The region’s dramatic crescent of mountains and its picturesque islands, forests, and marshland have lured visitors for 2000 years. Today, prices have risen and the area has been overrun by resorts for the German nouveaux riches. Prien, the largest lake town, offers easy access to resort paradises Aschau and Sachrang, ski areas of the Kampenwand, and the surrounding curtain of mountains.
PRIEN AM CHIEMSEE. Located on the southwestern comer of the Chiemsee, Prien is a good base for exploring the islands. Trains depart from the station, a few blocks from the city center, for Munich (lhr. every hr. â‚¬12.40) and Salzburg (50min.per hr. â‚¬9). Ferries run from Prien to Herreninsel and Fraueninsel (every 40min. 7:15am-7:30pm, â‚¬6-7). To get to the ferry port, turn right from the main entrance of the Prien train station and follow Seestr. for 20min. or hop on the green Chiemseebahn steam train from the station (10am-6pm, every hr. round-trip â‚¬4). The tourist office, Alte Rathausstr. 11, dispenses maps and books private rooms for free. ( 690 50. Open M-F 8:30am-6pm, Sa8:30am-noon.) The Jugendherberge (HI) , Carl-Braun-Str. 66,isa 20min. walk from the station; go right on Seestr. and turn left on Staudenstr. which becomes Carl-Braun-Str. (687 70. BreaWast, showers, and lockers included. Reception 8-9am, 5-7pm, and 9:30-10pm Open early Feb.-Nov. Dorms â‚¬16.) To reach Camp-ingpl. Hofbauer O, Bemauer Str. 110, from the station, turn left on Seestr. left again at the next intersection, and then walk 25min. along Bemauerstr. heading out of town. (41 36. Showers included. Reception 7:30-llam and 2-8pm. Open Apr.-Oct. â‚¬6 per person, â‚¬5.10 per campsite.) Grab a cheap meal at BackereiCafe Muller 0, Marktpl. 8. (Open M-F 6:30am-6pm, Sa 6:30am-12:30pm, Su 7:30-10:30am.)
HERRENINSEL AND FRAUENINSEL. Ludwig’s palace on Herreninsel (Gentlemen’s Island), KonigsschloB Herrenchiemsee, is a shameless attempt to be larger, better, and more extravagant than Louis XIV’s Versailles. Ludwig bankrupted Bavaria building this place a few unfinished rooms (abandonee) after funds ran out) contrast greatly with the completed portion of the castle. (Open Apr.-Sept. daily 9am-6pm; Oct. 9:40am-5pm; Nov.-Mar. 9:40am-4pm. Required tour â‚¬5.50, students â‚¬4.50.) Fraueninsel (Ladies’ Island) is home to the Kiosterkirche (Island Cloister), the nunnery that complemented the monastery on Herreninsel. The nuns make their own marzipan, beeswax candles, and five kinds of liqueur, all sold in the convent shop. The 8th-century Cross of Bischofhofen and other religious artifacts are displayed in the Michaelskapelle above the Torhalie (gate), the oldest surviving part of the cloister. (Open May-Oct. llam-5pm. â‚¬2.)
BERCHTESGADEN. The area’s natural beauty and the sinister attraction of Kehl-steinhaus (Eagle’s Nestâ), Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, draw world travelers. The stone resort house, now a restaurant, has a spectacular view from the 1834m peak. From the train station, take bus #38 to Kehlstein Busabfahrt (7am-6pm, every 45min.); then catch bus #49 to Kehlstein Parkpl. (June-Oct. every 30min. 9:30am-4pm, â‚¬ 15). Be sure to reserve your spot for the return bus when you get off. (Open May-Oct. daily except heavy snow days.) Trains run every hr. to Munich (3hr. â‚¬25) and Salzburg (lhr. â‚¬6.60). The tourist office, Konigsseerstr. 2, opposite the station, has tips on hiking trails in the Berchtesgaden National Park. ( (08652) 96 71 50. Open mid-June to Oct. M-F 8:30am-6pm, Sa 9am-5pm, Su 9am-3pm; Nov. to mid-June M-F 8:30am-5pm, Sa 9am-noon.) To get to the Jugendherberge (HI) , Gebirg-sjagerstr. 52, turn right from the station, left on Ramsauer Str. right on Gmiind-briicke, and left up the steep gravel path. You can also take bus #39 (dir.: Strub Kaseme). ( (08652) 943 70. Breakfast included. Reception 6:30-9am and 5-7pm. Check in until 10pm. Curfew midnight. Closed Nov.-Dee. 26. Dorms â‚¬16.) For groceries, stop by the Edeka Markt, Konigsseerstr. 22. (Open M-F 7:30am-6pm, Sa 7:30am-noon.) The nearby Backerei-Konditorei Ernst, Konigseer Str. 10, has fresh bread and pastries. (Open M-F 6:30am-6pm, Sa 6:30am-noon.) Postal Code: 83471.
