The Alps. This famed mountain range in southern Bavaria occupy a special place in the heart of every Bavarian. As I write this on the way north to Munich, each train stop adds more riders clearly on their way home after a day of hiking through their beloved Alps.
One of my favorite Alpine traditions is how locals refer to their "Hausberg" or ""Home Mountain." When taking to others, you'll often hear a Bavarian refer to a mountain peak to help their conversation partner orient to a specific place. And there's certainly a lot of pride and satisfaction behind their reference. Many of the “Trachten” Verein Clubs have the name of their “Hausberg” as part of their club name which is also embroidered on their Lederhosen.
On Saturday morning I boarded the train to meet up with my friends in Böbing. They picked me up at the station in Weilheim, just 45 minutes south of Munich. In the afternoon, we hiked a great little mountain, Kofel, near Oberammergau. Though it isn't particularly high in elevation (1341m or 4,400 feet), it offers a unique geographical form. The word ‘kofel' was the Celtic word for a cone-shaped mountain. At first glance, this craggy peak looks un-climbable without technical gear. However, we drove to the backside of this rock which abruptly juts out from the relatively flat surrounding plain. Every August 24 the Kofel is lit up with flames from a huge bonfire and a crown blazes on its peak commemorating the birthday of King Ludwig II of Bavaria on 25 August.
After parking the car, everyone donned the required "Bergschuhe" - mountain shoes. No serious Bavarian would think about going hiking in the Alps without the proper footgear! For a steeper climb, it's also common to see king poles in use.
The great thing about this trail is that the route is some 90% shaded. On a hot summer day, it's best not to underestimate the sun. The steepness of this path is also a challenge since it maintains at least a 45 degree slope for the 63 minute hike to the summit. And there is always risk involved: One portion of the hike involves crossing an avalanche field full of loose limestone rock. At one point, someone above us kicked loose a rock that almost took out one of us - you certainly need to pay attention to your surroundings!
The very last section of the hike involved climbing a up a sheer rock face. In this situation, a permanent cable was secured in the rock face to assist in the ascent, at the very top of the peak, like all peaks in Bavaria, a cross marks the actual summit. This particular one features Jesus on the cross akong with a book where the climbers can write a short message. We broke out a "Brotzeit" - a snack of fresh bread, pretzels, meat and cheese. And of course an Augustiner Helles for each climber! Oberammergau lay directly at or feet and Ettal is just around the corner. We spent a good 30 minutes enjoying the view, the food, a d the company. No one really wanted to hike back down, but all good things must come to an end. Working back down the face of the cliff was difficult, but the rest if the hike went much faster.
After a stop for Italian ice cream in Oberammergau, we went out for a late dinner at another Alpine hut (Alm) on the Bromberg Mountain. I had an excellent meal of venison medallions, red cabbage and Spätzle. We enjoyed the Riegele beer from Augsburg and then the owner joined us for schnapps at the end of the meal. Afterwards we returned home for a game of Mäxchen – sort of Liar’s Poker, but played with dice. Of course, the “loser” has to drink schnapps!