*QUICK NOTE: We purchased a new Canon 70D for our epic trip to Germany, Austria and Georgia. What we did not realize until many months (And a few other great trips) later, was that our camera was defective. I just thought I wasn’t very good at taking pictures, unfortunately our photos for this blog are not what they should be, my apologies!
There is an eight hour time difference between the east coast of the United States and the Republic of Georgia. That’s a lot of jet lag time, so when I was booking our tickets to Georgia I noticed that our preferred airline had connecting flights through Germany.
With a big grin I went to my husband and said, “What if we spent a few days in Germany to get acclimated to the time change?” Never being able to resist my smile, or more than likely he was thinking of the German beer, he said, “Ok, but only if we go to Andechs Monastery.”
Ok, so it was the beer then. No matter, I was finally getting to go to Germany, a place I’ve always wanted to see.
While my children prefer the modern aesthetics of Berlin I love old world charm. And Bavaria has it in spades. I was able to book three days in a Munich hotel using points so I didn’t feel as guilty with this unexpected side trip.
Munich, a destination in and of itself, is a base for visiting the painted towns that I wanted to see. Ever the planner, I had diligently researched the best and most scenic towns to visit within a short drive from Munich. So with passports packed, off we went.
SIDE NOTE: Painted towns, or Luftmalerei as they are called in Germany, are towns where the homes, business and town buildings are all painted with frescos in a Trompe-l’oeil style. Most often the paintings depict fairy tale themes, religious themes, or mountain subjects.
We arrived in Germany on a bright crisp May morning and headed straight for our hotel to inquire about early check in. The first thing that we encountered was a very inconvenient parking situation. To add to this, when we were able to check into the hotel we found it to be old, outdated, and very uncomfortable. We stayed one night then checked into the Infinity Hotel-Munich. Of course, the big cheapskate that I am, I lamented the loss of the free hotel nights. But it was worth it for a comfortable bed, a smoke free environment, and a more favorable parking situation. We were also much closer to the airport which was good for us when our daughter arrived a few days later.
Mike has visited Germany for work on several occasions and had the perfect introduction for me to Bavaria, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which was once two separate towns that were forced to unite by Adolf Hitler prior to the 1936 Olympics.
It has a rich, and even nefarious history, with Partenkirchen having originated as a Roman town and being a stop on the prosperous trade route from Venice to Augsburg. And Garmisch’s history most notable for its infamous witch hunts during the years of 1589-1596. A time when the town was so decimated by famine and disease, that it further reduced its small population by declaring over ten percent of its inhabitants “witches” and killed them in ghastly ways, hoping that this would restore prosperity and health to the town.
The town was everything that I’d hoped that it would be and I was thoroughly enchanted, but we also wanted to visit Germany’s tallest mountain, Zugspitze, which was an easy drive from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Bidding an Auf Wiedersehen to the town, we got back into the car and headed toward the 9718′ tall Zugspitze mountain. The train actually runs from the town to the mountain, but it did not appear to be open when we stopped so we drove to the base of the mountain where there the ticketing office is.
Purchasing tickets to the top was easy but not inexpensive. At the time of our visit the cost to ride the train and tram was about 27€. At the ticket counter, as a courtesy, we were shown a real time view of the top of the mountain prior to purchasing our tickets; it was pointing out that the views were limited due to the low clouds and fog that had the mountain socked in. We were slightly disappointed but we decided to go up anyway.
Mike and I boarded the cog-wheel train, the Zahnradbahn at Eibsee station with only one other couple on board so we were free to roam about the car to take pictures.
The ascent took roughly thirty minutes with spectacular views from the steep incline until they were blocked due to the tunnel section. If you suffer from claustrophobia this may be a tough ride, we were in the tunnel for quite some time. There will eventually be an option to take cable cars all the way from the town up to the summit, but this method is currently under construction.
Once the train stops at the station you then transfer for the four minute ride in the Gletscherbahn cable car to the summit where we were indeed greeted with thick fog. It was still worth the trip though because the fog didn’t affect the upper portion of the mountain and that was still a view worth seeing.
There are two eateries at the top, the Sonnalpin and the Gletschergarten, but we weren’t hungry so I cannot attest to how good they are. There are a bright line of chairs in front of Sonnalpin, and if the view had been clear they would have made an epic lounging spot. We wandered around for a bit, but because of the limited view, we decided to head back down where the views weren’t quite so obscured and the air was a bit warmer.
Because we were going to make the long drive to Salzburg, Austria the next day we wrapped up our first full day in Germany with a lovely drive through the German Alps gasping as each incredible vista came into view around the next corner.
We finished off the excursion by dining alfresco at a quaint Italian restaurant, in a German town I didn’t quite get the name of, and where I got to practice my limited Italian on the hosts, who kindly shouted, “Brava” every time I garbled something I assumed was correct…or at least not insulting.