A couple of years ago we visited a stretch of Alps in Austria, but had never seen the German portion. This range is so beautiful, we will take every chance we can get to see more of it, and also to show it to visitors. It is a 3.5hr drive from Würzburg to the Bavarian Alps and to the most known of it’s cities: Garmisch-Partenkirchen (2362 ft).
The drive to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (GaP) passes through the farmlands of the Allgäu, an area of southern Germany with sloping glacial-made pastures where dairy farming reigns. We pulled into a farm so that Derek could make a phone call– I couldn’t resist a photo. Then on to our destination.
We had bursts of stormy weather during our trip to GaP, heavy rain and fog obscured the top of the Zugspitze. The rain provided a restful indoor experience (waking to mountain rain, enjoying warm croissants and coffee). It seemed to clear up at the moment we wanted to be outside, which felt like a miracle. We were able to enjoy most of the activities we had planned.
We stayed in a rental apartment through VRBO. Our host, Christoph, was friendly and generous. He seemed to be everywhere – Always looking out for us when we seemed turned around (hiking recommendations, food recommendations, where to park, and even how to use the key to the apartment!) He and his family own a building in Garmisch, which houses their business on the lower floor and renovated apartments above where he and his family live. The top apartment is a rental with a balcony view of the Zugspitze, which is where we stayed. We would recommend this place wholeheartedly to anyone planning a trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen! This is the VRBO site.
With the reading material that Christoph offered, we learned that the best time to hike Partnachklamm “Partnach Gorge” is in the morning when the light is prevalent. We walked through stone walkways along the gorge and were stunned with it’s natural beauty- as a bonus, the heavy rain from the day before had swelled the gorge. It was really movin’ that day. Derek’s mom took this video:
From Partnach Gorge we split ways. Derek and I hiked another 1-1/2hrs to the Eckbauer elevation (4085 ft). Derek’s parents went another direction in search of a cable car. They didn’t find the car they were looking for- but ended up at one of the mountain huttes for beer – which made their walk more exciting! Below is the lookout from Eckbauer. There is a restaurant, accommodations, and most notably– the Eckbauerbahn, a cable car down to the town. Here is a look at their webcam.
1936 Winter Olympics
Garmisch-Partenkirchen was initially two separate fashionable resort towns for Alpine skiing and winter enthusiasts. The two towns were merged by Adolph Hitler to make Germany a viable host for the 1936 Winter Olympics. Several of the sites are still accessible. We saw the stadium for ski jumps and a bobsled run. This area is located in a pristine mountain valley, it is quite nice in the summer: A restful retreat and a good place to hike. It is not far from Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze (9,718 ft). Or from Munich (hourly trains, 1.5hr) if you happen to be in that area.
Around every corner in Garmisch-Partenkirchen are unexpected, thoughtful architectural details that nod to German Alpine tradition.
Next, we set off toward Füssen to see the ‘cash cow’ of Germany’s Bavarian castles— Neuschwanstein “New Swan-on-the-Rock castle”. We waited to buy tickets for the 3:15 tour and climbed the castle’s lengthy walkway. Ludwig II of Bavaria (1850) was an eccentric king. He was disgruntled by his lack of power as he was only an emblem for the state. As a child he had looked to the high cliff above his parent’s home Castle Hohenschwangau near the Schwansee (Swan Lake) and dreamt of his own stately castle overlooking the valley. He poured his funds into the building of Neuschwanstein– a sort of fantasy playground for himself.
He was also involved with the composer Richard Wagner, serving as his benefactor and friend. Ludwig built separate quarters in the castle for him to live. His dream never came to fruition, as less than 10 rooms of the elaborate Medieval-style interior were completed before Ludwig mysteriously drowned. We have all seen replicas of this castle in popular American culture— it is the model for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle! I have to say– the full size model was pretty cool. All visits to the interior are led by a guide- The tour was more interesting than we thought it would be! Photos of the interior are on Wikipedia.
And the neighbors—–
Below is a nice view of Castle Hohenschwangau, Ludwig II’s childhood home in the valley.
+ Alpinestyle56: Alpine Lifestyle, Heritage and Fashion
This blogger and former ski-racer posts vintage photos of the Alps. My favorite find.
+ This National Geographic photo of a hiker in the Bavarian Alps at Garmisch-Partenkirchen
+ Germany Holidays: Hut-hiking in the Alps
A guide and link to the overnight Alpine huttes