Relaxing in an Austrian hotel room this evening and preparing for tomorrow’s trip into The Stubai mountains. Having just eaten a substantial meal and drunk a few local beers in a local brewery/restaurant we were ready for anything.
We are myself, B the rock man and H the pieman, veterans of many a backpacking trip over the years. The hotel, to give them a mention, is The Golden Krone in Innsbruck and the room a cheapish triple. We had met up at Manchester airport this morning for a comfortable flight with Singapore Airlines to Munich. I had relaxed on the flight using the seat-back entertainment console to listen to some jazz classics – the choice was endless. Efficient German trains transported us to Innsbruck in just over two hours, notice the local ‘lederhosen’ ….. The hotel was well located between the station and the old town. One had to be attentive on the streets to avoid being run down by the bendy trams and numerous cyclists. Calling into a cafe for a coffee we were surprised to find people smoking – there appear to still be premises where this is allowed and this is signed on the door. Innsbruck was busy with tourists admiring the architecture and mountain views. We followed suit and wandered into the streets of the old town. Lots of decorated Imperial mansions and towers. Back at the hotel we emptied B’s rucksack and declared several items superfluous thus saving him a few kilos carry, these were deposited in the hotel until our hopeful return.
Now that I’m back and sorting through my photos I have a few more observations to make on the King Ludwig Way and the area in general. Bavaria is a unique region,
In no particular order……….
1. Guide Book. A new one is needed to enthuse us Brits to visit this area. Mine was from 1987 though not a lot has changed. The walk is undulating but not strenuous. It is full of fascinating sights in a lovely corner of Germany – would suit the casual walker as there is ample opportunity for accommodation and refreshment.
2. Waymarking and signs. The waymarking has been updated recently and you will never get seriously lost.
There are a multitude number of routes.
3.Cycling. If you don’t fancy walking it there is an alternative cyclists’ way. Cycling is big in these parts – its fairly flat and there are lots of signed cycling routes on virtually traffic free lanes. In any case cycling is far more popular and catered for in Germany than in Britain. Everyone does it and they start at a young age.
4. Maypoles and births. Every village seemed to have a tall, blue and white striped maypole whose decorations usually reflect the area’s history or commerce. Presumably they feature in May festivities. Also of a similar celebratory nature is another common sight – signs outside houses where there has obviously been a recent family addition, nice touch.
5. Painted houses. Many of the houses in the villages have painted motifs on their walls. In most cases these are motifs reflecting and emphasising the architecture or nature of the building but in some cases an actual picture had been painted on a wall. Must make redecorating hell. I saw two ‘wall painters’ in Fussen but they were having a fag break so no action photo.
A house wall painting commemorating closed coal mines.
6. Log piles. These are everywhere, from the forests to the villages. People go to lengths to have the tidiest winter log piles next to their houses. They become almost an art form – what about ‘a crate for the Tate’
7. Language. Ashamed I didn’t get to grips with this – next time.
How was I to know…..
What about all those long words …Even had difficulty hearing what greetings passing people gave me, only fully understood when a welcoming village road sign spelt it out – gruss gott.
8. Taps and water-troughs. Often coinciding with a pilgrims route linking churches and shrines there are plenty of watering points. This one caught my eye ..
9. Best Flowers in Show. The winner was a house in Diessen but I didn’t take a picture for some reason! The Runner up was…
10. Pillows. Will miss those lovely soft pillows and duvets.
Had a spare day in Fussen, a delightful but busy Bavarian town. The old medieval part of town is overlooked by the Hohes Schloss castle and has a delightful mixture of colourful Bavarian ‘town houses’. Fussen is known for lute and violin making and I passed a statue reflecting this. Cafes are busy serving the hordes of tourists who come to town mainly to visit the two nearby castles associated with King Ludwig II. The hotel I stayed in even had a couple of Japanese waitresses, dressed in busty Bavarian costumes, to cater for the influx of Far Eastern tourists.
