Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich

For the last "open weekend" I went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich:

I’m sitting in my room at the “Post Hotel” in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski resort town in the Voralpen, or the beginning of the Alps, on the German-Austrian border. The hotel was built in the mid-16th century, and it’s on a pedestrian street across from a church. The town is pretty much set up for tourists, (but I am a tourist so…) with decoratively painted buildings and tiny winding cobblestone streets. Awwww…. “Winding” means they wind up and down hills that lead to the mountains where the town ends. I intend to go hiking tomorrow, though the weather is pretty sucky (heavy snow). The “Zugspitze,” the highest peak in Germany, is near here, and I can take a funicular up the mountain.

The train ride was about 7 hours in total, going through Fulda and Munich. I love trains. Especially when the scenery is like this. The German ICE (Inter City Express) trains are immaculate, comfortable, silent, and FAST. I don’t know how fast, I’ll look it up. Really fast. And as you suspect they run on time. To the minute, and if they’re a minute off they apologize. You are provided a schedule with exact times the train arrives in each station, accompanied by a list of connecting trains, local-regional-distance that you can take from that particular station at that time. There are a variety of (2nd class) seating arrangements, from a private room seating 6, to rows of seats facing one direction, to 4-seats facing each other with a table in between. I believe 1st class has electricity and internet in addition.

Anyway, back to the hotel. I am listening to the quarter hour bells from the church across the street. My room, a single at this modestly priced hotel, is lined with carved wood – all walls, ceiling, everything. The paneling comes from an 18th century structure in another village. It’s small, with just what I need (Simpsons on the TV, in German) and a balcony that looks out over the Alps.

Ate dinner at a touristy Gasthof, where there were traditional dance demonstrations and a guy playing the electronic organ. You know what kind of music. I chose a Knödel Sauerkraut Schinken dish, it was good!

Second Day

Breakfast this morning was held in the small dining room, see photos. Obviously antique, the high ceiling was lined with deer horns (called racks?) and the room’s perimeter has benches with tall woodworked benches. Breakfast was delicious, but not outrageous: high-fat yogurt, fruit, fresh ham and cheeses, handmade jams, hard cooked eggs, Semmel rolls and Bauernbrot. Each table got its own pot full of appropriately strong coffee. It seemed the other guests were skiers and elderly couples.

I inquired from the front desk about the good hiking paths. The weather was lousy, the reception guy pointed out, but I could find paths on both the Garmisch and Partenkirchen side (I am in Partenkirchen). I put on my fat down coat and took my umbrella and camera: not regulation hiking gear, but it would have to do. I found the first path by a swift-flowing stream coming from the snowmelt on the mountain. Though there was a light rain, there was still snow on the mountain, especially further up. In minutes I was too warm, and wished that I’d worn my lighter jacket (I brought this along so I can run Munich). I did hear early on two very loud booms, separated by a few seconds, that shook the ground and I wonder if they were avalanches. The booms were followed by the sound of helicopter motors… at any rate the trail was well-marked after the initial ascent and the views were breathtaking, despite the low cloud cover and light rain. I walked for a couple of hours, taking lots of photos and videos that I will post here. I was “Grüss Gott”-ed twice! A couple of men wore Lederhosen.

Having satisfied my curiosity about hiking, I set to finding a cable car to bring me up to a higher peak. The woman at the ticket counter flattered me about my stuttered German, and explained that the Zugspitze and other high cable cars were not running due to storms on the mountains. So I chose to take the local train to the Hausberg cable car, which went up a lower mountain that would in any case be shrouded in a cloud. It was pretty fun, and I had a Glühwein at the end and spent some time watching skiers and snowboarders come down from the summit.

So I had lunch at an Asian restaurant, where I thought there’d be some chance for a vegetable. I was right.

Later on I took another long walk: the mountains weren’t so overcast this time and everywhere I looked was some other view that was just so impressively beautiful. It also reminded me of being in Tucson when I saw the mountains for the first time. Children playing in a snowfield high above the town. Horses. Dogs.

Dinner (wienerschnitzel and warm potato salad, Austrian white wine) at a nearby Gasthof was shared with a group of 4 Americans from New Jersey /Ramstein AFB in Germany (green salad, Coke). About halfway through the meal a group of 20 Norwegians on a business holiday (see Lars Von Trier’s “Boss of it All”) took their tables, with one young man obviously very –uh- happily standing up repeatedly to toast the others and something else, a garbled Norwegian idea of a German drinking song – and we wondered where they were from? Soon to find out, a (tall, handsome) member of their group waited till the Americans cleared out, then sat next to me declaring “I would like to enjoy you for the evening.” Well he WAS tall and handsome so despite the humorous interpretation of how to pick up a woman in English, I joined his table for a bit. Partially because I’d just seen “Boss of it All,” I was really curious about a whole office being obligated to go on holiday together - they all worked for a bank and because they’d had a successful year this was their treat. No spouses, just folks from the office. The man seated to my right told me all about ice fishing and elk hunting in Norway. I left the restaurant before things got out of hand… probably they did…

Third, Fourth, Fifth Days

The sky was clear today, warm weather (5 degrees or so) and though my train for Munich leaves at 10:04 I eat an early breakfast and head back up the mountain for more photos.

The weather in Munich was also heavenly and though I took no photos I spent a pleasant couple of days visiting the Pinakothek der Moderne and Haus der Kunst, also seeing my first St Patrick’s Day parade (that was really funny, they blessed the shamrock in German). I stayed with my friend Jürgen in the suburb of Hartof and took a couple of long runs, getting lost and asking lots of very old people where I was. In this way I saw a lot of Harthof and Feldmoching, in addition to running around a beautiful little lake. Munich= nice people, clean, beautiful city.

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