By the time we left Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I was beat. We’d been in seven countries in the past three weeks, not to mention probably double the number of cities. I was ready to get to Salzburg and unwind (or maybe take a nap). But—spoiler alert—it took a day trip to Berchtesgaden to get that laid-back European experience I was seeking.
The weather lent itself well to sleeping, but not much else. It was cloudy and drizzled the two days we were in town and not at all the Salzburg I remembered from my first summer visit there when I was 20.
That could be my fault, as well. I had such fantasies of this quaint mountainside town, I’d forgotten what big a city it was (150,000 residents, plus throngs of visitors). In my dreamer mind, I envisioned a scene right out of The Sound of Music; in reality, it’s bustling with tourist traps and crowds of people.
You have been forewarned.
Still, it’s a city of grand architecture and churches, I’ll give it that.
And there were visions of Mozart, who was born in Salzburg, everywhere.
You’d think I’d soak up any last chance at eating all the strudel, but we didn’t even wind up going out to eat if that gives you a sense of how uninspired we were by this city. Instead, we located a SPAR in the train station and picked up some salami and cheese and nibbled all night.
Look, I’m not saying you should strike Salzburg from your list entirely—I’m often too quick to pass judgment and perhaps I’ll go back another time during Christmas market season and properly fall in love with the city for all its quirks—but I will tell you to pass through on a day trip and not spend too much time there if you’re on a tight schedule as we kind of were.
But here’s where things started looking up. As the weather did not appear to be improving anytime soon, we popped back over into Germany on a day trip to Berchtesgaden once more, where it was equally cloudy but offered a few indoor attractions that turned out to be the perfect way to beat the rainy day blues.
Our reasoning for picking this particular town just over the border from Austria was for its salt mines, but by the time we’d driven the windy hour through the mountains to reach Berchtesgaden, we were starving. A quick Google told me that Gasthaus-Cafe Graflhöhe Windbeutelbaron offered an awesome meal with a view, so that’s exactly where we were headed.
Google did not lead me astray! Hofbrauhaus Berchtesgaden was one of the best meals we had the whole trip and offered the perfect parting dishes from Bavaria.
And plenty of beer, per the norm. All with a view to boot.
This place is also not more than 10 minutes from Eagle’s Nest for those of you who plan to check out Hitler’s former stomping ground. That alone is worth the day trip out to Berchtesgaden. We tried but the lines were long, and we didn’t want to take a shuttle so we called it a day and headed toward Vienna, our final destination before our train departed for Budapest where we’d catch our return flight home.
But there was still one last stop to make before we got back on the road. My Austrian friend Helga had told me about these salt mines that we absolutely had to visit. Apparently, there are a number of them around the Austrian-Germany border, and we picked the one close by in the town of Berchtesgaden. Once I saw you got to go down slides within the mines, I was sold! Forever a child at heart.
However, I was initially terrified given my extreme claustrophobia and the fact that you ride a Seven Dwarves-like mining train into the bowels of the underground cave system. I almost backed out just as the train was leaving the station. But it was so cool, temperature-wise, inside as well as fascinating that I managed to brave the hour-long tour without so much as a minor panic attack! The sweet suits they made us wear helped, no doubt.
Two thumbs up and a pair of peace signs for Salzbergwerk Berchtesgaden.
And I’m happy to say we did eventually get our Sound of Music fix with an honest-to-goodness abbey in Melk, as well.
On our way into Vienna for dinner with Helga, we stopped at this town about an hour outside the capital, and it was a true gem, right off the autobahn, too.
We didn’t pay to get into the abbey—we’re cheap about stuff like that, I tell you—but you can walk around its outside without buying a ticket and then wander down into the cute town below.
There, we had one last beer, found a local potter from whom to buy our token trip souvenirs and called it a vacation for the books.
Have you ever revisited a place to find that it no longer held the same charm for you it once had?
Planning a trip to Austria and Bavaria? Start here:
- Planning an Epic Road Trip Through the Alps
- High-Altitude Adventure in the Austrian Alps: Hiking the Leutasch Gorge
- Planning a Trip to Munich for Oktoberfest