Time to escape into the hills.
I walked out of town westwards heading for the Alatsee. The path soon entered the beech forest and switch-backed along a ridge. There were paths everywhere, all well signed and well used by the locals for recreation. Further up the valley I merged onto a busy cycleway leading to the lake, cycling seems to be very popular in these parts.Ignoring the possibility of coffee at the lakeside gasthof I continued up the steep jeep track which brought me to the Salober Alm restaurant in a little alp. People seem to appear from all directions heading for the hut so it soon became quite busy serving meals and drinks. There were great views back to the Schwangau area, the Ludwig castles and the surrounding Alps. Over coffee I plotted a circular route back using a different valley. This involved plunging into the woods in a southwesterly direction. I found the path which dropped down a very steep slope in a series of tight hairpins, a bit like a walkers Alpe d’Huez. Half way down there was a ruined tower overlooking the valley, the information board showed it to be an old castle [13thC] controlling the area. This had been an important communication route heading through the alps , a Roman road Via Claudia Augusta came this way and a salt road in the middle ages. The notice said Ludwig II and his brother visited this castle as children.
It was while reading the notice that I realised I was in Austria, I thought the signs were different. Checking the map I see that the Salober Alm was already over the border.
Once down in the valley I skirted the large industrial limestone works and followed tracks signed back to Fussen. On a quiet lane I heard the characteristic clinking of carabiners and spotted a couple of climbers on the cliff above. A short scramble up revealed a very compact steep face of limestone with lots of bolted lines. The climbers explained it was very technical climbing, there were certainly no cracks. Unfortunately they were just having lunch so I saw no further action.
Steep technical bolted limestone.
My path became the Laendeweg. I think I noticed the border on my way back, a defunct shed. Gentle forest tracks lead back above the glacial River Lech to Fussen in time for tea, or rather coffee, in one of the cafes. On my last night in Bavaria I ate a superb meal in a quiet restaurant away from the main tourist area, accompanied by a dark beer from King Ludwig himself.
Remember King Ludwig. Today I am walking to his famous castles – the family one he partially lived in, Hohenschwangau and the one he fantasized about and brought into existence, Neuschwanstein.
Neuschwanstein in the distance.
But first I have to find a way out of the Halblech area as I seem to be off route. Incongruously walking through a paper mill I pick up some local footpath signs heading to a St. Peters church which I see on the map, this involves a bit of hill climbing first thing but rewards me with great views towards the Fussen area. I even think I can pick out Neuschwanstein on its hill. The extra little climb up to the isolated little church was worth it for views to the Allgau Alps and over the countryside and villages that make up Halblech. On through Berghof to eventually find a KLW sign pointing down a lane through the delightful little farming hamlet of Greith…
Peaceful Greith – Maybe shouldn’t have taken this photo!
… and then on to the expansive Forggensee. Cyclists, in all shapes and sizes, on all manner of bikes, started appearing from all directions. I was getting nearer the tourist traps. A stop by the lake ended up with me feeding the ducks most of my lunch.
Shortly I was at the bottom of the ski lift to near the top of Tegelberg, 1720m. Para-gliders were performing tricks in the sky. [This was the scene in 2011 when one collided with the lift cable and left a gondola hanging in mid air necessitating a dramatic helicopter rescue.] I was tempted to go up but the low cloud base put me off and I had places to go. One of the places was the climb up through the Pollat Gorge but when I arrived I was disappointed to find it was closed off due to rockfall, even I didn’t go against the signs and security fencing. So I used the road to Hohenschwangau and arrived at the massive car park and thousands of day-trippers milling around. There were queues everywhere and tickets for the castles had long sold out for today.
It gets worse …..
