberg.

At the foot of the Feldberg there is the Menzenschwander Wasserfall. It can be accessed by car and is well visited. “Oh, look, a rainbow”, the tourists say, climbing up the steps along the canyon.

This rainbow reminds me of another waterfall that I have seen with Ernst almost 18 years ago. It was at the Iguazúfalls in Argentina, where we had this long discussion whether it is a small bucket of gold or just a treasure that you find where the rainbow hits the ground… I neither verified that this time.

From the bridge along the waterfall, I look back to the canyon, where the Menzenschwander Alb jumps from one pond to the next. The roof behind the canyon is a restaurant – but now it was too early for us for the great German tradition of coffee and cake or Kaffee und Kuchen.

Yes, the sun is shining and it is very, very warm. We see the slopes of the Feldberg and now really look forward to climbing uphill in the shade of the trees ahead of us. But, no, the Albsteig has a surprise for us. From the waterfall we have to turn right to the “gate of happiness” with a beautiful view back to Menzenschwand. The path then continues along the slopes and takes us almost back to Menzenschwand (on a higher level). Here the path turns sharply to take us uphill on a meadow with many goats and a billy goat in love (you could smell that). In front of us, we again see the Caritashouse in the saddle of the Feldberg. We get impatient, we want to go uphill now – but no, now the blue squiggle marking points down and back to the waterfall. At the end we have done a loop of almost 360 degrees at the foot of the Feldberg in the burning sun, just adding kilometers that were no fun. We have to overcome a second smaller loop back in the direction of the waterfall, until the Albstein squiggle finally leads us uphill towards the source of the Menzenschwander Alb. In the shady forest our mood brightens up again.

From this small waterfall, a zigzag path leads up to the source aera of the Alb. There are many small puddles in the ground… may be, one day, the architects of the Albsteig path will add an explanatory table about the source of the Alb which actually was the target of the Albsteig hike.

We reach the Feldberg area near the Menzenschwander Hütte (hut) and take the bus to the Hotel Lawine, where we find our luggage waiting for us. The hotel garden is still in the sun. We have German cake with a refreshing beer and a refreshing “Neuer Süsser” (new wine that has just started to ferment). Our evening meal is fresh trout from the Black Forest stuffed with mint herbs for the two of us – excellent. The restaurant is occupied up to the last table, with locals and tourists. Grand-ma (Oma) of the hotel Lawine goes from table to table using her walking frame to have a chat here an there, with her kind eyes. The boss is serving as well, together with a very agile servant from Croatia. Yes, the atmosphere is welcoming and very familial.

After our third long day, we again slept well in our cosy rooms.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From Immeneich to St. Blasien

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth in Albbruck up to its source on the Feldberg. In my previous blog I have described day #1. Now I continue with …

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Day #2: From Immeneich to St. Blasien

In the morning we get up early to take photos of the pretty wooden chapel of Immeneich (Bernhardskapelle built in 1895).

After a delicious breakfast in the hotel zur Schmiede, we start our second day hiking. Now the sun plays with the wooden chapel. The sky is blue, nothing but blue. Beautiful. We walk by the wooden church…

… and climb steeply uphill in the forest, on a narrow path. First the squiggle markings guide as well, but then they disapper – and so does the path. For some time, we stray looking for our Albsteig markings. Finally we reach a wider path that we follow southwards and slightly uphill. Oh, great, the houses of Wolpadingen appear behind the trees, and an Albsteig marking says that we are back on track. This cat welcomes us in Wolpadingen.

We continue to the summit of the Dachsberg. We are now at 950m. The view is hidden behind the trees of the forest that, as we learn, once formed the border between the dominion of St. Blasien and the area around Wolpadingen. In the dominion of St. Blasien, the farmers were in bondage, around Wolpadingen they were free. The whole region belonged to Habsburg until 1806.

Now the path goes steeply down and creeps along the so-called Kalberfelsen.

We look into the blue sky and dream.

We climb steeply up again to the Bildsteinfelsen, where we have a gorgeous view into the Alb valley and the hills of the Black Forest. The temperatures allow us to sit down and enjoy the view. We sit here together with a mother and her daughter that are also doing the Albsteig, mum perhaps with more enthusiasm than her daughter.

A steep path brings us down to a broader route that takes us to the Albsee. It is a barrier lake that has been constructed during the second World War. The sun plays with the blue water surface.

Following the Albsteig markings, we have to walk around the lake (almost 360 degrees) and then steeply up to Häusern (above the Albsee). Watch out, here is a skilift – there are signs warning us – very odd on this warm and sunny autumn day.

When about to enter Häusern, it takes us some time to understand that the Albsteig squiggles ask us to turn back to where we more or less came from and then continue on a tiny path around a rock. Finally we enter Häusern “from behind”. This loop seems superfluous to us – we do not enjoy adding “useless” kilometers.

After having crossed Häusern, we walk above the Alb valley straight in the direction of our target, St. Blasien. Suddenly Richard exclaims: “Look – here – look.” Look at what? Aha, there is a small interruption in the line of trees “blocking” the view to the valley, and from here, we can see the dome of St. Blasien. Difficult to capture, there are always some leaves in the way… Also the tripod cannot change that.

A dome in the middle of the mountains? The monasterial tradition in St.Blasien goes back to the 9th century, when monks belonging to the community of Benedict settled here. Already then, some relics of Saint Blasius were transferred to St. Blasien (he died in 312 AD). In 1218 the monastery was acquired by Habsburg. In the course of the centuries the monastery had been destroyed and rebuilt several times. In the 18th century, it thrived. After another fire, the dome was rebuilt in early neo-classic style with the huge cupola. The new and prestigious dome was inaugurated in 1783. At that time, the cupola was the third largest in Europe. In the middle of the Black Forest! After another fire, the dome was restored again in 1888 (Source: Dom zu St. Blasien im Südschwarzwald, Kunstverlag Josef Fink, 2012).

