The first time I heard about Garmisch-Partenkirchen, was when I was trying to find the train route to travel from Munich to Innsbruck,during our Interrailing trip last December. Munich to Innsbruck via Garmisch-Partenkirchen is considered to be one of the panoramic routes, although it not the quickest route. On that particular trip we decided to skip the scenic route and take the quickest route. We usually prefer travelling somewhere in February, and this year we thought we will visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen as part of our February travel tradition.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, sometimes referred as GaPa, is an alpine town in southern Bavaria, situated on the border between Germany and Austria. Originally Garmisch and Partenkirchen existed as two separate towns. The two were combined as one for the Winter Olympics of 1936 at the insistence of Adolf Hitler and has remained one since then. The town with its beautiful snow capped mountains is ideal for a winter getaway.
We took an early morning flight from London Heathrow to Munich. We had booked Interrail five days pass, because we were extremely enamoured by Interrail, it’s connectivity and I love travelling by train. Additionally we had thought we could use it to travel to other parts of Europe, learn a bit of skiing, but unfortunately I suffered from a deep corneal abrasion which resulted in restrictive sight, movements, activities and more importantly a change of travel plan. I like to be organised and prepared and I most certainly dislike uncertainty. Travelling has made me realise a very valuable lesson of life, that life is uncertain and is unpredictable at most of the time. I would say I have not yet mastered the lesson fully, but I have come to accept the unpredictability and embrace it.
We got off from the flight went in to electronic Immigration queue at the airport. The electronic reader although could read my passport, but was not able read my eyes. So I had to go back in to the manual queue with my eyes more sore and red due to the light from the electronic camera flashing on my eyes. My eyes looked like a rabbits eye when the officer at the counter saw me, who gave me a very quizzical look. So note to self, do not go to electronic queue with a bad eye again. We collected our luggage and boarded a train from Flugahabfen/airport to Hauptabanhof/Main train station. By the time we reached the main station, my eye was less irritated and it was almost lunch time. We had a relaxed lunch at Rubenbauer which consisted of a Tomato Basil soup and pretzel for me and for my husband an Arabiatta Pasta. It is one of the restaurants situated inside the food court at the station, we have had lunch here on our previous visits. The entire food court is usually in a bit of frenzy, which is understandable given its location . But it is an ideal spot to grab a quick bite before your journey, without stepping out of the station. I found it to be a perfect place to enjoy my lunch, collect my thoughts, and soak in the atmosphere .
We boarded the train from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is an hour and a half distance by train. The route from Munich to GaPa is indeed very picturesque and scenic. The snow covered tracks, beautiful snow capped mountains towering over the train, made it look like a winter wonderland. The only drawback for me was, it happened to be a very bright day, with Sun shining on the pristine white snow, the blinding light made my eye even more sensitive, and I was not able to enjoy the train ride as much as I would have liked to. We reached Garmisch-Partenkirchen by early evening. The GaPa station is a spectacular sight ,with the majestic mountains standing tall and mighty as a backdrop.
The Hotel we were booked in offers a pick up service from the station. The Hotel Obermuehle, was perfect for us. It offered Shuttle services, organises the GaPa card, and we were also able to buy the cable Railway ticket to Zugspitze, the highest point of Germany. It also has Health and fitness centre with Sauna, and offers Ski rental services, which we ultimately did not use. The most memorable experience for me was eating dinner at their restaurant that night. Given the condition of my eye, we did not want to venture out in to the town for dinner that night. The restaurant at the hotel had a pre set menu for the evening, which had no vegetarian option. The chef at our request was happy to whip up a vegetarian dinner for us at such a short notice. It is a tad difficult in an Europen town because it means no meat, no fish , no eggs and no mushroom. It was the most delicious and memorable five course meal we have had and we very much appreciated the effort taken for us by the restaurant.