Even so I trudged up to the fairytale turreted Neuschwanstein Castle where you are able to wander around outside without a ticket. This ‘shrine to Wagner‘ was King Ludwig’s passion for most of his adult life and in fact wasn’t completed until after his death. Some of the views were spectacular… … and the crowd watching even more so. Far Eastern faces were in the majority, our gentle sarcasm of Japanese tourists is being replaced by an adverse reaction to the new breed of brash Chinese tourists. Marie bridge above the Pollat Gorge was mayhem so I found my own way down through the forest and to the Neo-Gothic style Hohenschwangau Castle. There was slightly less hysteria here and you were able to imagine Ludwig’s rich and privileged family living there in the 19th century. I had no ticket for an inside view, will have to find a virtual tour on the internet, but enjoyed the grounds with views back up to Neuschwanstein.
In typical German efficiency this famous royal castle had its own street number …To again avoid the hoards I took to the forest trails, within 50m I never saw another person for the next two hours. By now the clouds had come down and there were some spots of rain – the first on this trip. Despite this I thoroughly enjoyed the roller-coaster walk. Through the magnificent beech woods, over ridges, down to lakes and a fitting end to the day at a three cross viewpoint, a Calvary, high above Fussen. The two castles could be seen through the gloom in their romantic settings.Then it was down the track passing all the stations of the cross in reverse order, presumably you receive no redemption for this.
Sorry for such a long post, it could have been more as I walked 28k as well as all the sightseeing.
Most long-distance walks have a section just to get from A to B using the least painful way. On some previous routes I’ve cheated and hitched across dreary road sections. Today, with one exception didn’t promise much. Progress at first was slow and hesitant, little lanes going everywhere through traditional farming land. The signs and map didn’t agree, re-routing?, but I came out eventually near Wildsteig with views over Schwaig See with alpine peaks in the background. As you can see the weather is average. Navigated more lanes out of Wildsteig and through a nature reserve to head for Wies with its famous church. I’ve certainly had the paths to myself and mostly the churches too, therefore it came as a shock when a coach park appeared discharging hoards of international humanity to the cafes and souvenir stalls around the church. After all the hype that this was the height of Bavarian Baroque I didn’t appreciate this church as well as others. Maybe the crowds put me off. Shame they have allowed trees to grow so close to the front as they hide the architecture of the doorways which incidentally were being renovated.Met Uli the pilgrim outside for a catch up, he was eagerly waiting to go inside. I went for the popular Bavarian ‘kaffee und kuchen’ in one of the nearby gasthofs.
The afternoon was on a traffic free lane accompanied by the tinkling of the occasional bike bell and the continuous cow bells – the alps were getting closer. My hotel for the night was well situated in the countryside outside Trauchgau in the Halblech area and as a bonus had a pool and sauna which were greatly appreciated after a day in no man’s land.
Had such a good breakfast that I seemed to be in a daze for the first hour, fortunately I was on easy to follow tracks. The church up on Hohenpeissenberg ridge wouldn’t go away.The only decision I had to make was when to turn right in the dense forest. Then it was steeply down to the Ammer River at times going through prehistoric vegetation. There was an hunting lodge at the bottom where I sat relaxing in the sun for awhile. I was joined by a hot and sweaty pilgrim, Uli whom I kept meeting yesterday, he had missed that right turn!
I walked alongside the river till I reached an interesting wooden roofed bridge.
I expected to continue into the base of the gorge, but the path climbed up the side of the gorge. It then traversed high in the trees for a couple of hours,with sparse views to the river below. The path hugged vertiginous slopes often with the aid of ramshackle wooden bridges – certainly not ‘vorsprung durch technik’. At one point a steep slope was negotiated using an old climbing rope as a handrail.
Safely down I found a little beach for a late lunch. Then it was back up to the top of the gorge, out of the trees and into meadows leading to Rottenbuch. You enter through the monastery complex with the prominent church and its separate belltower. I thought that the Baroque interior of the church was probably the most impressive I’ve seen so far. As you entered there was an immediate ‘wow’ factor. The colours were more subtle and the stucco work more detailed than elsewhere.Out of interest I wonder how sinful the 18th century congregations were, there were 5 or 6 confessionals down either side of the church. A really worthwhile visit to end the day. Now off to the simple cafe/hotel for the night and typical Bavarian fare.
