Hiking Paradise at Rehlegg Mountain Resort, Berchtesgaden, Germany
The sun is out this morning, a thin layer of snow covers what’s outside my window and I’m daydreaming about spring. Not for no reason, mind: I heard birds chirping joyfully earlier this morning. When I hear the first birds after the long winter months, I automatically start thinking about spring: warm rays of sunlight on my skin, trees in bloom, fresh dew on luscious, green grass… and first thoughts of hiking trips arise. Hiking is my spring thing, and this spring, I’m planning to stay at the Best Western Plus Rehlegg Mountain Resort in Berchtesgaden in Germany.
The Lichtmannegger family has owned since 1917 what was first a farm and is now a sizable eco-hotel; cousins Johannes and Franz Lichtmannegger manage the hotel since 1999. I asked Franz Lichtmannegger about how the family’s love for their land and farm was the motivation behind creating a sustainable hotel:
“My grandfather bought the farm in 1917 and it has been my family’s home ever since. The beauty and uniqueness of this place was always the priority when his children began to develop the small inn into a hotel. This was in the 70s. Since 1999 Johannes and I are running the hotel and we have worked hard to bring it into the present time. We had huge debts to deal with and we needed to fix some of the mistakes that were made in the 70s and 80s. We were able to achieve this with a lot of hard work and a good dose of luck, which enables us now to focus on what really matters to us: creating an establishment that doesn’t just take from its surroundings but gives back to it, too.”
The Best Western Plus Rehlegg Mountain Resort took specific and systematic action and introduced several sustainable initiatives: “The solar panels on the roof and the photovoltaic plant enable us to produce sustainable energy. The 30kW combined-heat-and-power station and the solar panels allow us to temporarily turn off the generators to heat the warm water in summer, if we are at full occupancy. The water flow restrictors we installed in all the showers and taps have reduced our water usage by almost 30%. The hotel, including all of the rooms, is lit by LED light bulbs which reduces our electricity consumption by 85%.”
The region around Berchtesgaden, a 30-minute drive from Salzburg, is a hiking paradise. There is even a hiking festival in July. I use the tours that have been put together specifically for the festival’s five year anniversary as inspiration for my own hikes, although I stop at the “24 hour Watzmann extreme” hike…
If you have big hiking plans, a hearty breakfast and a nourishing dinner are a must. The Gallery-Restaurant spoils guests with Bavarian specialties from morning until night. This is another area where Franz Lichtmannegger and his team have made some sustainable changes:
“We only use what we call “un-tormented” meat from our region. This is costing us 70,000 Euro more per year, but we are not willing to serve our guests meat, fish or poultry that we wouldn’t eat ourselves. As a rule we buy locally wherever possible, whether it’s produce, services or other necessities for the hotel such as furniture etc.”
I love floating weightlessly in the pool after a long hike. The Rehlegg has a stunning panoramic pool with unrestricted views of the majestic Watzmann. What I’m really looking forward to is the spa. There are several saunas and steam rooms. The Rehlegg even has its own “herbal fairy”: Doris Hasenknopf is a certified herb specialist. She tells guests all about herbs found on hikes around the hotel, and then they are collected and freshly used in handmade spa products and treatments at the AlmwiesnSpa. Franz Lichtmannegger tells me that the meadow behind the hotel hasn’t been fertilized in over 50 years. Even the national park envies its biodiversity.
I asked Mr. Lichtmannegger what makes the Rehlegg so special: “You know, there are so many things… Is it the more than 30 hiking trails accessible from the hotel without having to get into a car? Or is it simply the stunning landscape and nature that surrounds us? Maybe it’s because we’re the only alpine national park in Germany or the local biosphere reserve? It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. What we hear from our guests all the time is that they love the laidback atmosphere at the Rehlegg. Time slows down here. For me personally, it’s simple: it’s my home, where four generations of my family have lived and worked.”
I’m going to enjoy the anticipation of spring and my trip to the Rehlegg. Book your own sustainable spring hiking break right here.