Yesterday we had spoken with Klaus Graf von Moltke about the deer rut, during which the peaceful herbivore red deer becomes, at least acoustically, a roaring lion. In fact, at night, with the window open, I could hear a deep roar from the nearby enclosure of the estate again and again. Incredibly such a voice, truly equal to the lion roar.
Early in the morning I walk, still a little sleepy, directly over to the enclosure to look for the culprit of my nocturnal “disturbance of the peace”.
Impressions from Gut Steinbach
It was cold at night, hoarfrost lies on the grass, and a gentle breeze of mist unfolds over the small lake of the estate (see picture above). Arriving at the enclosure, I watch the sixteenender’s head lifting again and again, accompanied by a long, deep roar and a jet of steam from his warm breath. His pack seems to have become accustomed to it and meanwhile calmly eats at the feeding trough.
Meeting with the tourism chief
My “feed manger”, the dining room of Gut Steinbach, is also already waiting for me. After breakfast, I have an appointment with Florian Weindl, head of the Reit im Winkel tourist information office. We meet in the Gut Steinbach lounge to kick off our round of talks. Our topics touch on sustainable mobility in the community and generally all the focal points of sustainable tourism development in Reit im Winkl.
The place lives to 80% from the tourism, which means that the guests of the place altogether 400 privately operated accommodations of all categories are available. Supported by government funding programs, the expansion of charging stations is now also developing, with the municipality already planning three new fast charging stations in the town. The larger hotels in particular are pioneers in the upcoming expansion of the charging infrastructure. However, the majority of the tourist accommodation on offer is provided by smaller hotels, guesthouses and vacation apartments. As far as energy supply is concerned, Reit im Winkel is a model community, at least in Bavaria, if not in Germany as a whole. Thanks to the initiative and vision of energy consultant Bernhard Stangls, it was possible to connect up to 95 percent of the houses in the village center to the local heating supply in 2000. The woodchip-fired power plant – also known as the Bürgerwerk – ensures the heat supply for the Steinbach estate, among others. Mobility is an important topic, whereby each municipality has different prerequisites. As a hiking region, mobility on foot is the top priority. For example, the municipality’s website features a remarkable 74 suggested tours, including five premium hiking trails. But bikers and e-bikers will also find attractive routes for their “rides” here.
After this information overture, Mr. Weindl invites me for a drive to the town center and provides me with comprehensive maps and brochures on the extensive tourist offerings.
Florian Weindl offers to take me on a tour of Aschau, during which he also shows me the municipality’s wood chip plant, which Reit im Winkel uses to operate its climate-neutral heating system. Despite the tight time budget, we decide at short notice to visit the Gstatter dairy sheep farm and sign up for this spontaneous flying visit to the farmer. We are welcome.
And so we drive together to the Naturland dairy sheep farm, located in the middle of the Chiemgau Alps between Chiemsee, Salzburg and Tyrol. We are lucky and meet the boss, Florian Gstatter, as he is about to let his large flock of sheep out of the stables onto the steeply sloping pasture for the last time this year. We immediately start talking about soft cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese, meat, but also about homemade vegetable soaps made from sheep’s milk. Products that are all available for purchase in the adjoining farm store. Florian opens the door to the barn during our conversation and out scurry 100 sheep in full wool.
We follow the animals on their way to the nearby pasture and in the process the sheep farmer comprehensively tells us everything worth knowing about sheep farming, his business concept and also – in a haunting manner – about his fight with the wolf. Six men were busy for fourteen days to erect a 1.2 km long, electrically secured fence around the two pastures, and this in impassable terrain. This would not have been possible without the state’s contribution to the costs. When the wolf tore the first time two of his sheep, he had probably still been lucky. It could have been ten or more, the farmer says. He still remembered how the carcasses had to lie stinking near the farm for an entire weekend from Friday to Tuesday in 40-degree heat, since no animal disposal was available over the weekend. We also learn that the narrow paint slips in blue color on the fence signal to the deer and wolves that caution was needed here. Red markings would not be recognized by wildlife. Another lesson learned. That’s why the markings on the roadside fence posts are also blue in color, he said.
