Departing Munich on September 9th, we took the S6 line towards Starnberg to begin our multi-day adventure on the King Ludwig’s Way (Konig Ludwig-Weg) a 75 mile long trail set up in 1977 to commemorate this most beloved of Bavarian rulers. Out plan was to split the journey into about four days of hiking, with a couple of nights camping and the balance staying in local inns.
Our first day out didn’t involve many miles, as we got a late start and were adjusting to the weight we were carrying. We made it as far as Andechs, site of the legendary monastery famous for their beer (http://www.andechs.de/nc/en.html).
The next day we camped in Diessen, on the western side of the Amersee, having taken the ferry across the lake from Herrsching, again making for a fairly short day on the trail. Our campsite faced the lake and the clubhouse was a nice facility, with food and beer for sale along with some number of video games, including a ping-pong table, which would lead to the only argument Joanna and I would have during our entire five months together.
Our individual versions of this incident will differ slightly, but the outcome was the same, Joanna got quite irritated over my highly competitive approach to our ping-pong endeavor and my subsequent display of an unsportsmanlike winning manner. She took off to cool down while I repaired to the camp bar to contemplate exactly how much trouble I’d gotten myself into. I noticed that they had a beer I’d not tried before, that is Spaten’s Optimator, a bottom-fermented “Doppel Bock” with a deep dark color and rich roasted malt flavor, clocking in at 7.5%. This beer, and its other Starkbier brethren, would feature largely in a trip I would take in 1999, to be recounted in a future post.
I finished my beer (or maybe two) and made my way back to the tent where I found Joanna. I can’t recall how we resolved our differences, but since we’re still married it is safe to assume we did so successfully. We broke camp the next day and set out for what would be our longest day of the hike, with a goal of trying to reach Hohenpeißenberg, about fifteen miles away.
This was a lovely day’s hike. The Weg is comprised of multiple surfaces and trail conditions. Much of it takes you through verdant farm and pastureland on paved and dirt roads. Some of it skirts small towns and you walk on a groomed path. Other times you hike through beautiful forests and along streams and rivers. The section that day would feature a little bit of all of them. The first part took us through forest as we wound our way about eight miles to stop in the Monastery town of Wessobrun, right around lunchtime.
One of the best parts of hiking the Weg is that it takes you in and out of small towns, so that getting food along the way is usually not a problem. We stopped for lunch at the Gasthof Zur Post, a tavern dating back to 1640 that was built outside of the monastery at the direction of the local abbot. I can still recall the delicious Schweinebraten (Pork Roast Bavarian Style) I enjoyed, a substantial meal that would hold me in good stead through a very long afternoon of hiking.
As the afternoon wore on, each step became a little harder and we found ourselves on a stretch of the trail that offered no small towns with lodging or camping facilities. We began to contemplate a night of wild camping, but without having brought food to prepare that prospect was not appealing. As the sun was setting, and we’d already walked a couple of miles more than we’d anticipated nor wanted, we saw a metal sign on a post directing us to the Gasthaus Forelle (Trout in German). We followed the arrow up a steep hill (we would ascend to the top the next day) and made our way to the Gasthaus, a welcoming refuge for the weary traveler.
We were probably the only ones staying the night, but locals who whiled away the evening playing cards populated the place. We had a nice meal, a few beers, engaged in some conversation and generally felt the peace that comes after a hard day that has been rewarded with a small degree of comfort.
The next day we did climb up to the top of Hohenpeißenberg Summit. Although a little under 400 feet high, it rises above the other foothills surrounding it, offering a fine view of the towering ranges close to the Bavarian and Austrian border. Home to a meteorological observatory, weather records have been kept there since 1781.
Working our way down the hill and we settled into what would turn out to be the most interesting, and possibly beautiful, stretch of the trail, a journey through the Ammer Gorge. At the midpoint the path follows the River Ammer and becomes a bit treacherous, as many small ravines must be navigated by crossing on wooden walkways, which become quite slippery in the moist environment, particularly so if you are carrying a fully loaded pack.
We climbed out of the gorge and finished the day walking through pastureland, finishing up in Rottenbuch where we camped for the night. The next morning we set out for the Pilgrimage Church of Weis, then on to Trachgau, a distance of about ten miles deciding to take a bus the rest of the way to Campingplatz Bahnwaldsee, outside of Fussen, where we would spend the next three nights here, camped near the shore of this small lake.
The first day was very warm, with deep blue skies and so a day off to lie around camp was called for. That night rain started falling and would continue for almost a week, leaving us to try and wait it out the next day. We hung out inside the common room of the camp, writing and reading making pots of coffee and eating what little food we had with us. By the third day we realized the rain was going to continue and so made the wet trek up the hillside to famous Neuschwanstein Castle, the magnificent baroque palace that Ludwig built, never to occupy.
On the seventeenth we arose to more rain and made the decision to head back to Munich, figuring that if we were going to camp in the rain, we might as well do so in a city where we could occupy our time in museums and in other indoor pursuits. And so a couple of hours later we found ourselves at Camping Thalkirchen, where we would spend an entertaining and eventful week, full of rain, Aussies and Kiwi’s, and a whole lot of Oktoberfest.
My thanks to two fine publications that have guided us on the Ludwig’s Weg both times we traversed it. Those being:
King Ludwig Way by Fleur and Colin Speakman – Cicerone Press (1987)
Tramping in Europe by J. Sydney Jones – Prentice Hall (1984)