31st July 2016
Garmisch-Partenkirchen - Beautifully Bavarian
As soon as I stepped out of my hotel I was enchanted, there is no other word for it. Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria is surrounded by the Ester Mountains also known as the Bavarian Alps, a spur of the Alps. These mountains form a dramatic backdrop for this popular year-round resort – or more correctly two resorts inextricably linked after they combined resources during the Winter Olympics of 1936.
Across the road was the old Apothke, around the corner was the pretty eighteenth century church of St Martin and across the square some the shady umbrellas of a beer garden. Where to start? The church was the closest so I popped in there. It was stunning. Built by famous master builder and stucco-artist from Wessobrunn, Josef Schmutzer and decorated by beautiful frescoes by Matthäus Günther. I was captivated and it was a while before I could drag myself outside again. The next stop was the nearest beer garden where I could become re-acquainted with a famous Bavarian dish – white sausages with sweet mustard. I even remembered how to peel the skin off before savouring this delicacy. Rested and refreshed I was ready to explore further and thoroughly enjoyed wandering through the streets browsing the boutiques and admiring the murals on the buildings. The Bavarians have traditionally decorated the exteriors of their buildings with with both religious and historic paintings.
Early the next morning I caught the local bus to the Olympic Ski Stadium. The Gapa card is a good investment here as it includes free transport on local buses and a discount on the cable cars and some tourist attractions. The Winter Olympic Staium was a hive of activity as several classes of school children were being put through their paces. Some were even tobogganing down one of the training ski jumps – the junior version. The original Olympic Ski Jump, the one used during the 1936 Winter Olympics, was built in 1923 and modernised several times before it was taken down in 2007 and replaced by huge new one with an in-run tower of 100 metres. It is a surprisingly attractive construction and one of the town’s most popular attractions.
When I left the stadium I took the road towards the Partnachklamm Gorge. This road meandered along by the side of the River Partnach that runs for over seven hundred metres between limestone walls eighty metres high. On my way I came across a memorial dedicated to the loggers who drowned in the gorge while guiding huge tree trunks through the treacherous waters. Now the paths that were cut into the rock for them are used by tourists.
Walking through the gorge was an incredible experience. A torrent of water rushed below me and a fine haze hung above me occasionally catching the beams of sunlight that crept between the rocks towering above me. The dull roar of the water insulated me from the excited chatter of my companions as I made my way along the path occasionally passing through short tunnels. After twenty minutes I emerged into the sunlight again. From this point there was the option to walk to the top of the Eckbauer Mountain. My companions chose this option but I had spotted an easier way to get up there – the Eckbauer cable car. It also gave me the opportunity to walk through the gorge once more to get back to the Olympic Ski Stadium and the starting point of the cable car.
The Eckbauer cable car is charmingly old-fashioned and more like a car on a fairground ride with just two seats inside the open-sided car. I glided slowly up to the top enjoyed the peace and the scenery around me. Passengers coming towards me shouted greetings and we giggled like children in a playground. At the top I was greeted by amazing scenery – Alpine meadows carpeted with wild flowers with snow-capped peaks behind them.
Berggasthof Eckbauer is the ideal place for lunch with its large terrace overlooking the valley below. It was here I tried my first Apfelschorle having discovered that a large bottle of water cost more than five Euros I had been working my way through cheaper alternatives, starting with beer. It was such a lovely day I joined my companions on their walk down the mountain and back to the town.
The next morning I decided to take the easy walk along the Via Reschbergwiesen to the ruins of Werdenfels Castle. I started from the Marienpltaz and walked along Krammerstrasse one of the oldest streets in Garmisch and lined with old farmhouses and businesses all very spick and span. After crossing the covered bridge over the River Loisach I joined a path that took me up into the woods. The paths are well-signposted and I soon linked up with the path that took me up to the castle.
It is believed the original castle was built around the end of the twelfth century although why it was built is not known. In 1249 ownership of this fortress was transferred to the Prince-Bishopric of Freising and subsequently became the administrative and judicial centre of the newly created County of Werdenfels. During the fifteenth century the castle was mortgaged several times due to financial difficulties and by the beginning of the seventeenth century it had deteriorated so much that it was no longer fit to be used as the governor’s seat which was moved elsewhere. There followed a period of destruction when stone blocks were removed from the castle and re-used for other buildings. During the Napoleonic era the castle was ceded to the Kingdom of Bavaria and was sold. The castle is still in private ownership and has been made safe and partially rebuilt and it is now a popular place for walkers. The walk up to the castle is rewarded by amazing views across the valley below. It was a clear day and I could clearly see the Olympic Ski Stadium on the far side of the valley.
On our walk back to the town we stopped for lunch at the Berggasthof Pflegersee in a perfect setting right on the edge of Lake Pflegersee with the mountains looming above it. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
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