Garmisch-Partenkirchen: An Alpine Adventure

Over the past two years, we have traveled to Garmisch-Partenkirchen twice and I am back for a Girl Scout leaders conference this week. I have had this post in the pipeline for a while so I am taking my time here to post while I sip one of the wonderful 36 ounce margaritas from Zuggy’s Base Camp. Conference aside, there is a reason we keep coming back and it has nothing to do with a commissary run.

A vacation in Garmisch offers something for everyone, especially those who love the outdoors. The area is scenic and the town has its Bavarian charm. The following is based on trips we have taken with our 11 and 8 year old and they love going again and again. Please feel free to email us with your own experiences so we can add them to this post.

Getting there

Garmisch is about 4.5-5 hours from Vienna. This does not apply to the winter months when you will be sitting on the autobahn at times with many skiers in single file line heading to Innsbruck or Garmisch. Plan accordingly.

Where to stay

We always stay at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort but there are many options. We like the Edelweiss because it’s on the base without feeling like you are on a base. The resort has an indoor pool, spa services, three restaurants and a snack bar.  In addition, you have access to a small commissary and exchange store in case you need to stock up on your favorite foods from back home.

Early morning view of fresh snowfall from our room at Edelweiss in October 2012

Early morning view of fresh snowfall from our room at Edelweiss in October 2012

Access to Edelweiss is limited to military personnel and USG civilian employees with travel orders. If you do not have an access card, the front desk will give you a temporary pass for your stay.  You can obtain an access card during your stay Monday through Friday between 8:30-12:00 and 13:00 – 16:45. How do you get these magical orders and base access application?  See the person who processed your legit card.

Was Machst du?

Plenty! Let’s start with the highlight.

Zugpitze

The Zugspitze is the highest point of the German Alps. You take a cogwheel train up the mountain and a cable car to reach the top. The top consists of the most breathtaking, awe inspiring scenery you could ever imagine – a 360 degree viewing platform that at one point crosses into the Austrian alps.  We visited in October and it was pretty cold up there, but there was some snow for the kids to enjoy.

Amazing views!

Be sure to take the right cable car down or you may end up back in Austria.  There are several restaurants on both the German and Austrian side.

Austrian side of the Zugspitze

Austrian side of the Zugspitze

You can catch the cogwheel train from many different stations every 30 minutes to an hour. We took it from Eibsee. Parking is a few euros.

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Heaven

Partnachklamm (Partnach Gorge)

This is  a beautiful hike through a gorge. It is an easy hike for kids to complete and you are rewarded with beauty all around.

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Path through the Gorge

In the winter months, the falling water become huge icicles.  The gorge is located near the Olympic ski jump.  platform. To get there, you must park in the area around the ski jump and walk for about 10 minutes. The cost is 3,50€ for adults and 2 € for children. It is open 8-1800 and sometimes later depending on the season.

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Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles

The castles of Mad King Ludwig II are a huge tourist draw, Neuschwanstein being the most well known. It has become even more well known due to the movie, The Monuments Men, which used the exterior of the castle for filming since the castle was used by the Nazis to store stolen art. The castles are located about 1 hour from Garmisch and makes an excellent day trip.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle

Ludwig was friends with composer Richard Wagner. Even if you can’t place this composer, you have heard his music if you ever walked down the aisle to get married – the Bridal Chorus is straight out of his opera, Lohengrin. Some believe he was obsessed with Strauss’ work.  Whatever the reason, scenes from Wagner’s operas, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser and Tristan and Isolde, are painted on the walls of Neuschwanstein. It is said that the King was so obsessed with Wagner that he considered abdicating the throne to follow Wagner.

Hohenschwangau Castle from the path leading to Marienbrucke

Hohenschwangau Castle from the path leading to Marienbrucke

A guided tour is the only way to visit the castles.  If you go during the winter, you can probably secure tickets the same day. For any other times, online reservations are recommended.  You can your both castles or only one. If you tour both like we did, you will be given a ticket for Hohenschwangau first and 2.5 hours later you will be scheduled for Neuschwanstein.  In order to reach Neuschwanstein, you can hike it, take a shuttle bus or horse carriage up and then walk up the remaining ten minutes.