HIKING NEAR BERCHTESGADEN. From Berchtesgaden, the 5V&km path to the Konigssee which winds through fields of flowers, across bubbling brooks, and past several beer gardens affords a heart-stopping view of the Alps. From the train station, cross the street, turn right, and take a quick left over the bridge. Walk to the right of and past the green-roofed building (but not up the hill) and take a left onto the gravel path near the stone wall, then follow the Konigssee signs. Alternatively, take bus #41 from the bus station to Konigssee (round-trip â‚¬3.70). Once you arrive in Konigstein, walk down Seestr. and look for the Nation-alpark Informationstelle to your left, which has hiking info. To explore the Berchtesgaden National Park, take bus #46 from Berchtesgaden (15min. 6:10am-7:25pm, â‚¬2.10). Get off at Neuhausenbriicke in Ramsau, and head to the tourist office, Im Tal 2, for hiking maps. ( (08657) 98 89 20. Open July-Sept. M-Sa 8am-noon and l-5pm, Su 9am-noon and 2-5pm; Oct.-June M-F 8am-noon and l-5pm.)
This beautiful 2000-year-old city (pop. 51,000) embodies the ideal image of Old-World Europe. The capstone of Passau is the Baroque Stephansdom, Dompl. where cherubs sprawl across the ceiling and the world’s largest church organ, with 17,774 pipes, looms above the choir. (Open in summer daily 6:30am-7pm; offseason 6:30am-6pm. Free. Organ concerts May-Oct. M-F noon, Th also 7:30pm. â‚¬3- 5, students â‚¬1-3.) Behind the cathedral is the Residenz, home to the Domschatz, an extravagant collection of gold and tapestries. (Enter through the back of the Stephansdom, to the right of the altar. Open Easter-Oct. M-Sa 10am-4pm. â‚¬1.50, students â‚¬0.50.) The heights of the river during various floods are marked on the outside wall of the 13th-century Gothic Rathaus. (Open Apr.-Oct. daily 10am-4pm. â‚¬1.50, students â‚¬1.) Over the Luitpoldbriicke is the former palace of the bishopric, now home to the Cultural History Museum. (Open Apr. to Oct. M-F 9am-5pm, Sa-Su 10am-6pm; Nov.-Mar. Su and Tu-Sa 9am-5pm. â‚¬4, students â‚¬2.50.)
Trains depart for: Frankfurt (412hr. every 2hr. â‚¬65); Munich (2hr. every 2hr. â‚¬27); Nuremberg (2hr. every 2hr. â‚¬31); and Vienna (3Mshr. 1 per hr. â‚¬31). To get to the tourist office, Rathauspl. 3, follow Bahnhofstr. from the train station to Lud-wigspl. and bear left downhill across Ludwigspl. to Ludwigstr. which becomes Rindermarkt, Steinweg, and finally Grofie Messerg.; continue straight on Schusterg. and turn left on Schrottg. (95 59 80. Open Easter to mid-Oct. M-F 8:30am-6pm, Sa-Su 9:30am-3pm; mid-Oct. to Easter M-Th 8:30am-5pm, F 8:30am-4pm.) High above the Danube in a castle, the Jugendherberge (HI) , Veste Oberhaus 125, is 30min. from the station. Cross the bridge downstream from the Rathaus and follow the signs. (s49 37 80. Breakfast included. Dorms â‚¬16.) Closer to the center, the homey Pension RtiSner , Braug. 19, is downstream from the Rathaus. ( 93 13 50. Breakfast included. Singles â‚¬35; doubles â‚¬50-60.) The student district around InnstrafSe, parallel to the Inn River, is lined with good, cheap places to eat. Pick up groceries at Normas supermarket, Bahnhofstr. 16b. Get meat, baked goods, sandwiches, and salads at Schmankerl Passage , Ludwigstr. 6. (Open M-F 7:30am-6pm, Sa 7:30am-2pm.) Postal Code: 94032.