I talked yesterday of a pilgrimage to Andechs and today realised that I’m on the Munich to Santiago de Compostela route. Hence along the way are numerous shrines, churches and monasteries. I met a man, complete with staff and shell, who had just started a few days ago – only 2600k to go. I remember when I made the journey by bike from Le Puy in France there were many Germans on the road.
Anyhow to the more mundane – how far is it from Ðiessen to Windermere?
I only know this because of the above sign, the towns are apparently twinned. I had been previously been surprised as I walked up Ðiessen’s main street to see a red English phone box (complete with modern phone system), a gift from Windermere. A strange start to the day.
Ðiessen is dominated by its parish church, The Marienmuenster. This was my first stop today. Typical of this area it is decorated in the Baroque/Rococo style of the 17th and 18th centuries. The domed clock tower was perfectly proportioned. Internally white stucco with swirling golden giltwork, potent romanticised paintings, elaborate altar. The overpowering ceiling artwork, the ornate pulpit and the organ gallery took my attention. This pattern was to be repeated in every church passed today, and there were quite a few. When I look at my photos I’m not sure which was which, so I won’t bore you with too many.
Walking out of Ðiessen brings you into pretty countryside, meadows with the German alps in the background. Being Sunday more people were out on the well signed trails. Haven’t met any Brits yet. Ahead I could also see the prealp of Hohenpeissenberg, 988m which I would climb much later in the day. A long winding route through a forest kept me in the shade but I was plagued by horseflies, lots of itchy lumps tonight. Next stop was the Abbey complex at Wessobrunn, this was surprisingly quiet after yesterday’s experience. Interesting church, a free standing bell tower and the monastery buildings.I ignored the obviously busy inn nearby hoping to have a break at the next further on, but it was closed on arrival. Bird in the hand moral. Little used paths dropped into a gorge and over a rotting bridge, the KLW was signed elsewhere but I stuck with my guidebook. Written in 1987 by the Speakmans it is still surprisingly accurate, nothing much has changed in these parts.
Classic alpine farmland followed on the undulating landscape, the farmhouse cum barns are surprisingly large but all well kept. Little used lanes threaded through the countryside and took me to the small hamlet of St. Leonhard I’m Forst where there was of course a delightful Baroque church to visit.
I was glad to be out of the next stretch of pine forrest only to confronted by the steep climb up Hohenpeissenberg, 988m. The last steep meadow led to the pilgrim church, meteorology observatory, gasthof and of course crowds of people. There were views back to Andechs above the Ammersee. On the Southern I sat for awhile and admired the view across the valley to the Alps including Germany’s highest – Zugspitze at 2962m.
A quick visit to the interior of the church to view the paintings… … and then I was seated on the balcony of Bayerischer Rigi enjoying a drink, meal and that fabulous view. 300m down the otherside in no time to my lodgings on an industrial estate next to the station. Turned out to be 1st class.
It started well, a filling, early breakfast and I was confidently walking through the streets of Starnberg. But something wasn’t right as I wasn’t leaving the Lake, after 500m I turned about and retraced to the centre. There it was – the street I should have taken completely closed and dug up, no wonder I missed it. Feeling cross with myself having wasted 20mins I stode round the obstruction and on into a small gorge of conglomerate limestone. Walking by a lively stream I quickly left the dog walkers behind. I realised I was walking through a military zone by all the signs. There is something about the German word Verboten that makes you sit up and obey, I must have watched too many 2nd rate war films. Safely out of the war zone I was soon in green meadows and following gravel paths towards the Maisinger See. Another sign had to be obeyed – out came my poles. A welcoming gasthof on the shore providing a coffee break entertained by the village tots (some as young as five) diving in. Farmland, with distant alpine peaks on the horizon, led to the small village of Aschering with its pretty church. As well as following the KLW signs I was on a signed Pilgrimage route heading for the monastery at Andechs, holy ‘relics’ were found here and a Benedictine Abbey established in 1455. Soon it became a popular place of Pilgrimage in Bavaria. The original Gothic church was destoyed by fire and the 18th century replacement was an orgy of the Baroque style of local artists. And so it is today. Coming out of the trees I thought it was in sight but this first church turned out to be part of a prison complex, certainly no Pilgrimage to there.
