Here's another free chapter from our recent travel guidbook, Daytrips Bavaria. This easy daytrip from Munich takes you to an alpine village at the very foot of Germany's highest mountain, to an Olympic ski venue, and through a dark and mysterious chasm in the earth.
It was the Olympic Games of 1936 that made Garmisch-Partenkirchen famous. Formerly two separate resort towns, they were merged for that event and have shared the unwieldy name ever since. Neatly split down the middle by the Partnach stream, with Garmisch to the west and Partenkirchen — once the Roman settlement of Parthanum — to the east, the combined entity has become Germany's leading center for winter sports. Today, most people just call it "Garmisch," as will this book.
Mountains are what Garmisch is all about. The town lies in a broad, flat valley at the foot of the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze, and is surrounded on all sides by towering Alps, whose bases literally run right into the village streets. Despite immense popularity, Garmisch remains remarkably unspoiled in its easygoing Bavarian manner.
By getting off to a very early start and cutting the tour short, it is possible to combine this trip in the same day with one to the Zugspitze, covered in the next chapter. With its wide range of accommodations, the town also makes an excellent base for daytrips to Oberammergau, Mittenwald, or Füssen; all served by local buses.
Trains depart Munich's main station hourly for the 90-minute trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, with return service until mid-evening.
By Car, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is 89 km (55 miles) south of Munich via the A-95 Authbahn and B-2 road.
The resort is open all year round, but the Partnachklamm may be closed after a heavy snow or spring melt. Those making this walk should be prepared to get a trifle wet, and need suitable shoes. They might also want to bring along a folding umbrella and a small flashlight. The local Tourist Information Office (Verkehrsamt), T: (08821) 180-700, W: garmisch-partenkirchen.de, is at Richard-Strauss-Platz 2, in the center of Garmisch near the Casino. Garmisch has a population of about 17,000.
FOOD AND DRINK:
Some good restaurants are:
Reindl's Restaurant of the Partenkirchner Hof (Bahnhofstr. 15, 2 blocks east of the station) Well known for its international European cuisine. Dress well and reserve, T: (08821) 943-870. X: mid-Nov. to mid-Dec. €€€
Mühlenstube (Hotel Obermühle, 4 blocks west of the casino) A dining room famous for its seafood. Reservations advised. T: (08821) 70-40. €€€
Gasthof Fraundorfer (Ludwigstr. 24, near the Folk Museum) A rustic Bavarian inn, somewhat touristy but fun. T: (08821) 92-70. X: Tues., Wed lunch. €€
Spago (Partnachstr. 50, 2 blocks northeast of the station) Modern Italian, Mediterranean, and International cuisine, with good-value lunch specials, all in a casual setting. T: (08821) 966-555. € and €€
Hofbräustüberl (Chamonixstr. 2, between the station and the tourist office) Meaty Bavarian dishes, indoors or out. T: (08821) 717-16. €
There are also several inexpensive, rustic places along the way to the Partnachklamm, and a pleasant café stop the Wank.
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
Leave the Train Station (1) and follow the map along the Partnach stream to the Olympic Ski Stadium (2). Accommodating about 80,000 spectators, this gigantic outdoor structure was built by the Nazi regime as a showcase. Removing the swastikas did little to improve the architecture, but functionally it is still excellent and remains in use every winter. The outdated ski jump was demolished in April 2007 and will be replaced with a new one in 2008. Entry is free.
Follow the road leading away from town for an easy and pleasurable walk in the woods to the dramatic Partnachklamm, one of the most memorable sights in the Bavarian Alps. In about one mile, level all the way, you will come to the tiny Graseckbahn Cable Car (3). Ride this to its upper station, near which refreshments are available. Note that it is also possible to enter the Partnachklamm from this lower level without using the cable car.
Cross the terrace and continue along a trail with spectacular views, then descend a steep path to the upper end of the *Partnachklamm (4). This wildly romantic gorge, only a few feet wide but up to 263 feet deep, is filled with torrents of rushing white water. A narrow footpath with guardrails has been carved from the sheer rock sides, at times tunneling through impossible passages. You'll get a little wet, but that's a small price to pay for such a breathtaking experience. Closed during spring melt and in heavy snow. €.
Leaving the gorge will put you back on the forest road to the Olympic Ski Stadium. Return there and either walk or take a bus to the Werdenfels Folk Museum (Heimatmuseum) (5) on Ludwigstrasse, where you can see an exhibition of mountain life in olden times. T: (08821) 21-34. Open Tues.-Fri., 10-1 and 3-6; weekends 10-1. €.
Now follow the map to the early-18th-century Pilgrimage Church of St. Anton (6), going past some remarkable Stations of the Cross along the hilly path. The interior of this chapel, with its frescoed oval dome and elaborate plaster work, is quite attractive and well worth the climb. On the way in you will passw a touching display of plaques, some with photographs, in memory of local sons who never returned from the last two wars.
The Philosophenweg, a trail with stunning views of the Alps, leads to the Schütsenhaus. From there take a steep but short footpath to the lower station of the Wankbahn Cable Car (7). Board one of the small cabins for a lift up the mountain, but don't get off at the first stop. Stay on all the way to the Wank Summit (8) for the most glorious panorama possible of the Zugspitze and the Wetterstein range towering over a toy-like Garmisch, safely nestled in its valley below. There is a sunny outdoor café to help you enjoy the scene even more. T: (08821) 979-979. Operates daily 9-5, closed in winter except Christmas to New Year's Day. Summer season begins in late April. Roundtrip fare: €€€.
There are several easy trails of about one mile along the ridge, offering great views and a chance for a nice walk.
At 5, 850 feet, the summit is a center for the thrilling sport of hang gliding. This is a fast way down for some brave souls, but you will probably prefer to return on the cable car.
Leave the lower station and follow the map through Partenkirchen and into Garmisch. A path along the Partnach stream brings you to the Kurpark, from which it is a short stroll to the Old Church (Alte Kirche) (9). Located in a picturesque district, its origins may predate the spread of Christianity into this area. Or at least according to local tradition. Some of the mural paintings date as far back as the 13th century. The church itself was originally Romanesque, but later rebuilt in the Gothic style.
Take a look down Frühlingstrasse, a colorful street of quaint chalets. Straight ahead, at Zoeppritzstrasse 42, is the villa of the composer Richard Strauss, who died in Garmisch in 1949.
Along the way back to the station, you might want to stop at the Casino (Spielbank) (10) for a fling with Lady Luck, where games of roulette, blackjack, and poker begin at 3 p.m. For the less wealthy there are slot machines, and you don't even have to dress up. Alternatively, visit the Olympic Ice Sports Center (11), which seats 12,000 spectators under one roof and is the largest in Europe. Close to this and adjacent to the train station is the Zugspitz Bahnhof (12), from which private cog-wheel trains depart for an excursion up the Zugspitze mountain by train and cable car, as described in the next chapter.
Copyright © 2007 Earl Steinbicker. Color added to the map for web use. Color photos courtesy of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Tourist Office.