The super cute German mountain town where teenagers still climb the Maypole for their beloved.
Berchtesgaden is both the name of a small Bavarian old town and the name of a whole region (Berchtesgadener Land) in Germany, famous for its beautiful National park. This post is going to be about Berchtesgaden the town, although I did also get to experience some the Berchtesgaden nature while road tripping around Austria with my boyfriend in April 2019.
We were trying to escape the rain in Salzburg by driving across the border to Germany, since Salzburg is located right next to it. Fun fact, the roads in Germany are significantly wider and more driver-friendly than the ones in Austria, which becomes really apparent as soon as you cross over. The beauty of the Berchtesgaden region also strikes you quite soon across the border, although Austria’s mountainous landscapes are equally lovely, so it’s more of a slow change.
One of the first things I noticed on the way to Berchtesgaden was a pale green river flowing along the road and the colour was so beautiful I kept bothering my boyfriend to stop somewhere by the road. We only managed to stop on the way back when it was already raining, but these just might be some of my favourite photos from that trip:
We drove deeper into the region and, although we were primarily headed to Könnigssee, we decided to stop at Berchtesgaden too, because the town looked so pretty from the road. That turned out to be a quite rewarding decision, as Berchtesgaden mainly consists of the old town section and the whole town looks cute as a button. It is one of those Bavarian mountain villages with colourful Rococo houses, disgustingly cute facade paintings, lots of flowers and details and of course, the mandatory tracht (Bavarian traditional dress) and lederhosen. Although it is worth visiting for the vintage Alpine commercial vibe alone, Berchtesgaden and the surrounding area are also historically significant in terms of the Bavarian kings and World War 2, as both Hitler and the royal families liked to vacation there.
Impressions of Berchtesgaden old town
Since we were only there for a short visit, we went for a walk around the town centre and climbed the stairs up to the Christuskirche church on the hill for the view. Berchtesgaden has quite a few churches and apparently there’s a trail connecting all of them – we didn’t really follow it, but I’d say we found most of them while exploring the town. We also found the Schlossplatz, an open square in front of the pink Wittelsbach family residence, who were the Bavarian royal family for quite a while. Both the Berchtesgaden castle and the Stiftkirche church attached to it are open to the public and there are some arcades with shops and interesting WW2 murals on the opposite side of the square as well.
While we were wandering around the town, we encountered a wedding and a group of people was cheering on one of the kids, who was climbing the Maypole set up for the 1st of May holiday. Apparently it’s a local tradition to climb the Maypole and bring down a ribbon for your sweetheart and the kid actually made it to the top of the smooth wooden pole due to sheer muscle strength and determination.
Besides the wedding party there were almost no people around. Berchtesgaden and the surrounding area are normally quite popular with tourists, particularly in the summer, so we got extremely lucky with our visit, since it was an April Saturday afternoon with gloomy weather. I can imagine the town is not half as charming when packed with tourists, so try to visit out of season to have the best experience, even if the weather is not picture perfect. You can always go for a beer at the local beer hall (Hofbräuhaus Berchtesgaden) or visit the nearby Berchtesgaden salt mine.