Our next stop was Berchtesgaden, the very south east corner of Germany that juts out in to Austria. Our campsite was nestled at the bottom of the ‘Sleeping Witch’ mountain, which provided a moody backdrop to our first night there.
Having again arrived on a Saturday, we pottered in to Berchtesgaden on the Sunday not expecting to see much but keen to stretch our legs. We arrived at lunch time and annoyingly it looked like we’d just missed a big event of some sort. There were loads of people milling about in traditional dress and lugging big flags back to the car park. A shame to have missed it.
We had a quick wander around the small town centre and found more beautifully painted buildings, but the threat of rain drove us in for lunch. And what a lunch! I’d been dairy free for three weeks to test for a dairy intolerance in Stan and needed to test for a potential reaction, so pizza seemed as good a test as any.
The reviews for this place were really good, so we put our reservations aside as we sat down in a marble hotel lobby with the kind of furniture you’d find in a Scottish retreat. The pizza was indeed excellent (ham, pepperoni and blue cheese!), but trying to control Evelyn in the stuffy environment wasn’t and we made a swift exit with toddler whinges echoing off the high ceilings. It was only after leaving we discovered an outdoor brasserie around the other side of the hotel. Oops.
While we were out and exploring, we headed to Ramsau, a small village on the edge of the national park listed in the local guide. Surrounded by mountains and with the weather closing in, it had a moody charm to it. It also had a playground, where I think Evelyn has had her most scenic play to date!
On Monday we headed in to Austria to visit Hallstatt. After the washout of Innsbruck, we were keen to see what else it had to offer.
Hallstatt is a small town on the edge of a vast alpine lake, and it is stunning! It’s also incredibly popular with tourists, and the geography means there is limited parking in the town so we had to drive over a mile past town to then park up and walk back. While the heatwave had subsided, it was still a sweaty foray.
It did however give us plenty of chance to admire the lake, and the crazily steep funicular we could see running up the mountainside to a cantilevered skywalk. We love a funicular (even if I do hate heights) so headed there first.
This was by far the steepest one we’d ever been on. I was just starting to get used to them, but this one felt like it was being dragged vertically up the mountainside. I dreaded coming back down on it.
But the view was totally worth it. The skywalk stood out above Hallstatt giving an amazing bird’s eye view down on to town, and right across the lake. We queued for the obligatory photo at the pinnacle, waiting impatiently behind the #InstagramWankers; pouting, fawning and peace signing their way through endless photo shoots. Spotting them has now become a bit of hobby of ours, as girls in floaty dresses and full make up pose dramatically in front of points of interest. As people who still can’t bring ourselves to own a selfie stick, this level of vanity seems absurd, but when searching the sites on insta, the posts are full of these staged beauty shoots. Anyway, you can tell I’m just bitter because they keep getting in the way of my photos – toddlers don’t like waiting patiently for someone to pout through 500 photos.
After making our way back down the terrifying funicular, we wandered around the beautiful old town and stopped for a lakeside drink at a very posh hotel bar, again watching in wonder as people pouted and blue-steeled against every elegant piece of furniture or interesting doorway.
We weren’t sure that anywhere could could top Hallstatt in the natural beauty stakes, until the next day when we went to Koningssee. Kings lake is a huge, crystal clear lake, surrounded by steep mountains so you need to travel by electric pleasure boat to see it. It’s one of those places you can’t help but say “wow” every couple of minutes, the scenery is stunning. The boat stops along the way for the captain to play a tune on his trumpet, for it to be echoed back from the steep mountain walls.
At the far end of the lake you can walk a further 20 minutes (unless you’re with a toddler who wants to climb every rock in sight) to Obersee, if possible an even more stunning lake than Konigssee. By the time we made it there we only had time for a quick paddle before needing to get the hour long boat back, but could easily have spent the day swimming in the clear water and marvelling at the Tolkienesque mountains.
After 3 days out, a car free day was needed and we spent the next day pottering around the campsite, with Evelyn making the most of the playground and working on her balance bike skills.
On Thursday we headed back in to Austria again, this time to Salzburg. The weather looked hit and miss so we headed off early, hoping to get our sightseeing done before the rain. Despite the drive there, being in a city so early was lovely as we avoided the heat of the day and the crowds. Well apart from the #InstagramWankers in front of the baroque fountains in full evening gown with photo crew. Professional shoots are also a thing now apparently.
Another day, another funicular, although this one thankfully not as perilous as the last. We had a good explore of the castle and back down to the old town, before stopping in a beer garden for lunch. The storm the forecast had promised failed to materialise and it was baking hot, so Evelyn took great delight in playing in the babbling pavement fountains, much to the amusement of everyone else in the gardens.
With the weather forecast to be miserable, we’d hunted for indoor activities for the afternoon, and headed to Hangar 7 still despite the better weather. Owned by Red Bull, it pitches itself as a home to planes, art and connoisseurs. It houses the Flying Bulls plane collection, Red Bull’s formula 1 cars and a Michelin starred restaurant, hosting a different top chef from around the world each month. We’d have stopped for lunch, but at e185 a head for the tasting menu, I don’t think they’d have appreciated Evelyn’s babybel and ricecake “nicnic”.
Although not something I’d normally have chosen to go to, I found the place fascinating. The hangar has won architectural awards itself, and having heard about the Flying Bulls at a brand event with their marketing director, seeing all the planes and the race cars was really interesting. And it’s free!
Friday was another chill day as we packed up ready to move on to Slovenia.
Saturday ended up more eventful than anticipated. I’d booked months ago, and double checked prices since we straddled the end of low season on our camping discount card.
When I went to pay the total sounded very high. I asked for an itemised bill and was told that would come on the receipt and the campsite owner insisted I paid first. I asked her to explain what she had charged for and she got very defensive, banging her fist on the counter and demanding I pay.
I showed her the email chain and said I would calculate it myself. At this point her daughter joined us and tried to calculate it by hand, getting to a totally different price.
She’d charged us for eight nights, despite us booking and staying for seven. She insisted that’s what we booked even after I showed her the email, as that’s what’s she’d written on her scrap of paper.
She’d charged us for all the electricity we’d used, despite some being included in the price on some days.
She also charged us 4e a night for Evelyn (age 2.5) despite their kids price starting at 3. Her date of birth is 2016 on the tourist registration form, so apparently this makes her 3. I offered to show her passport. She made out it was a tourist board thing and tax. When I challenged why a child’s tax was more than adults (2.5e) she admitted it wasn’t tax but their own price. But still wouldn’t budge despite me again proving that I’d stated her age in the email (they hadn’t asked for a DOB, or explained it was their policy to round up ages).
She also hadn’t deducted our 25e deposit.
The owner and her daughter couldn’t even agree on a total between them, but by my calculations she was 90e over so not insignificant to quibble over.
I said I’d go away and calculate it myself based on her email prices and come back. She threatened to phone the police.
Luckily I’d paid the deposit by PayPal, I didn’t trust them just handing over cash, and obviously couldn’t pay on card as she wouldn’t accept my price, so paid the balance to their PayPal so I have proof.
I detailed my breakdown in a reply to the booking email and included a screenshot of my PayPal payment to them.
I went back in to reception and mentioned the email and payment, but she was apparently on the phone to the police.
We left the campsite and haven’t been tracked down by Interpol yet, but we’ll see if our fugitive status is recognised in Calais in a couple of months!
Looking at reviews from other people afterwards, it appears she has form on overcharging, threats and obnoxious behaviour. She obviously hadn’t heard of Geary service rage!
Where we stayed
(Really, just don’t…)