The Watzmann in Germany - near Berchtesgaden

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[ source: Wikipedia]

The great alpine mountain Watzmann in Germany possesses a perfect, balanced beauty. Watzmann appeals to the climber and its surroundings, valley, town and lake, appeal to anyone interested in nature at its most sublime.

The Largest Mountain Contained Within Germany

The majestic Watzmann rising beyond the North German town of Berchtesgaden (Berchtesgaden vacation rentals | Berchtesgaden travel guide) looks like an image from a fairy tale. Indeed, the mountain is associated with a fairy tale of its own. King Watzmann was an evil ruler stoned to death, along with his family, by the farmers of the valley. As the stones covering his body accumulated, the mountain grew and grew until it was the highest peak within sight.

While the story is a fanciful, if violent, one, the great size of the Watzmann is in no doubt. The highest mountain contained entirely within Germany, it makes a part of the alpine border with Austria. The beauty of the mountain and the rest of this part of northern Bavaria has long attracted visitors. Some come to climb the slopes; others to see the town and other sights at a somewhat lower altitude.

Climbing Watzmann

Watzmann is a popular climb for mountaineers. The north approach tends to be less difficult than the east face, which has long had the reputation of a particularly rough climb. The ascent up the north side can take a talented and experienced climber just a day. Those less confident, however, should allow themselves more time. Cables and other permanent fixtures aid in the climb up the slopes.

King Watzmann's Kin

Just a little lower than the great heights of Watzmann are several very picturesque lower peaks. These mountains, called Walzmann's Wife and Walzmann's Children, derive their names from the myth of the evil king.

An Exceptional Park

The Berchtesgaden National Park, which incorporates Watzmann, offers many nature activities beyond climbing. The Konigsee, a five-mile long glacier lake of beautifully clear water, presents the chance for placid boating. Surrounded by echoing mountain walls, the lake gently leads to St. Bartholomew, a pilgrimage church. The current structure dates from the late 17th century. For hikers not interested in a big ascent, there is a network of paths throughout the less mountainous areas of the park.

Remnants of a Bitter History

Berchtesgaden, the town resting at the feet of Watzmann and its massive neighbors, has been a destination for tourists since the early 19th century. It was then that Germans, in emulation of the Bavarian royal family, made the pretty town a fashionable place to vacation. In the 1920s, the National Socialist party bought a retreat called Obersalzberg just above Berchtesgaden. Their presence dominated the area until the end of the war.

Documenting the Past

Watzmann and Germany still both bear the marks of Hitler's deranged nationalism. A museum concerning the National Socialist presence in and around Berchtesgaden stands on the site of the Berghof, Hitler's former guesthouse in Obersalzberg. Another nearby location significant to the tragedy of Hitler's rise is the Kehlsteinhaus, or Eagle's Nest. This was Hitler's private getaway. Still standing, this building operates as a restaurant and is a very popular draw for travelers. Tours address the historical role of the building.

About this Article

Bettina Kraft

This travel guide has been written by
  Bettina Kraft.

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Location, Map, and Driving Directions

Location: Watzmann, Germany

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