Our first experience in the Alps. We had three nights in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it was not long enough. As a military spouse I felt I needed to give a nod to the Edelweiss Resort on post as I have visited the other three resorts. However, while we ate there and used one of their tours, we chose not to stay there as it’s simply too expensive for us to stay the required 5 night minimum over their holiday period. Many hotels in the area are on the high side during the winter skiing season and likely booked up in advance if they are reasonably priced. For my military friends reading this, some personal insight, stay at the military lodging on post across the street from Edelweiss. While it’s not “pretty”, it’s clean and $38 a night. Yeah, you read that right! Equipped with a mini fridge and microwave with a short walk to the commissary you can have some cheap meals too. You can still walk over to Edelweiss for their restaurants and book tours through their tour company. I recommend booking in advance as they can fill up if it’s over a holiday. We were not very impressed with their restaurants or buffet selections, so I recommend venturing in to town for a better selection.
We did not have a vehicle and relied on the bus during our stay. The cheapest way we figured out how to do this is to ask the bus driver for a day ticket, or Tageskarte. If you have a family or group of people, ask for the Familien or group rate for the number of people you have. Many cities offer this so don’t be afraid to ask, note that sometimes bus drivers speak very limited English so it can be difficult and intimidating. I’ll be honest, the language barrier was one of the biggest drawbacks of this trip, and I studied Deutsch for the past year trying to prep. I failed. Sigh.
Our main destination here was the partnachklamm gorge, skii Stadium and Eckbauer Bahn up the mountain. They are all in the same area. The bus will drop you at the ski stadium. There are some photo spots here and some history. The Winter Olympics were held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936 and much of the old stadium still stands as it did then, though they were in the process of installing new seating. Interesting to walk around on the grounds of a world wide event hosted by Adolf Hitler, this of course taking place shortly before World War II. Due to the olympics, Hitler forced the merging of the towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen as separately they were not deemed large enough to host such a large event. The Garmisch side is mostly where you will find restaurants and shopping, but the Partenkirchen side is worth a visit, it was first mentioned in 15 AD and was located on the Roman trade rout to Venice and it’s main street, Ludwigsstrasse, follows the original Roman road. The area is predominantly Roman Catholic and you’ll notice this in their elaborate frescoes painted on many of the homes. While beautiful in their own right, for me, these frescoes came off somewhat gaudy and tarnished my thoughts of what a quaint Bavarian ski town was meant to be. However, it does make it colorful and interesting.
If you continue down the street to the right of the ski stadium you’ll be on your way to the Partnachklamm gorge. This is about a 20min walk from the stadium. On nicer days there may be horse carriage rides available to avoid the walk. From what I could see, the only parking closer to the gorge is for a small hotel and you could be towed. So parking at the stadium and walking or catching a carriage is your best bet. You’ll come to a T in the road, the signs are a little confusing, stay left and continue walking. You’ll pass some private homes and the little hotel/restaurant, still following straight. Keep your eyes pealed for pretty photo ops on your walk. There is an info center that looks like a cool Lincoln log building, follow the path up the river and you’ll get to the ticket booth. It’s $6 per adult, $3 per child. Keep your tickets dry as you’ll have to show it again when you walk back out.
The alternate route I recommend is going up the mountain in the EckbauerBahn ski lift and hike down to the gorge. You’ll see a lot of advice to do the opposite direction, but then it’s an uphill climb. I prefer the downhill version. My sister used this route in the fall and raved about how pretty it was. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side so we chose just to enter at the gorge and exit the same way. Also nice as you get to spend more time in the gorge itself. You will get wet at the gorge, not soaked, but dress accordingly. Go early, before 10:30 am as it was nice and quiet for our treck in but getting back out was much more crowded. Check the website if the weather has forced any closures, and know that they are closed through April during the thawing season as it’s just not safe with higher water levels.
The gorge does not disappoint. The clean mountain water is crystal clear and a gorgeous shade of blue/green that makes me think of tropical destinations. The waterfalls dripping over the upper ledge and walkways tunneled in to the mountain makes for an otherworldly experience. For us, it was almost even better getting to the end of the gorge as we had snow at the higher elevation. Somewhat of a “wardrobe” moment from The Lion, Wich and the Wardrobe, stepping into a new land so different than the one we left. If you continue following the main path past the gorge you’ll get to a bridge. On the other side, along the river bank, are stacks of rocks left by visitors. Makes for a great photo spot. We played in the snow and rocks for a bit and then backtracked through the gorge and back to the ski stadium.
To the left of the ski stadium is the EckbauerBahn ski lift. We purchased the round trip ticket €20for adults, €12 child, it’s cheaper for one way should you choose to merge your gorge and lift trip with the hike down the mountain. The lift has recently been rebuilt and the cars feel nice and safe. It was quite foggy on our visit so sadly we couldn’t see the views. That being said, riding a lift in the fog is such a unique experience. Once we got to the top it was snowing with several inches of snow on the ground. Also a great experience when it was just misty and raining below. This of course meant some snowball fights were in order.
We were pretty hungry though and followed the path to the top of the mountain to where you’ll see some buildings. The largest is a small restaurant. Restaurants in Germany are not like the states. Don’t stand at the entrance waiting for someone to seat you as you’ll starve to death first. Just pick an empty table. This restaurant doesn’t have servers, so you’ll order at the counter. I had a fantastic goulash, Riley had a “safer” option of pork schnitzel as he wasn’t too adventurous. I had overheard a conversation on the bus that they have amazing apple strudel. So we had to try that with vanilla sauce. It was steaming hot and so good. I highly recommend it.
Despite the weather we had a great day. Some things I wish we had more time to do: skiing and walk the shopping/pedestrian areas of town as they looked really cute with unique restaurants. Our second day here we took a tour with Edelweiss to Neuschwanstein castle. I’ll write a blog about it soon. 😊