GaPa was the Winter Olympics centre in 1936, and is very well known for its Ski resort. It is also known for Zugspitze, the highest point of Germany. Zugspitze, is the highest mountain peak in Germany. It is 2962 metres above the sea level. The viewing platform of Zugspitze offers a breathtaking views of snowcapped mountain ranges, and the ride up to the peak by the cable car gives sweeping views of the spectacular Lake Eibsee and surrounding mountain ranges. Next day morning after breakfast we collected our cable Railway car tickets from the reception, and the shuttle service dropped us at Zugspitzbahn Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From there a cog wheel train takes you up to Eibsee. From Eibsee you take a cable car to the top of the peak, Zugspitze. The views are spectacular from the cable car. But also can make you a bit queasy,especially for people like me who have a bit of fear of heights. It’s a bit daunting to see below, when the car sways a bit, with a drop of 1000s of meters below, but I managed to fare well with a little help of a fellow cable car traveller who was going up to Zugspitze to Ski. And he managed to keep me in a conversation , with my gaze away from the view of the ground below. He informed me he was nearly seventy and was wondering how long he could continue skiing. He also pointed out to us a few important landmarks around. I wished him a very good day of skiing and good luck for his future skiing endeavours upon reaching the top, and he hoped we enjoy and make the most of a wonderful day on top of Germany. And we sure did. It has a 360 degree panoramic views of the alpine mountain range, ski lifts to take you to Skiing areas, Igloo village, and snowy terrain . The views from the platform are staggering , with snow covered jagged mountains, surrounded by the alpine ranges of Switzerland,Austria and Italy, with boundless views of snow and peaks, an acute sense of vastness. We walked around the platform and crossed over to the Austrian side of the mountain, and sat in the Cafe in Austria and had a cup of Hot Chocolate watching the Tyrolean Cable car coming up the mountain on Austrian side. We took the cable car further up to the Ski area. The ski area was more boisterous and colourful, than the viewing platform.A walk out further in the snow and on glacier, we reached the Igloo village. You can spend the night in the Igloo village for experience.
There were also deck chairs dotted around at the edge of the snow covered clifftops, for visitors to sit in and admire the splendid vistas. It is for the very first time I saw people basking on snow covered mountains, under the glorious Sun. It is a sublime experience, lying on a deck chair, on top of Alpine mountain covered in pristine white snow, with warm Sun rays falling on your face. Later on we had lunch at a restaurant in the ski area. On our way back , we took the Glacier train back down to GaPa. It takes 45 minutes by train to come down.
The streets of the GaPa are also known for buildings with murals painted on them. It is a 18th century Bavarian traditions of having murals painted on houses. The paintings range from religious depictions to scene from every day life.We walked around the streets later that day in the evening to look at the murals.
The next day morning, we ventured in to Partnachklamm/ Partnach Gorge. It is one of the most beautiful sights I have seen and is my favourite experience of this trip. The gorge is full of wild waterfalls, rapids and ponds. And in winters it gets transformed in to beautiful frozen land of icicles and ice curtains.The gorge has formed gradually over centuries, perhaps starting even before the ice age, with a River called Partnach running through the gorge. Partnach is a mountain river, which is formed as a natural discharge of an ice-age glacier on Zugspitze. The streamlet of water paving its ways through the mountain has led to the formation of the gorge and in winters leads to creating spectacular frozen displays. The way to the gorge begins from the Olympic stadium. The shuttle from the hotel dropped us at the Olympic stadium. It is a 25 minutes walk to the entrance of the gorge from there. The gorge is open to public during day time. During winters the gorge can be closed due to weather conditions, so it’s best look out for the opening times on the website. And also wearing thick warm jackets and walking boots which do not get wet are a must. Some part of the gorge can be very dark , so a small torch is advisable. I would highly recommend visiting the Partnachklamm, in winters, it’s a spectacular experience, and worth the walk and the cold. It was so uncanny, that I was telling my husband at breakfast on that morning of how I usually find the mountains profoundly quiet and tranquil unlike the sea. The sea shores are so full of noise, there is always a constant roar or a constant gentle crashing of the waves on to the shore. And he seemed agree adding that mountains have risen above the sea, above the mindless chatter, hence they are tranquil and majestic. When we walked in to the gorge, we could hear thunderous roar of water. The uproar of the streamlet flowing through gorge ,glacier melting and falling down from the high mountains, the gorge reverberates with constant rumble of water.It is like the beautiful beating heart of the silent mountains, creating wonderful ripples and patterns with water, breathing life in to the mountain. I think it is a Geological marvel and is wondrous to see the marvel, taken billions of years to form, which has evolved over ages from a marine basin to a gorge, due to the erosion and folding of Earth and formation of Alpine Mountains.
GaPa is also half an hour away by train from another beautiful town called Mittenwald, which is known for its musical past and has some beautiful houses with Murals.
GaPa is beautiful town, in winters is like a picture postcard, full of snowcapped mountains, snow covered terrains and rooftops covered in snow, has plenty of hiking and walking routes and is perfect spot for skiing. And in Spring and Summer , offers plenty of sporting activities like hiking and walking tours, golfing, mountaineering and many other sporting activities. I personally liked the town for its beautiful surroundings, majestic mountains, vast untouched nature and the serenity which comes with mountain towns. It’s perfect for unwinding and a relaxing weekend of sitting in silence with the mountains.