Culture | Exploration | Nature | Travel

A Visit to the Pristine Königssee

I’d had this day circled for months, anticipating a spectacular day on the gorgeous Bavarian lake known as Königssee. I’d gotten a peek at the northernmost tip of the lake high atop Eagle’s Nest the day before, and it seemed finally real. And on a warm summer day when seemingly everyone was swimming in the lake and brilliant blue skies contrasted with the mountains, the experience exceeded expectations.

The logistics of getting there seemed straightforward—it was a short drive from the hotel and the parking lot was plenty big. But that parking lot proved a stumbling block. Most of the pay machines only accept coins, and the change machines weren’t working. There are some credit card readers which also weren’t functional. Signage said to go to the information center for change, but it didn’t open until 09:00. That left several people scrambling for change. Fortunately an acquaintance happened to park nearby and had the app on his phone to pay. Hurdle cleared.

Königssee, at almost five miles long, and its beautiful little lake sister Obersee, sit within Berchtesgaden National Park. Like Zion National Park in the United States, the towering rock faces seemed a cathedral surrounding you in a hug. You feel inclined to return that affection. There are plenty of options to feel the spirit of the place walking the paths, hiking, sitting in the biergarten or on Königssee itself. Of course, you may feel inclined to do all of those things.

The famous electric boats leave from Schönau am Königssee, with stops in St. Bartholomä and Salet. To make the most of your visit to Königssee you really should go to Salet. The longer trip brings you past the beautiful Schrainbach Wasserfall as it plunges into the lake. Salet itself offers dining services, but also access to Lake Obersee and the spectacular Röthbachfall as it plunges over 400 meters down a sheer rock cliff. As a bonus there’s another waterfall to the left that likely feels resentful at its bigger sibling getting all the attention. The hike itself is easy and offers some incredible vistas along the way.

As an American with the tiniest grasp of the German language I was left in the dark when our boat guide rapidly rattled off historical facts and one-liners that had the passengers in stitches, but managed to pick up just enough to follow along. What transcends language barriers is music, and the highlight of the boat ride was our guide playing his trumpet accompanied by its echo on the mountain walls surrounding us. It was magical. So too is Königssee.

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