After this impressive narrative at the “scene of the crime” we return to the farm, where the wife Sabine Gstatter welcomes us with a plate of sheep cheese, the farmer’s wife is responsible for the refinement of the sheep products. It is a pleasure to taste the delicacies. And as a farewell Florian Gstatter gives me a packet of pelletized fertilizer made from pure new wool. This sustainable fertilizer with a long-term effect is ideal for fruit, vegetables, lawns and houseplants. That’s what it says on the package.
Last stage to Berchtesgaden
It’s time for me to tackle the last 50 kilometers of the German Alpine Road to Berchtesgaden. And in terms of scenery, they are among the most beautiful of the entire route. I can see this right after Reit im Winkl, as the German Alpine Road squeezes through the Schwarzlofertal valley and then continues to follow the cut in the landscape in the Drei-Seen-Land, a swampy valley floor. Hardly any traces of civilization can be seen here; it could be somewhere in Canada. And so I look a little dreamily to see if there is not a moose in the water of Weit-, Mitter- and Lödensee.
My onward journey is framed by mighty white limestone mountains, one of which, the Rauschberg, is Ruhpolding’s local mountain. Nestled between mountain ridges, the popular resort lies below me, the German Alpine Road passes it slightly elevated with a wide view. Then it gets narrower and curvier again, until the next well-known resort is reached with Inzell. The place is known worldwide as a center for speed skating. From Inzell, the first section of the German Alpine Road towards Berchtesgaden was also started in 1933.
The vacation route turns sharply to the right just before Inzell and now really shows what a real alpine road is all about. It winds along steep rock faces and here you can marvel at the retaining walls from the first phase of the road project, which still relied on natural stone. When the road was being laid out, rocks buried under rubble were discovered that had been abraded in the shape of waves. In fact, these formations were created during the last ice age, when ice masses worked the rock as they slowly slid over it. Hard to believe: this natural jewel was saved only at the last minute, because initial blasting had already begun. Today, the Glacier Garden is a worthwhile stop right on the German Alpine Road.
The road now enters the Weißbach-Schlucht (White Brook Gorge), which is a mighty canyon overlooked by impressive mountain shapes. Rocky outcrops jut out from the road as if they were trying to grab the Q4 – but it skilfully curves around them all. The road now turns right to Schneizlreuth, descending steeply through the forest into the valley of the Saalach River, which is crossed on an old bridge. Tiny Schneizlreuth is dominated by a mighty white rock face that stands like a cathedral above the village’s little church.
The staccato of wild mountain landscapes continues as the next impressive large canyon leads up between mighty rock walls to Schwarzbachwacht. In this steep terrain, the road is protected by shoring, retaining walls and nets to keep it from falling rocks. The huge rock towers above me don’t seem to want to let the small gray ribbon of asphalt pass so easily. In bold sweeps and switchbacks, the road finally drops down into the valley to Ramsau. The little church of Ramsau against the backdrop of the white limestone horns of the Reiteralpe is one of the most famous photo motifs in the German Alps.
But I still want to look for some motifs off my route and steer the “Stromer” from Ramsau to Hintersee, a dreamlike mountain lake. Finally I reach Berchtesgaden, the destination of my journey and the end of the German Alpine Road. Almost, because I also decided to take the Rossfeld-Höhenringstraße on my e-trip, which was built in the 1930s by the National Socialists as a prestige project. Sixteen kilometers of mountain road take me up to 1,570 meters and are peppered with views. The Audi Q 4 e-tron is once again allowed to unleash its brawny power and recuperate electricity on the descents. It will miss this in the future, because compared to the German Alpine Road, many flat stretches will just seem boring to it. Just like me.
Text: Elmar Thomassek
Three pictures Gut Steinbach: Tobias Hertle
Picture Forsthaus Gur Steinbach at night: Klaus Lorke