Once the real Andechs Abbey was in sight I was on a ‘holy way’ and passing the holy shrines. These contained beautiful relief depictions of the stations of the cross – you know the story.
The lane led up into the Abbey and it was here I realised there was another Pilgrimage taking place. The noise level built up and you realised that over 50% of the Abbey grounds was occupied by a drinking and eating parlour, and the party was in full swing! It was a steady flow of frothing tankards and piles of food. The Abbey is famous for its wheat beer brewed here for centuries. The church interior is hard to describe, think gilt. Some of the original treasures were saved. Today the opulence of it all was softened by a girls choir singing simple arpeggio hymns – quite moving for a hardened soul like mine. My Pilgrimage was completed by a glass of the famous dark beer, I opted for the smaller 500ml rather than the litres most were quaffing.
Made quick progress down through another delightful, wooded gorge to the busy town of Herrsching for the boat across the Ammersee. The lake was a mad flurry of hundreds of sail and kite boarders all enjoying the very windy conditions. I was impressed that the ferry didn’t plough into any of them as we crossed. Ðiessen came as a peaceful relief and my lakeside lodgings were perfect.
Here I am on the Starnbergersee in Bavaria to start the King Ludwig Way. This is really the end of the story as in June 1886 King Ludwig II of Bavaria and his physician were found dead in the lake. Did he drown or more likely was he murdered? He had succeeded to the throne in 1864, aged 18, and led an interesting and increasingly eccentric life. Towards the end of his reign he gathered enemies who wanted him out of the way! This walk starts from the site of the cross in the lake where his body was found. More of him later.
Arrived courtesy of EasyJet and the efficient and user friendly S-Bahn from Munich. Very warm evening as I wandered past some impressive mansions in the back streets of Starnberg in search of food. Stumbled across the busy no frills Gasthof in Der Au. Sat outside but must remember some mosquito repellant next time. Didn’t have a clue with the menu but found a Gemuseplatte which turned out to be perfect, wish they could cook veg like this in England. My first glass of Bavarian beer was a Paulaner Helles hoppy lager from Munich, seemed to match the situation. Looking around me I couldn’t miss the large portions of food being devoured by equally large people, will have to be careful this trip. And I haven’t seen breakfast yet.
Caught a morning ferry across the lake to Leoni where I came ashore, leaving the rest of the tourists to their 2hr trip around the lake. After the obligatory coffee I found my way along the shore to the cross in the water marking the site of King Ludwig II’s death. He died shortly after being exiled to Berg here. His opposition felt he was becoming insane and also wanted the power of Bavaria reduced under Prussia. The chapel commemorating the event was under scaffolding for renovation, disappointing.
I must have walked past Schloss Berg, where he was incarcerated, without realising; there are so many vast mansions along the shoreline, this a rich area and playground for Munich folk. Maybe this was it…
About now I started to notice the K waymarks for my route, from now on abbreviated to TKLWay. It was sweltering by early afternoon so I joined the locals and had a swim in one of the bays. Very refreshing and I dried off as I walked along finishing a short day back at Starnberg.
Not a bad way to start a long distance walk. As there is already one image of a glass of beer on this post can’t possibly show you the weissbier I’m about to enjoy, you’ll just have to imagine it.