THE HILLS ARE ALIVE
It’s one of those moments that screams, “How did I get here?” The methods of transportation are easy to explain: a 10-hour flight from Vancouver in one of Lufthansa’s finest aircraft (see sidebar), followed by a two-hour bus ride into the mountains on a road that feels a bit like if the Sea-to-sky and the Highway to Hell had a baby. But the view of Southeast Germany on a clear May afternoon is another matter.
Below me are rolling hills as far as the eye can see; The Sound of Music was filmed a half-hour drive from here. About a kilometre above stands a small house at the apex of the mountain range. Called Kehlsteinhaus, it’s known in English as the Eagle’s Nest and was a wellknown gathering place for the Nazi Party.
This is the scene at Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden, up the road from Munich, Germany’s third-biggest city. The comparisons between Berchtesgaden, with its population of some 7,600, and Whistler are obvious: it’s a top ski destination surrounded by pristine bodies of water, and tourism is the lifeblood of the economy.
But B.C.’S favourite winter wonderland lacks the old-timey charm of Berchtesgaden. And while some aspects of the Bavarian retreat’s history are undoubtedly regrettable (thanks to historical museum Dokumentation Obersalzberg and its 170,000 visitors in 2017, the village doesn’t shy away from its past), others have aged well.
A trip across a lake named Königssee, for example, yields the Church of St. Bartholomä, built in the 12th century, plus a family-run food stand specializing in smoked trout on a bun. ( Just don’t ask for Wifi.) The right to fish in the lake is passed down from generation to generation, with only one person holding the right to catch at any given time. Not a bad business model.
Speaking of which, two other notable commercial endeavours in the region that have stood the test of time are lederhosen clothier Engelbert Aigner and the Grassl distillery, which specializes in schnapps.
The former is another family business, though instead