This was a bit of a mixed day – the highs of some of the most spectacular scenery of the trip (plus the fun of the Red Bull Hangar) and an awful lot of sitting around bus stations (in the cold) which was a low point. The day certainly didn’t pan out how we planned!
Soren was up about 7am, while his sister was still out to it, so I took him down to breakfast (caffeine for me and peace for Anto and Astrid) and met up with Mikl. The others followed shortly after. It was another quiet morning in the breakfast restaurant. The selection was quite decent and I had to try yet more of the selection of German breakfast cakes, since they were there….. and someone had to eat them!
Our plan for the day was a trip to Berechtesgaden (across the border in Germany) and lake Königssee, with a trip to the Berechtesgaden salt mine in the afternoon. Despite lots of research, little did we know the day was going to turn into lots of sitting around at bus stations and our schedule going out the window entirely!
We walked to Hauptbahnhof (central station) in order to catch a bus to Berechtesgaden as the bus was much quicker than the train on this occasion (our preferred method of transport). Of course we get to the station and the buses only go hourly and we had 40 mins to wait. Online timetables are not exactly forthcoming so we were winging it to a certain degree.
We were on the 10.15am bus to Berechtesgaden which took the route out past Untersberg where we had travelled the day before. Again it was a very scenic bus trip. The trip was 45 minutes long so we let the kids watch some TV on the very expensively recovered tablet. Astrid was a bit tired and fell asleep 5 mins before end of the bus trip. We knew she was down on sleep but even so, randomly napping before 11am is fairly unusual!
We arrived in Berechtesgaden, about 11am and realised we were now back in Germany. The Untersberg mountain spans the border between Austria and Germany and the Berechtesgaden Alps lie within Germany. Berechtesgaden is very pretty, with the huge snow-capped mountains we expected. However, the town was much larger than we expected. We had kind of imagined it would be more of a village, but it looked way too large to explore easily on foot in limited time.
We had to catch a local bus from Berechtesgaden to Lake Königssee, which is only a few miles South of Berechtesgaden. Again there is about a 20 minute wait for the bus, not long enough to explore but awhile in the cold. Given pretty much everyone who was on the bus from Salzburg to Berechtesgaden was the waiting for the bus to Lake Königssee, it was somewhat frustrating that they didn’t line up. Eventually the bus arrived and it was only a short 10 min bus ride until we arrived at Königssee. Again the town of Königssee was bigger than what we had expected, but much more village like than Berechtesgaden. It was a short and easy 10 minute stroll through the town down to the boat departure point. Soren was being a typical 2-year-old and not wanting to walk when we were in a hurry to get down to the boat. Lucky he is cute!
Lake Königssee is the deepest (at a max depth of 190m) and cleanest lake in Germany. It’s renowned for it’s clear and still waters and stunning emerald-green colour. As we arrived at the dock, despite the cloud cover, it was living up to its reputation and it was tempting to wander around taking photos rather than getting on the boat.
However, we were already running way behind schedule for the day so figured we’d better not miss the boat and ruin any chance of seeing more than the jetty all day. The boat was fairly full but we managed to all find seats, and even a couple of window ones. By the time the boat pulled away from the dock it was packed. The boats that are used on the Lake are electric, and very quiet. The sheer mountain walls mean that the only way to explore the lake is by boat. However, you can get off the boat at one of the two stops and explore various hiking trails on foot. During Winter, the boat only stops once, at St. Bartholomä, which was where we were headed.
The sheer mountains rise straight up from the lake and were quite spectacular to sail past. As it was quite overcast and often raining during our trip out, the water wasn’t the brilliant blue it often is. It was still very obvious though that it was very clear. The water temperature in the lake only gets to a maximum of 15 or 16 degrees in Summer (so not ideal for swimming) and ices over about every 10 years. The lake last iced in 2006. There was currently snow on the mountain peaks but after a few warmish days there wasn’t a thick cover of snow. It still looked pretty spectacular though.
The boat ride out to St. Bartholomä takes around 40 mins. Part way there the boat stops, and the captain steps outside and plays his trumpet or flugelhorn, letting the sound echo back off the mountain walls. The lake is known for its echo clarity and the sound will often reverberate as many as 7 times. The captain plays along with the echo, making it sound like many more trumpets are being played. Everyone on the boat enjoyed listening to the performance (which happens on every trip). It didn’t make for quite such good photos though! The boat captain started out the commentary in both German, followed by English. By about half-way through the trip this turned into mostly German, and barely any English. I was keeping up with the German commentary until he spoke too fast and I got lost. After the English translations somehow got forgotten my German didn’t quite hold up and I only got about half the commentary and about half the jokes!
Astrid enojoyed the trip and happily chatted throughout, but a tired Soren was getting over it. We (along with most of the boat) got off at St. Bartholomä. The lake is almost 8km long and quite narrow, like a fjord (it was in fact carved by glaciers). St Bartholomä is about 2/3 of the way down the lake. In the warmer months, the boat continues down to the end of the lake and the stop of Salet. Most people stop at St. Bartholomä to check out the famous Baroque church of the same name, eat at the restaurant or do some hikes around the lake edge or up to a nearby ice cave. Even with a bit of a gloomy day, it was a stunning place to spend some time.
