We just returned from a wonderful weekend to Berchtesgarden Land,  the southern tip of Germany just across the border from Salzburg, Austria.  It was beautiful weather (mostly) and we had a good time relaxing and enjoying the mountain scenery.  It very well may be my favorite part of Germany (so far).

We drove down on Friday, through pouring rain.  The little 4 cylinder VW did its best going up and down the hilly terrain.  We stayed in a Ferienwohnung (a furnished apartment) in Shönau am Königsee. It was just right for us, or for any 4 people who like each other very much. Our only complaint was the sloping ceilings caused which some discomfort to Andy on several occasions.   Yes, Yoda I am. It rained all night and into the morning of Saturday.

We decided to visit the salt mine museum during the rain. Gus had so much fun he said he wanted to stay there forever.  (Tempting idea.)  Everyone dressed up in the special coveralls provided and we took a little train deep into the mine. Once there, we were able to take several miner’s slides (fun), a funicular, and a ‘boat’ across the Mirror Lake. They had set it up for typical German touring, with laser shows and black lights to delight the tourists. (No concept of natural/historical preservation, ‘do-not touch-it-took-200 years-to-grow-that-stalactite’ stuff that you find on any tour of a mine/cave in America.) It is still a working mine that produces commercial table salt and we were each given a sample souvenir.  The highlight for me was seeing the Reichenbach Pump to pump the SALT BRINE to Bad Reichenhall…it is, a BRONZE pump made of bronze used to remove salt brine from the mine that was in continuous operation for 1500 years (ok, not that long, but for a really, really long time without breaking down, like 110 YEARS).  So, there. Now you have all the facts.

It was still overcast in the afternoon when we came out of the mine, so we decided to take the boat out on the Königsee to see St. Bartholomew’s church and walk around a bit. It is an absolutely gorgeous area. There was a random choir of old men singing outside the church when we arrived.   The boys had some fun skipping rocks and watching the ducks.  We all had some cake at the little cafe there before heading home on the boat.

On Sunday we went to church in Salzburg, only about 30 minutes away. I always like to go to church when we travel. It’s fun to see how things work the same no matter where you go. Whilst traveling, I’ve had wonderful experiences that have strengthened my testimony. So much that I can’t imagine NOT wanting to go to church while on vacation. I’ve never found a better attraction or more worthwhile thing to do or see in place of going to church.  Everything else disappoints.  Once I was asked to play the music for sacrament meeting. Once our family was asked to bear our testimonies, then we were invited to an after-church picnic. One time, a man was translating so loudly into my ear that the entire congregation was looking at us the whole time, and gave shouts of ‘Bravo’ to him when the meeting was finished to congratulate his good job.  This time at church, an older man with slightly crossed eyes took it upon himself to translate the Sunday School lesson to me personally.  It must have been funny, because he laughed a lot, but what he translated to me wasn’t so funny.  In sacrament meeting we got to hear from the stake president as well as the one of the Seventies.  It was nice.  The boys even had a good time, but probably because they got to eat candy in class.

Afterwards, we had a little picnic near the church, and fed the ducks and geese while overlooking the Von Trap family home in the movie The Sound of Music.  (The boys recently watched the movie, so it was fun to see.)  Afterwards we took the Untersbergbahn (Cable car) up to the top of the Untersberg mountain. The view was fantastic.  We hiked around a bit in our Sunday shoes before cramming into the cable car for the ride down after a few hours. There was a little bit of snow at the top, but it was really warm and sunny.

On Monday it was beautiful weather and clear skies (28°C). We packed our things and headed to the Eagle’s Nest.  Because the road up to the top is so narrow, the only way to access it is by chartered bus (or hiking). They have quite an efficient system set up.  Just beware of tour groups, who think they are entitled to cut in line and commandeer bus seats.  Don’t be shy. Throw some elbows to get your fair share.   Be sure to speak PIG LATIN.  It throws those multi-lingual tour guides off track and gives you a chance to steal their seat.

After the bus drops you off, you can either hike up to the house, or take the brass elevator.  Both are nice, but the elevator requires a bus ticket.  We took the elevator up, but hiked down. The views from the top are amazing, better than from the Untersberg. You can overlook the entire valley and beyond.  We had lunch back down in Berchtesgarden at a small imbiss and then headed home. I was doubtful of the VW, but we returned, all 4 of us, in one piece each.

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