Hiking the Maximiliansweg

I wanted to sleep.  I needed to sleep.  But, I was too excited to be going back to Germany to sleep.

After a couple of months of planning, Sylvia, a friend I grew up with in Germany and I were on a flight to Munich.  We were hiking the Maximiliansweg, a 226-mile trek through the Bavarian and Austrian Alps, starting in Lindau and finishing in Berchtesgaden.

The hike itself would take 21 days, but we would be in Germany for 37.  Might as well see all you can while you can, right?  Layover days were planned when there was something of interest, castles, villages we visited in our youth, white water rafting, incredible lakes, you get my point.

Seven hours later, we landed and found the train station just outside of the airport, we were headed Southwest to Lindau. The train ride was four hours long, and we were struggling to stay awake but, to get over jet lag the fastest way possible you need to stay awake as long as you can the first day and set an alarm for the next morning.

The first two days were spent exploring Historic Lindau and getting over the remnants of jet lag, day three the trek started.

The first days’ hike took us into Wolfurt, Austria.  The trek was not difficult, but it was a long day.  The next morning I searched for the trail sign, but could not find it.  An old farmer was walking down the road and pointed us in the right direction.  He then asked us to come back to his farm for some Schnapps, we politely declined and started towards Lingenau, Austria, our next stop.  This days hike gave us a good taste of what we were in for.

The first Hütte we stayed in was the Staufner Hause.  This was day three of the trek. A Hütte is a mountain hut with no access except by foot.  It is usually dorm style with up to 18 people to a room, and the only people in these huts are hikers and staff.  This day I was wondering what I was thinking when I decided to do the Maximiliansweg.  We did, however, sleep like babies that night, even with all the men snoring.

Our first layover day was day seven, we were in Schwangau, Germany which is the closest village to Neuschwanstein Castle.  At this point, a layover day was much appreciated and needed.  I have loved this fairytale castle ever since the first time I saw it in 1978.  Disney designed their castle after this one and it’s also the castle in the movie, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

Two days later we were at another one of King Ludwig’s castles, Schloss Linderof.

The next layover day was in Oberammergau, one of my favorite Bavarian towns!

Day 13 of the hike I will always remember.  It was Sylvia’s birthday, and as we rounded the corner on the final stretch to the town, I heard and felt a “CRACK.”   I had done something to my heal.  Later that evening as we sat outside eating dinner and having a few Weissbier we heard a bunch of cowbells.  Coming across the bridge through the center of town was a heard of cows going home for the night.

The beer numbed the pain that night, but the next day’s hike was rough.  Luckily it was another layover day on the Walchensee, a gorgeous freezing cold lake.

After a nice relaxing day on the water, we had a tough day ahead.  The destination was Tutinzger Hütte, another secluded hut in the middle of nowhere.  It was a slow go and all uphill, the trail was steep with a lot of boulders to get over.  Once we got out of the forest the storm hit.  We had just enough time to get on our rain gear before it came down.  It didn’t come down, it came sideways, you couldn’t see five feet in front of you and what was hitting you felt like ice. I had seen a farmhouse to our left as I was getting my gear on and that was the direction we headed.  The family was a bit surprised when we showed up, completely drenched, they invited us in, we declined, we were too wet to go inside.  Their older sone spoke English and asked where we were headed for the night, we said Tutinzger Hütte.  He said we would never make it before dark, it was another six to seven-hour hike.  Our best bet would be to head down to Jachenau. Once the rain let up, we headed to Jachenau.

Lenggries was the next town and another layover day, I had scheduled a white-water rafting trip down the Isar river.  This is the town where we met Carola Bartl while at our favorite restaurant in Lenggries.  Carola had us laughing so hard, I hope one day our paths cross again.  There was a couple who sat at our table one night, we struck up a conversation with them and as it turns out, the man was a CE and helped build Hahn AFB back in the 60s!  He said those were some of his favorites years, we totally understood.  Small world, huh?

Hiking day 22 brought us to the Mitteralm, another hut on the side of a mountain.  Before we could see the hut we heard music, a traditional German Oompah band.  I was smiling the rest of the way to the hut, and we stayed up way too late enjoying the music and Weissbier!

We cheated the next day!  After sleeping as late as we could, we took the little train down the mountain, hitched a ride to the next town, hitched another ride to the chairlift which dropped us off just over a mile from the Hochrieshütte.  This place had incredible 360˚ views!

The last hütte we stayed in before getting to towns with Gasthaus was the Hochgernhaus.  It was another cold rainy day, the room had no heat, hot water or outlets to charge phones.  We were soaked and shivering when we finally arrived, changed out of our wet clothes and crawled under the down duvets on each bed.  The only time we emerged from the warm down was to go downstairs and get a hot meal, then back to the warm beds we went.

The last day of hiking took us from Bad Reichenhall into Berchtesgaden.  It was a long but fairly easy hike and our pace had picked up.  We knew the end was just around the corner!  It had been a long five weeks with some of the most incredible views we had ever seen.  The last three days were spent going to the salt mines, touring the Eagles Nest (Hitler’s hangout) and eating as much German food as we could and enjoying the bier.

Would I do this hike again?  Absolutely!  I would change one layover day to the next town, not bring my big camera, (it stayed in my pack most of the time because of the rain,) and reduce the weight in my pack from 40lbs to 31lbs.

I’m searching for a long distance hike in Norway for 2019.  Who’s interested?


1 Response

  1. Superbly written and illustrated…I have been in most places and enjoyed the “retiurn” immensely…a must read!..

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