We've been waiting for a sunny day to head into the mountains. Today we got the weather report for our last three days in Munich: partly cloudy with chance of showers, cloudy with showers, cloudy with showers. So we decided we had to chance it today. View of Garmisch-Partenkirchen
We started off by joining the gang of commuters grabbing coffee and a roll at the bakery down the street (there's a bakery down every street) then followed the surge through the underground to the Hauptbahnhof, getting there just in time to board the 9:00 for Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There's thirty-six tracks laid out side by side at the Hauptbahnhof, and they're all in use during commuter hours. We were on track 29, but we promise you it wasn't the Chatanooga Choo-Choo!
We wandered through the Munich suburbs, then into rich farmland near a good-sized lake, then came in sight of the mountains, climbing gradually. Garmisch-Partenkirchen lies in a valley surrounded by the Bavarian Alps, and we found communal pastures dotted with small barns, each for a few cows and/or sheep. We saw the sign for the Zugspitze Railway and bought our tickets, with a little discount for our Eurail Pass. There were some breaks in the clouds and it looked like a good chance for a view. The mountains were steep and rocky; it reminded us of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range.
The little mountain railway wound us slowly up to the end of the valley through fussganger territory! Cables supported our gondola
Walking paths which paralleled the train tracks were crowded with strolling older pedestrians, many of them wearing traditional Bavarian clothing. At the top of the valley we all got out and immediately got on another train, a cog railway which would take us almost to the top of the mountain.
Soon our train cars were steeply tilted as we tugged up the mountain. Gradually the scenery got more spectacular; there was a break in the woods and we could look down on the valley, over a lake, with mountains on the far side, and ski lifts everywhere. We were in several inches of snow. But before we could see much more we plunged into a tunnel.
The tunnel was about two-miles long, and wound its way somehow through the interior of the Zugspitz. We were steeply ascending except for the last few hundred meters, when we leveled off for the station. We got off the train underground, and walked to the observation platform.
We couldn't believe our eyes; we were high on the mountain top, there Lifts for skiers were clouds, but they were broken, and we could see the other mountains all around us. We hurried for the final ride, a steep and huge gondola car to the 2963 meter summit. It handled several dozen passengers with no difficulty, and soon we were on the top of the highest mountain in Germany.
There were dozens of other mountain tops in view, in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and possibly even Italy. The clouds actually made the view more beautiful, swirling around some peaks while others were bathed in brilliant sunshine. There was a steep dropoff of what seemed like a thousand feet or more in one direction from the observation platform. A separate part of the Zugspitze is sort of a peak within a peak, a rocky height which is only for mountain climbers, not skiers. Several ski lifts reached the saddle just below the summit, however, and the large bulldozer plows were busy pushing snow around to prevent landslides and manage the slopes for the coming ski season.
Looking south, east or west all we saw was more mountain tops, but to the north we could see the valley we had ascended, with the lake, then Garmisch-Partenkirchen, then the lakes towards Munich, and, with a little imagination, Munich itself. We had traveled from one universe to another in the space of three hours. What a wonderful experience! Alpine peak
As we rode the cable car back down to the cog railway station at the saddle, the clouds were already getting heavier. We found a typical Bavarian lunch in the restaurant, by the end of which the whole mountain was socked in, and it was beginning to rain. Were we lucky! We had found the only time in a week when the views from the mountain top were decent. That, it turned out, was why the train was so crowded. All the Bavarians had the weather figured out and found the trip breathtaking.
Going down in the cog railway we passed another train on its way up; we felt sorry for them for the views from the summit would not be good. Perhaps the clouds would break again, but we didn't think so.
We were so excited and thrilled by this wonderful excursion that we didn't calm down until we had thoroughly retraced our steps, back the cog railway, change trains, then to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, change to the German Railroad, then into Munich, stopping to let schoolkids on and off at various stations, then through the crowded train station (rush hour again) to the S-Bahn, change at Marienplatz, and back to the hotel on the U-6 subway. If you come to Bavaria, please make this excursion to the Zugspitze whenever the weather promises to be good.