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Konigssee, Bavaria, Germany

Also known as: Konigssee Lake

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For an authentic Bavarian Alps holiday, nothing quite compares to the Konigssee. Stretched below the east face of the famed Watzmann mountain range, narrow, deep and crystal-clear Konigssee offers spectacular views, exciting sports and luxury lodgings surrounded by history. The lake itself is a part of the Berchtesgaden National Park and as such is protected from motor boats and fishing. Much of the shoreline is inaccessible on foot due to the steep mountains surrounding it. An historic church on the west bank, St. Bartholomew, can only be reached by water. Pilgrimages to St. Bartholomew by electric cruise boat have been popular since 1909. These electric cruise ships are the only true way to view the fjord-like Konigssee and the surrounding scenery in all its glory. The reflection of the white church with its red domes amid the surrounding peaks is a photographic opportunity few visitors can pass up.

Cruises on the Konigssee are the primary attraction to the lake itself. The most popular cruises include a visit to St. Bartholomew church for such special events as traditional Christmas story readings during the holiday season. Other cruises feature such events as musical evenings at St. Bartholomew or smoked trout 'fishing trip' dinners at the small inn and restaurant next to the church. The restaurant is a former castle; the peninsula also contains a fish smoke-house. Other cruises focus on romance getaways, and most feature at least a blast on the flugelhorn at the famous point where the lake's rock walls can create up to seven distinct echoes. In former times, a cannon was shot off to reverberate among the rock faces. Most cruises pass small Christlieger island located near the northern end of the lake. Visitors taking the cruise to the church on its small peninsula frequently use the opportunity to hike the surrounding trails and sometimes visit a nearby ice-cave. By taking the cruise boat to the south end of the lake, hikers can cross the Salet moraine, to smaller Obersee Lake with its 1,540-foot high Rothbach waterfall. The Obersee feeds the Konigssee via the Saletbach.

Konigssee means 'King's Lake' in German. Germany hasn't had a king for many years, but locals and visitors alike enjoy the distant reference to royalty. For Konigssee is truly fit for a king; vacationers and tourists enjoy a taste of royal treatment in the many lodgings and spas in the town of Schonau am Konigssee which serves as gateway to the beautiful Berchtesgaden National Park. Schonau am Konigssee takes its role as host seriously, making sure that there are lodgings and eating establishments available to meet every taste and plentiful outdoor activities and sports nearby. Here one can rent row boats and paddle boats, although the long 12-mile shoreline is best left to the professional cruise operators. The waters of Konigssee are cold, fed by glacial run-off, so most visitors do their swimming in one of the many swimming pools offered in town. Fishing is available in the immediate area, just not on the lake. The Konigsseer Ache (River) is one of the more popular trout fishing streams in the area. Appropriate permits are required, of course.

Hiking and mountain biking near the lake are extremely popular. There is no shoreline trail due to the steep mountain walls, but the entire area is filled with unique hiking trails to picturesque overlooks. The most adventurous come here to climb the east face of Watzmann Mountain- the third tallest in Germany. Watzmann is not a climb for amateurs; it has claimed many lives, and a local guide is strongly recommended. A permanent icefield exists below the peak while another, the lowest-lying permanent snowfield in the Alps, extends down to 3,500 feet in elevation and can be reached with about an hour's walk from St. Bartholomew. Usually referred to as an 'ice cave', the formation is created by avalanches sliding down the side of the mountain where they are caught by an angle in the rock, forming a vault. The resulting cave is a popular attraction but somewhat dangerous due to falling ice. A less strenuous way to climb the local mountains is to take advantage of the cable car to reach the summit of Mount Jenner. The gondola ride begins near the shore of Konigssee and operates both in winter for skiing and in summer for hiking and touring.

Summer is the most popular time for visiting the alpine nature reserve of Berchtesgaden National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Over 100 miles of walking trails allow visitors to enjoy a landscape that has remained the same for thousands of years. Here, eagles soar above, while deer and stag roam the forests and chamois scale rocky outcroppings. Protected flora such as eidelweiss, gentian, herbs and mosses delight nature observers, and researchers study the unique climate and landscape on an ongoing basis. Those desiring a more adventurous holiday can go paragliding or guided rafting. Likely as many visitors arrive in winter to take advantage of a mid-winter break to enjoy the spas, ski or engage in some of the more breathtaking activities Schonau am Konigssee has to offer. The resort town is famous for its bobsled runs, luge and even its skeleton track. Skeleton is a fast-moving sledding sport performed lying face-down on a small sled on an iced track - not for the faint of heart. Other activities will please the less-adventurous, including cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ski lessons at the ski school or even a ride on the 'bob-taxi': a bobsled ride behind an experienced operator who maintains control.

Schonau am Konigssee has all types of lodgings to provide just the right holiday for every family. The large number of hotels are paired with health spas, inns, bed and breakfasts, private lodgings, farm-stays, self-catering apartments and campgrounds. There are even golf courses nearby. So whether your tastes run to full-service pampering or a prime spot in an caravan park overlooking Konigssee, you can reserve the perfect spot for your Bavarian Alps holiday. Something at Konigssee will be just perfect for your next getaway. We hope you can make it soon!

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