I’m writing from Munich, having just wrapped up three wonderful weeks of hut trekking in the northern limestone Alps of Bavaria (Germany) and Tyrol (Austria). We hiked through the Karwendel range, crossed over the rugged Kaisergebirge, toured the Berchtesgaden mountains, and traversed the Dachstein — sleeping and eating in alpine huts all along the way with a few stays in villages in between. Though not as tall as the central ranges of the Alps, these jagged limestone mountains boast ultra rugged profiles that rival the famous Dolomites in Italy.
Of course I have a heap of new photos that I’m eager to share, but that will have to wait until after the summer when I’ve got my real computer monitor to work on (and a place to live). For the remainder of the summer we will be on the road in Colorado, living out of our truck and backpacking as much as we can!
The final destination of our three-week northern limestone Alps tour in July was the Dachstein mountain range of Austria. Starting from near the Südwandhütte, above the lovely village of Ramsau on the south side of the range, we hiked for three days around and over the Dachstein to the famous village of Hallstatt on the north side, via the Hofpürglhütte, Adamek-Hütte, and Simony Hütte.
Berchtesgaden is a famous Bavarian mountain resort town in southeast Germany. The area is famous for the gorgeous fjord-like Königssee lake and the massive peak of Watzmann which towers over it. In July we spent three days relaxing around town waiting for the rainy weather to pass — which fortunately it [kind of] did — then we headed out on a three night hut trek around Watzmann via the Wimbachgrieshütte, Ingolstädterhütte, and Kärlingerhaus.
In July after our trek in the Karwendel we took a bus and train to the town of Kufstein, stocked up on some snacks, and started hiking into the Kaisergebirge, a small but incredibly rugged mountain range that rivals just about anything in the Dolomites as far as sheer jaggedness goes. This would be a shorter two-night trek but would prove to be much more strenuous than our previous one! We spent the first night at the Vorderkaiserfeldenhütte, the second at the Stripsenjochhaus, then climbed over the Wilder Kaiser range via the famous Eggersteig route and down to the village of Ellmau.
In early July after two weeks in Germany visiting Claudia’s family and friends, I was excited to go down to the Alps for some mountain time! Our first destination was the Karwendel range just north of Innsbruck, Austria. Over the course of 5 days, we hiked from west to east below the jagged spine of this range from the villages of Scharnitz to Pertisau, via the Karwendelhaus, Falkenhütte, Eng Alm, and Lamsenjochhaus. With reasonably short hiking days and not very steep trails, this was a perfect warm up trek to acclimate us to mountain trekking again for the first time this summer.
Six hours of train rides brought us from Freiburg to Mittenwald, the uber-quaint Bavarian village where we had stayed back in 2013 prior to climbing the Zugspitze. So in a way it felt like picking up where we had left off before — on that previous trip we had trekked through the Allgau and Lechtal ranges west of there, and now we would be trekking eastward.
The next day we started walking from the nearby village of Scharnitz, just over the border in Austria. A long but gentle forest road led to the Karwendhaus, spectacularly situated on the edge of a dramatic cliff overlooking the Karwendaltal valley. Coincidentally, shortly after arriving at the hut Claudia ran into four of her former classmates from her university days in Freiburg!
It started raining just as we arrived at the hut, but later in the evening everybody was thrilled to see the sunset light burst through the clouds in this spectacular display of light!
The next day we hiked further along the range to the Falkenhütte, located at another spectacular site underneath the massive vertical north face walls of the Karwendel.
This last week we’ve been in Dresden, Germany, visiting Claudia’s family there and seeing some of the plentiful historical and cultural sights this beautiful city has to offer. Here is a somewhat random collection of snapshots from our time there. (These were all taken with my iPhone, which is a photographer’s way of saying that I was too lazy to carry my real camera around!)
As you may have noticed if you follow this blog, during July and August of 2015 we spent a month traveling in the former Yugoslavian countries of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Croatia. I have finally finished processing my photos and have posted a gallery of my favorite photos from the trip.
After our travels in Bosnia and Montenegro, we made an epic train ride all the way from Sarajevo to Germany to visit Claudia’s family and friends and celebrate her sister’s wedding! We had fun visiting everybody and although I already greatly missed the Balkan wine, I was able to drown my sorrows in plenty of good German Hefeweizen! 🙂
The cobblestoned old town of Mostar is a must-see destination in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Its charming stone buildings line the Neretva River, connected by the high-arched Stari Most bridge (the one pictured below). This iconic bridge was originally built in 1566 under Ottoman rule, and is one of Bosnia & Herzogovina’s most recognizable landmarks.
The Stari Most bridge is not only a symbol of Bosnia & Herzegovina, but also of the tragic events of the Bosnian War and subsequent healing process. Mostar suffered greatly during the war in 1992-95 after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. This war is extremely complex to understand; but here’s the gist of it in a very basic nutshell, as I understand (keeping in mind that I’m no historian, I’m just an outsider trying to make sense of the history):
Since the world wars there were always deep nationalistic tensions between the Croats and Serbs; these tensions were suppressed under Tito’s rule under a unified communist Yugoslavia. After Tito’s death, poor economic times and lack of strong leadership led to a renewed rise in these nationalistic divisions. The Croats, who had felt persecuted under Tito’s regime, were eager to form an independent Croatia, while the Serbians viewed Yugoslavia as a type of “greater Serbia” and resisted the breakup of “their” territory. Bosnia (with its mix of Serbs, Croats, and Muslims) was culturally and geographically at the center this tug of war, and once Croatia and then Bosnia voted for independence, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and other Serbian paramilitaries responded brutally, occupying much of Bosnia and committing atrocities of ethnic cleansing not seen on European soil since WWII. United Nations forces were sent in to “keep the peace” by attempting to disarm both sides, but in reality their policy of “neutrality” meant that they did nothing while the much more heavily armed Yugoslav army continued their massacres.
In 1992 Mostar was attacked and bombed by the JNA (Serbs), until a UN-brokered agreement moved the JNA forces out. The defense of the city was left to the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croat armies, while Serbs from Mostar were forced to leave and many Serbian cultural and religious monument were destroyed. In 1993 the allied Croat and Bosniak forces turned against each other, due to the unwillingness of the Bosniaks to form a confederation of Bosnia and Croatia (with large parts of Bosnia carved off for the Croats), resulting in a brutal 11-month siege against the mainly Muslim east side of the Neretva River, which was almost completely destroyed though never captured. In November 1993, after 427 years of spanning the river, the beloved Stari Most bridge collapsed after tank shelling from the Croat side. In March 1994 the Washington Agreement was signed, which ended the Croat-Muslim confict. The broader war continued until finally NATO conducted air strikes that crippled Serbian networks and the Bosnian and Croat armies were able to retake large portions of land. In December 1995, the Dayton Peace Accords were signed, formally bringing an end to Bosnian War.
The Stari Most bridge was reconstructed in 2004, once again connecting the two sides of Mostar.