Walchensee is a landscape painted in blues; all turquoise, teal and midnight. We arrived on a scorcher of an afternoon, having taken far longer than we expected to drive the width of southern Germany and we were all hot, tired, and more than ready to arrive. Curling our way down the mountain pass, dodging hairpin bends and bicyclists in equal measure, suddenly a glimpse of water opened up and through the trees, there was the lake, and it was all we could do not to jump straight in it to cool off.
The lake is Walchensee, as is the village half way down the western shore, but the campsite (also going by the same name) is around the corner, over a bridge across the stream that could have been lifted straight from the Lake District, and along the side of a low spur pointing its finger out into the water.
Living in our beautiful island, a beach holiday means going to the coast; even from the very middle of the country it’s only a couple of hours drive to the nearest beach, and it wouldn’t take much effort to find a campsite somewhere near the seaside, and when you’ve grown up with that as your default setting you forget that it’s not the norm. If you live in southern Germany, proper seaside holidays are two countries away down by Venice and so if you want to hang out on a beach, you go to a lake. Walchensee is where the Germans go for their holidays, and in contrast to Enzerklosterle where we met mostly Dutch and British travellers, here we were the only foreign car in the car park, and 71% of the Brits on site. And because of that, people potter about on site and get chatting to their neighbours; even if it is to take the mick out of the size of our tent; “Ist Buckingham Palace?!” (es is nicht Buckingham Palace, es ist beeindruckend
While the carvans have set pitches, the tent section of Walchensee is two grassy sections down by the water. You pitch your tent anywhere you can find space for it, and when we showed up there was just about room enough to squeeze our lovely big green tent into the remaining gap, even if we had to forgoe pegging out large sections of the guy ropes. With the rest of the space being filled with the teeny tiny sort of tents that people take up mountains, we did stick out a bit, and I definitely felt a lot less self conscious the second night when another nice big family tent came and made its home next to us.
The plus side of course was that we were mere metres from the water; beautiful deep clear water, blissfully cool and perfect for swimming; shallow enough at the shore line that the kids could paddle and throw pebbles and deep enough that we could swim properly without having to wade out for half a mile. We were in the water less than 10 minutes after we finished pitching the tent.
The lake was stunningly beautiful at all times of the day and night. Our first evening we went for a drive to see if there were any other options to pasta and sauce (plenty of restaurants, no shops so pasta it was), and we stopped up at the northernmost point to turn back around. All but the palest pearly pink light had faded from the sky, and the hills were midnight as they put on their cloak of darkness, and there was a stillness and a calmness that seeped into your bones.
If last year was a “doing” holiday, this year’s intention was for a “being” holiday; just being together and not trying to bat round a million miles a minute, conscious that when we got back home I’d be straight back into work and the girls wouldn’t have that much of a gap before school and nursery started. Walchensee was where we embraced the just being. We went on a day trip to Innsbruck, and we did the occasional run to Edeka and the petrol station, but mostly we sat on the beach and enjoyed that view; no circumnavigating the lake, no trying to climb a mountain to get a better view, just watching the children play along the water’s edge while I knit and John snoozed, or going for a swim, and then another swim because it was just too lovely to get out.
Each night the children would go to sleep worn out from being waterbabies all day, and John and I would crack open the secret supplies of various German beers and catch up on the Olympics. We were in Walchensee when the women’s hockey team won gold, willing the phone battery and the 4G signal to hold out as we went through to penalties. Gold medal winning aside, it was lovely to have that bit of time together, just the two of us.
And then, about eleven o’clock, every night, the show really started. Our first evening we looked up at the weather, saw the beginnings of a clear night sky and the twinkle of the first stars, and decided to leave our swimming cozzies out on the guy ropes. It was not a mistake we’d make twice. Just as we were turning in, the first drops began to fall, and out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of light that might have been from a camera. It wasn’t. Thunder ripped through the valley and the storm started up with a vengance. I’ve not heard thunder in the mountains before and unless you ever experience it yourself it’s had to imagine. There’s no build up of humidity, or low rumble from miles away as the first sign, just a crack that sounds like the very earth is being wrenched in two and forged into a new arrangement. The acoustics of the hills bounce the sound around, but there’s no mistaking when the storm is right overhead; rumble after rumble interspersed with sheet lightening and the rain pelting down on the roof of your tent a few inches above your face. The tent did us proud though; not a drop inside, and very few wobbles when we considered how little pegged out we were.
For every gently glorious day, the nights were a reminder of the violent beauty of stormy weather, and we came to expect them and even enjoy the storms, as we checked that the children were try and warm, and cuddled them in close. They for their part slept right through every single storm; such is the power of paddling and rock throwing to wear you out.
It is a truly beautiful spot, and if our little film postcard home suggests that we spent nearly every moment in the water – could you really blame us?