Munich to Salzburg via Herrenchiemsee

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Munich to Salzburg via Herrenchiemsee

All the way from Munich to Salzburg (90 miles), you are on the A8. Going direct, the journey takes an hour and a half. Until the last few miles in Austria the day is spent entirely in Bavarian territory. The possible side trip to Schloss Herrenchiemsee is described here. For details on King Ludwig II, see notes "Excursion to Linderhof and Neuschwanstein." For the alternative side trip to Berchtesgaden and the salt mines, see Salzburg notes "Hellbrunn and Berchtesgaden."

Apart from these excursions, there is nothing of specific interest en route except for a short stretch along the southern shore of the Chiemsee. From about Rosenheim onwards (40 miles) you run parallel with the impressive outlines to the south of the Chiemgau mountains, averaging about 6,000 feet, followed by the taller and craggier Kaisergebirge and then the Berchtesgadener Alps. In the low valleys and foothills, there are numerous pretty but unexceptional villages with onion-dome churches.

Chiemsee (52 miles) is sometimes known as the Bavarian Sea. Covering 32 square miles, it is the biggest all-German lake in southern Germany. Its depth reaches 300 feet. There are trout, eels, tench and salmon (on their way from the Black Sea to spawn in the Alpine streams) to be found here. The banks are fringed with reeds and rushes. The atmospheric lake with its changing moods between summer and winter, morning and evening, etc., inspired a school of German painters, the Chiemsee school, more or less equivalent to the French Impressionists. From the road you can make out the two islands but you can barely see the Schloss. The small motorway service station has a claim to fame in that it is the world's first.

If you are taking the side trip to Herrenchiemsee, turn off the motorway for Prien (2 miles). This is a pleasant enough town from where you take the boats to the islands in the lake. Boats go fairly regularly but you should check the timetables in advance. There are two main islands, the small Fraueninsel with an old convent and the Herreninsel with the great unfinished masterpiece of King Ludwig II. You want the latter only. There are several possibilities for lunch by Prien-Stock landing-stage. Otherwise there is a restaurant on the island near the dock. The boat trip takes 15 minutes. From the dock, it's another 10 minutes on foot to the Schloss. (There are horse and buggies as well.)

In the Altes Schloss (not visitable) on the Herreninsel, the Grundgesetz, the foundation law of the German Federal Republic, was drawn up and signed in 1949.

Schloss Herrenchiemsee was Ludwig's attempt to recreate Louis XIV's palace of Versailles. A detailed description is not given because you will have a guided tour (about 35 minutes). Money ran out in 1886, the same year that Ludwig died, so the palace is unfinished. He had lived here for only a week. Of the finished rooms the Spiegelsaal or Hall of Mirrors is the most spectacular. If you know Versailles you will recognize it instantly, as you will recognize the main facade and the Latona fountain in the gardens.

The remaining 40 miles or so to Salzburg are very beautiful, in the shadow of the mountains. There are no individual items of particular interest until you reach Salzburg.

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