Just above St. Blasien we climb up a canyon full of chilly fresh air to find the finale for today, the Wildberg waterfall. However, this trunk is “disturbing” the view. While Richard installs himself underneath the trunk to take a photo of the waterfall without the obstacle,…

… I look back into the canyon where the water jumps from one pool to the next. I think we should come back to spend more time here, but now we are tired.

It is almost six pm and we take the fastest route down to St. Blasien. We stay in the Domhotel, just across the dome, where again our suitcases are waiting for us. We change and have an excellent dinner (deer with red cabbage and Spätzli for me and zander for Richard). After dinner, we take a photo of the dome of St. Blasien – this is the view from one of our rooms.

Also the second night I sleep well – all the walking and the savory dinner are doing us good.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From Albbruck to Immeneich

“Would you feel like joining me to do the Albsteig”, Richard asks me and he adds: “The Albsteig hike follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source”. The Alb? Yes, I know an Albtal or Alb valley that is close to Karlsruhe in the Northern Black Forest. My grand-ma used to collect mushrooms there – and as a child, I often joined her. “No, no”, Richard says, “there might be two “Alb” valleys in the Black Forest, the one of your grand’ma in the north, but THIS “Alb” valley originates on the Feldberg and ends in Albbruck (near Waldshut) where the Alb joins the Rhine river. The Albsteig has been opened last year and there was an article about it in the newspaper of Basel”. Oh, yes, good idea, I do feel like joining Richard.

On very short notice, Richard contacts “Original Reisen” in the beginning of October 2018. They book three hotels for three nights for us and send the Albsteig material to the Hotel Bahnhöfli in Albbruck. I buy 1:25’000 maps from Kompass that show all the relevant hiking markings of the area (I love to have the overview over a larger area, when hiking).

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Day #1: From Albbruck to Immeneich

On a slightly grey Wednesday, we take the slow train from Basel to Albbruck. Mr. Berisha of the Hotel Bahnhöfli hands out the Albsteig material to us. Faleminderit. We stick the labels indicating our hotels to our small suitcases and leave them in the gangway. Over a cup of coffee we study our material. Detailed maps were included in the package. This overview map shows what we were up to: Albbruck – Immeneich – St. Blasien, then along the Menzenschwander Alb to the Feldberg and back along the Bernauer Alb to St. Blasien. All in all about 90km and 2700m uphill in four days.

Source: Material of Original Landreisen handed out to us for the Albsteig

“Look, we have to get used to the blue squiggle”, Richard says. This is the marking for the Albsteig.

We say good-bye and mirupafshim to Mr Berisha and the Bahnhöfli and start to walk following the blue squiggle. We are now at 324m above sea level.

The path leads us gently uphill, on green meadows, well marked with the blue Albsteig squiggles. The first small village we encounter is Schachen. There is an alemannic style church in the background, as you find them everywhere around Basel.


In the background we can see the Alps under grey clouds.

From Schachen, we walk steeply down to the Alb. There are pieces of gold on the narrow bridge – or it looks like it, as the leaves shine in the sun.

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Underneath the bridge, the water is very clear and decorated with more pieces of gold.

We walk uphill again and find rocks that the glaciers have left here about 10’000 to 20’000 years ago.

We come across the granite quarry of Tiefenstein which is a less romantic sight, but belongs to the Black Forest as well. Geologically spoken the Black Forest is a basement rock (covered with sandstone). The information table explains to us that retrieving granite here is a hundred year old tradition and the granite is used for building water barriers, stonewalls or streets.

Going up again, we reach the area around Görwihl. We come across another Albsteig hiker, who plans to sleep in a hotel at Göhrwil. It is the first hiker that we meet today. He has parked his car in St. Blasien, a good idea. For us it would be far too early to stay overnight here – it is only one o’clock.

We enjoy this small waterfall belonging to a system of creeks called Wühre.

The path takes us down to the Alb again. Here I shoot this mysterious photo that a few days later I will use as a condolence card.

The trail climbs up again into the romantic Höllbach valley.

While Richard takes out his tripod to capture the Höllbach waterfall in his professional way, I study my 25’000 Kompass map. I discover that now it is almost 3 p.m. Since 9:30 a.m. we have done about half of our hike from Albbruck to Immeneich, where the hotel “zur Schmiede” is waiting for us. There has just been too much to see and too much worth taking photos of. As we want to reach our hotel before night, we decide to walk faster, just quickly stopping at the Teufelsküche with its swirls. A narrow trail climbs up again from the Teufelsküche and then follows the eastern slope of the Alb valley, always more or less on the same level.

Shortly before six, we see Immeneich in front of us. A lady with her dog asks: “Are you doing the Albsteig?”. At the entrance of Immeneich, an old man asks as well: “Are you doing the Albsteig?” The local people are proud of their Albsteig. They are very hospitable and we have a long chat with them.

In the hotel “zur Schmiede” we are welcomed by Mr Meili. Our suitcases are waiting for us. We change – it is great to dress up for the cosy restaurant. We enjoy dinner (deer and Spätzli for me, porcini for Richard, all with a  local wine from Auggen). Mr. Meili’s accent reveals that he is definitely not from the Black Forest. “I am from Zurich, I love to do hunting and I love the Black Forest”, he says. He does everything in his hotel – receptionist, cook and waitor – and we feel good here. We meet two couples from China that have booked this remote and quiet hotel over booking.com. Very clever choice! But sorry, no, we do not speak Chinese.

During the night we sleep well – it is quiet here.