This tour takes us southeast of Munich via the autobahn, direction Salzburg. But rather than go directly there, we make a special stopover in Berchtesgaden. Though the autobahn already provides an enchanting view of the Bavarian countryside, the trip over the winding mountain roads that lead to Berchtesgaden is particularly scenic.
Shortly out of Munich the autobahn passed the headquarters of MBB, which stands for Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm. It is one of Germany’s leaders in modern technology and – as the name suggests – was formed by the merger of here older firms.
During World War II, the Messerschmitt Company manufactured the famous fighterplane, Me 109, and the first jet-propelled aircraft in mass production, Me 262; both planes are on display in the German Museum in Munich. Today the giant firm manufactures helicopters and weapons, makes major parts of the European passenger plane, Airbus, and developed two successful solar satellites, known als Helios. MBB also created a rapid transit system, which included MBB, created Spacelab, which is put in orbit by the American.
The southern half of Munich is surrounded by forests, and the autobahn to Salzburg was cut through the Forest of Hofolding. Though originally the forests around the city were maxed with spruces, oak and beech trees, by 1800 they consisted nearly only of spruces. For hundreds of years before, farmers had driven their pigs, cows and goats into the woods to let them graze and eat the fruits and nuts. But the animals also discovered that the young sprouts of the deciduous trees were especially delicious. The young shoots had no chance of survival, and eventually only the older trees survived. Only the spruces, with their prickly needles, continued to grow. This fast growing tree was discovered to be a very valuable natural resource, and the tendency of the survival of the fittest of the forest was further advanced by reforesting spruces only. When very densely planted, spruces grow quickly and straight toward the light. After some 20 years the forest is thinned, and the remaining trees grow in diameter. Today there is an attempt to return the forest to its original state, but instead of cows and pigs, an overpopulation of hungry red deer again makes survival of the young deciduous trees difficult. Hunting in Germany has very strict regulations. Not only is a hunting license required, but he future hunter must attend a special course and pass an examination in order to get one. The exam requires an extended knowledge of forests, including all the plant and wildlife. This is necessary because, once the hunter holds a license, he is responsible for the care and protection of the plants and animals in his designated territory, and must replace old or sick trees, feed animals in winter, etc. Each hunting territory has a minimum size, and the state authority dictates the number of animals that may be shot there. Hunting fees are extremely high. Hunting game is not as popular a sport as hunting mushrooms. For that, no license is necessary, but a lot of knowledge and a good eye are essential to tell the good guys from the bad – the difference could be fatal! Mushroom fans have their secret places where they fine their favorite species. Local experts in the different quarters of Munich help identify the mushrooms in case of doubts.
The first autobahn in Germany, opened in 1935, connected Frankfurt and Darmstadt. The autobahn between Salzburg and Munich continues on to Karlsruhe; it was built in 1938. By the end of World War II, all the important bridges along the highways were blasted to slow the advance of the Allied troops. One of these crosses the River Mangfall. Until this bridge was rebuilt, secondary roads were used that took the driver all the way to the foot of the valley, to the river bed. This is a protected area where most of the drinking water of Munich comes from. It is considered one of the best quality drinking waters in the world.
After a long ascent along the autobahn, the highest point between Munich and Salzburg is reached. The hill is called Irschenberg, and provides a view that could be taken from a 19th century painting. From the top of this hill, on a clear day, some 130 church towers are visible. Each village has its own church, though some have to share one priest.