Front of Neuschwanstein

Front of Neuschwanstein

A word of caution…When we went, we planned to take the shuttle up. The ticket attendant told us to take it from one of the hotels in front of Hohenschwangau.  We thought we had time so we grabbed a snack and then lined up for the bus.  But the bus never came.  By the time we found out that the bus was not running from a shopkeeper and went over to the horse carriages, we were running very late and missed our timed entry. The tickets say that if you miss your tour there is no rescheduling.  We had a group of 15 from Vienna. We went to the information desk located in the castle courtyard and they were were able to add our group to the next tour. It was winter so this may not be the case in the summer, but worth a shot if you find yourself in that situation.

When you conclude your tour and exit, there is a path to your left that leads to Marienbrücke, the suspension bridge over a chasm where you can take the money shot of the side of the castle that you see in all the brochures along with the picture of Hohenschwangau above. When we went, the path was closed due to supposed falling rock.  But that did not deter us and hundreds of people in tour groups from climbing on the rocks around the fence at three different points to get to the bridge.  It might have been closed, but one does not travel all this way and not go to that bridge.  We did not see one falling rock:-)

Marienbrucke.  Please note all the tourists at the bridge.  They/we all made it back safely.

Marienbrucke. Please note all the tourists at the bridge. They/we all made it back safely.

If you have more time, you can add Linderhof Palace, Ludwig’s summer residence. For more information and admission prices, click here.

Skiing and Snowboarding in Garmisch

Our last trip was during the ski week school break. We (and many of you) enrolled in ski school through Hausberg Lodge.  Located off site, the lodge provides ski equipment rental, lockers, lift tickets and ski and snowboarding instruction along with standard American meals like burgers and pizza.  It is run by Edelweiss.

We passed the stopping and turning tests and received the coveted lift ticket.  No slush up there.

We passed the stopping and turning tests and received the coveted lift ticket. No slush up there.

The nice thing about signing up with the lodge is that everyone speaks English and instruction is in English.  You can leave your kids in ski or snowboarding school while you take the lift up the mountain or you can sign up for adult ski/snowboard school.  You can opt for 1 – 5 days of skiing with their packages.  If you attend ski school, they will teach you to ski on the lodge’s backyard slope.

Ski school for the youngest.  She did not make it to the lift.  Maybe next year.

Ski school for the youngest. She did not make it to the lift. Maybe next year.

This past year it as mostly slush, but the previous year there was about 3 feet of snow, maybe more. Once you master the basics (stopping and turning), you will be given a lift ticket to go up to a beginner slope on the mountain with the instructor. This was where all the snow could be found this year. The program is great for beginners or anyone needing a refresher course.

Shopping

The center of town is lined with many shops and restaurants.  There is a Kathe Wohlfahrt store (of Rothenburg ob der Tauber fame) at Marienplatz  in case you want to shop for German ornaments as well as many ski shops.

Restaurants

Please do not rely on the hotel for meals.  There are so many fine establishments within miles that are worth checking out.  We ate there during ski week only because we were so sore that we preferred to stay in. However, I received many recommendations from several of you and I welcome you to email us your review so that I may add it here. The review below is for the restaurant that we did visit during our last stay.

Steakhaus zum Waffenschmiede

We ate here on our last night in Garmisch and we were quite pleased. The cuts of beef were so tender that I just about forgot that I was in Europe.  Maybe they buy their meat from the commissary, don’t know. But it (and their Sangria) was amazing.  The menu is in German but you can view it here.  The staff was courteous, friendly and engaging. They have a house cat and when we finished dinner, my husband reached over for his phone and found that a cat had nuzzled itself next to him.  None of us noticed.

 

 

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