The kids were a bit hungry so we decided on a quick wander and some photos, while they snacked. There were lots of marked walking trails, taking from 15 mins through to 5+ hours. If the kids weren’t so tired and we weren’t rushing to get back to the salt mine would have explored for longer.
We ended up wandering for half an hour or so but it was raining/snowing and getting late so we had to make do with some short wanders around the lake edge near the church and visiting the ducks. Soren had fallen in mud and was really upset about his hands and snow boots being filthy. He then got mud all over the rest of us which was great towards the start of 8 days without washing.
The low cloud cover, and wind/snow/rain meant that the lake wasn’t at its most photogenic, but with the huge mountains in the background and interesting cloud cover I still got some pretty good shots.
Of course just as we were lining up for the return boat, the sun came out and I had to dash off and take a few quick shots. It was totally worth it, and I didn’t miss the boat! It was pretty easy to see when it was coming in….
There is a restaurant for food but most people were doing short walks then returning, similar to us. I did look longingly at the people doing the longer hikes as we were heading out. As a big storm was brewing, it turns out that being on the boat wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It also made for some amazing photos, even if we did have to get them from the boat.
Soren was a very tired toddler on trip back, and was needing to sit in the ergo to keep him and his muddy clothes out of mischief. Astrid was sitting a few rows away with Gramps and Mikl and we could hear her chatting non-stop. The trip back was also very scenic but we’d seen it all now and were willing the boat to go a bit faster so we could make our afternoon activities.
Just as we got off the boat Soren had a screaming tantrum that involved sitting in the mud and wailing at top volume. He was definitely making a scene. I decided to put him in the ergo since he wouldn’t walk or be carried. It took 3 adults to restrain him and he scratched me until I was bleeding and then he was asleep 2 minutes later. After almost a month of travel it was inevitable that he would finally lose it big time, but still not fun.
We decided to skip lunch (the kids had snacked on muesli bars and apples while at St Bartholomä) so we could make the salt mine before closing time. We got to the bus stop and had 45 minutes until the next bus (they run hourly). It was cold and partly raining so we decided to walk back through the village to try to find something quick to eat as a full sit down lunch was going to result in definitely missing the bus and any hope of the salt mine.
Alan, Astrid and I find a street crepe vender and decide to have crepes, nutella/banana and apfelmus. Anto and Mikl have a bratwurst. Anyone would think that our trip was sponsored by crepes and bratwurst! Soren was sound asleep on my chest so misses out as we damn well weren’t waking him up at that point.
After a quick eat and walk around the dock area while everyone but me (since Soren was still asleep on me) visited the bathroom facilities, we headed back to bus stop. It’s now sleeting and cold and my gloves are in one of the pockets under the ergo strap, not much fun! We have to be at mine by 3pm to make the last tour of the day, 5 minutes before the bus arrives Astrid announces she needs to go to the toilet (after going 10 minutes earlier) and the toilets are a 5 min walk away and the buses only go hourly….. we convinced her to hold on. The bus eventually shows up at 2.30pm and we hoped it was going to get us to the mine in time.
It’s about 10 minutes to Berechtesgaden, so things were looking OK. However, once we get there the next bus isn’t there. We check the time tables and 3 buses go past the salt mine but all leave at 3.15pm……. plans for the day are now shot and we still hadn’t had a proper lunch!
Soren is still asleep in the ergo, but we find a toilet for Astrid. So at least one of our problems was solved. We recalibrated our plans and decide there is no point stopping past the salt mine and decide to catch the bus directly back to central station and get a connecting bus out to the airport to go and see the Red Bull hangar which we had planned for the next day. With not much daylight left we figured we wouldn’t get much done in town.
Soren somehow sleeps in the ergo (on me) the whole 45 minute bus ride back to Salzburg. Astrid, on the other hand, talks the whole way. We got into central station about 4pm and again it’s another 20 minute wait until the airport bus connection. It was getting cold out (about 0 degrees now) so we walked into the train station to get a coffee and briefly warm up before getting on bus out to the airport.
I desperately needed to pee (since about 5 minutes before Soren went to sleep on me, many hours ago but don’t want to wake him. He stayed asleep on the airport bus, and had now been napping on my poor bladder for a very long time. We couldn’t remember which stop we were meant to get off at for the Red Bull hangar and the phone was being a bit slow loading maps and we managed to miss the correct stop and got off the bus about 2 stops too late. It’s a 2km walk in the dark back to the hangar and now very cold. There were pretty nice views of the mountains though, so aside from the cold it wasn’t an awful place to be.
According to the bus timetable, the buses back towards the hangar were every 10 minutes, so we thought we’d catch one back in the other direction the 2 stops. In keeping with our theme for the day, the bus didn’t arrive when it was meant to, and while we were all looking grumpily at the timetable trying to figure out where we went wrong, a helpful local pointed out it was actually a public holiday (Epiphany day) and it had taken us until 5pm to figure it out. By then it was only another few minutes wait until the next bus so when it arrived on time we rejoiced and hopped on. Soren was now awake (after 3 hours asleep on me) and we managed to hop off at the bus at the correct stop.
