What I love most about the picture-postcard village of Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden – and our hotel, the Berghotel Rehlegg
– is the fact that the National Park is literally on your doorstep.
Here, in this archetypal Bavarian village, right alongside the Ramsauer Ache river, you not only find yourself steeped in culture and tradition, but with the Berchtesgaden National Park – one of the oldest protected areas in the Alps – all around you.
High mountains, deep valleys and crystal-clear Alpine streams define this protected area bordering Austria, in which the landscape, flora and fauna is allowed to flourish, just as nature intended. It’s not unusual to spy a golden eagle soaring above your head, and it’s arguably during the winter months that it becomes even more magical
than at any other time of year.
You don’t need to be a skier to enjoy the glorious, snow-covered scenery – this is a place for gentle strolls, rides in chair lifts to panoramic viewpoints, and horse-drawn sleigh rides through the forest. You can walk to picturesque Hintersee, a lake that has long attracted painters and poets, and I strongly recommend a visit to nearby Königssee, a quintessentially beautiful Bavarian Alpine lake that looked to me very much like the setting for a winter’s fairy-tale
You could also give snowshoeing or cross-country skiing a try, ride the chair lift to Hochschwarzeck for magnificent views, or visit the pretty town of Berchtesgaden itself, lying in the shadow of Hitler’s ‘Eagle’s Nest’. For an unforgettable encounter with local wildlife, though, I suggest you hop on the bus to Klausbachtal where, in a magical setting at the foot of the mountains, you can watch wild red deer and chamois feeding.
The reason for the feeding stations, I learned, is to protect the forest. In winter, the deer would leave the area that is now occupied by the National Park to seek nourishment lower down in the Alpine foothills where there was less snow. Surrounding roads and human settlement have made this more difficult today, meaning that the animals are forced to spend the winter on higher ground.
The winter feeding stations were therefore introduced to imitate the ‘lost’ lower feeding grounds, while avoiding damage to the trees and saplings from the browsing and rutting of deer. This means that, from December through to April, visitors are often treated to the sight of around 50 red deer feeding in the forest.
As if this wasn’t charming enough, your wintry walk to admire the deer can easily be combined with lunch at Auzingerhof, our favourite restaurant in the area. A favoured port of call for many a 19th- and early-20th century European artist, this place – with its atmospheric, wood-panelled dining room and 150-year-old wood-burning stove – offers authentic Bavarian hospitality and truly excellent cakes!