It was now very dark and cold, and we had a little trouble finding Hangar 7 as it wasn’t well signposted, and despite descriptions to the contrary, it was not visible from the main road. We did eventually get there, and once we were walking down the right street it hangar was immediately obvious with its changing coloured lights inside.
Hangar-7 is owned by Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz and is a showpiece hangar with a collection of 25 historical airplanes, helicopters and formula one racing cars. There is also a bar, cafe and a restaurant which hosts Michelin starred chefs on a rotating basis. Believe it or not, admission to the hangar is free! When you arrive, you are given your ‘boarding pass’ and can head in to the large hangar containing all the boys toys. Instead I opted to head straight to the bathrooms, and my goodness they were the most impressive bathrooms I’ve seen in a long time. Luxury unrivalled by even the bathrooms in the First Class lounges at airports! I could have moved in there. Instead I went and met up with the others who were checking out all the things that go fast.
When I met up with Anto and the kids, Soren was very scared, and shaking uncontrollably. We still can’t figure out why. It might have been the dark (the hangar was quite dimly lit) or the changing coloured lights, or possibly the large helicopters and planes. It’s normally the sort of thing he’d love but he kept saying he was scared and just wanted to be carried around holding on to me. In the meantime Astrid was having a wonderful time asking questions about everything. We did take photos but a condition of entry is not publishing photos of the inside of the hangar on social media or the internet. If anyone wants to see some though I do have some I can non-publicly share.
The range of ‘things’ (OK mostly things that cost a lot of money and/or go very fast in a dangerous way) was quite impressive. From world war II planes, through to rocket-man suits. From what we could tell pretty much all the exhibits were very well cared for & looked like any of them could be rolled out of the hangar and take off flying. There was an interesting progression of formula one cars, demonstrating the ‘battle’ between the rules and the engineering that goes into ‘working around’ the rules. Most impressively the space was really quite accessible & fairly um-museum like (although there was a reasonable amount of security guys wandering around to pounce if you did the wrong thing) you were able to get incredibly close to what must have been hundreds of millions of dollars of boy-toy machines.
I have little interest in racing cars, helicopters and planes but still found it an impressive place to visit. The set-up was amazing and you could see the amount of money that had gone into the vehicles on display. It was also totally different to anything else we had done on our trip. We ended up walking around for about 45 minutes. I think the boys could have stayed longer but Soren was still not happy and it was getting pretty late so we decided to head back into town for dinner. If we hadn’t have been traveling with children we would have booked a table at the restaurant, it’s meant to be spectacular, but not kid-friendly in either price or timing! If you are ever in Salzburg it’s worth checking out the Red Bull hangar, it’s something a bit different and totally free!
We had a cold walk back to catch the bus back into town. This time we had been smart and checked the bus timetables when getting off so actually managed to time getting to the bus pretty well. Of course we then didn’t manage to get off at the stop we thought we wanted in town. The bus didn’t seem to be going where we thought it should be heading, so we ended up with a longer walk into the Old Town than we had planned on. Poor Astrid was very tired and had walked a lot of kilometres and Soren was starving after barely eating all day. Despite his assertion otherwise, gummi bears are not really food!
Once we hit Old Town we tried to get a table at the ‘fox restaurant’ we had been to the previous night, but after waiting for about 15 mins and still not getting a table (and then being told there was a fairly long wait) we abandoned that idea and went a few doors down to an Italian restaurant, all starving and tired.
Our lovely waiter seemed to think we wanted a relaxing meal, when in fact we wanted food and alcohol and to be in and out quickly. Alan ordered cream of tomato soup and a tortellini with broccoli and ham. I had a vegie risotto, Antony had a capricosa pizza. Thinking pizza was a good idea Mikl had a goats cheese and salami pizza. We ordered the starving kids a lasange. Anto and I had a lot of wine, Mikl and Alan stuck to beer.
Figuring that we all deserved dessert after a long day, we shared a sacher torte, tiramisu and apple strudel between us. They were OK, but definitely not the best desserts of the trip. A tired Astrid was trying to sleep on the seat at restaurant so we carried her back to hotel (a little over 1km away).
We got back to the hotel about 8.30pm after a really long day. It had been a pretty good day overall, with some interesting places visited and some spectacular scenery, but also a day full of frustration and a lot of sitting around in the cold. We were a bit disappointed about not getting to see the salt mine but there was another salt mine closer to Salzburg we were going to try to visit the next day instead. Unfortunately that salt mine did not allow kids under 4 on the tours, so Soren wasn’t going to be able to go. Alan had volunteered to keep him amused, but as it turns out the next day didn’t entirely go to plan either!
Statistics for the 6th of January 2016 in Salzburg, Austria – the minimum temperature was minus 3 degrees, the maximum temperature was 3 degrees and the mean temperature for the day was 0 degrees. The weather in Königssee was almost identical. We did again managed to get snowed on! The total walking for the day was a tidy 12.5 km, Astrid walked all bar the last kilometre and earned her dessert that night!