On our last day in Germany, we were a little undecided in what we wanted to do. I had originally had my heart set on going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, but the logistics proved a little tricky. We talked about going to tour crazy Ludwig’s castles, but James confessed that he is not the biggest castle-person. (Yeah- I didn’t know that was a thing. CASTLES FOREVER). We talked about going up to Nuremburg and Bamberg, but decided that what we really wanted on our last day was to be wowed, to be awestruck, to be rendered speechless by something so much bigger and grander than ourselves and our lives.
And so, we went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to head up the Zugspitze. Garmisch and Partenkirchen are a set of towns only a little over an hour train ride from Munich, but they feel like a different world, a perfect, Bavarian, fairy-tale world. The towns sit in the shadow of the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany.
I would really love to say that we hiked the mountain, but that would be a lie. We love hiking, but in preparing for this trip, we both had just carry-on sized suitcases and our diverse activities, locations, and climates, meant that hiking clothes and gear didn’t make the cut. Also, and more importantly, that mountain is tall. And this is vacation. So instead, we took the terrifying cable car to the top and yours truly gripped the handrail and recited prayers quietly to herself.
The view at the summit was exactly what we had been searching for when we set out in the morning. The mountains stretched endlessly before us, snow-capped on one side, and green on the other. We ate in the overpriced but delicious summit café, gazing out at the view and raising our hot cocoas to the noble climber we watched summit beside us, pulling himself up with ice picks and ropes. For the record, I think he hated us.
After leaving the mountain, we took a rowboat across the Eibsee, a beautiful green alpine lake. James did most of the rowing, as I am not exactly what one would call sporty, but I nobly rowed for a couple minutes of our ride back. The water was turquoise and emerald, impossible clear and crisp. I kept begging James to let me jump out and swim.
My friend Mary gave me the perfect word to express how we felt wandering around the lake afterwards: Waldeinsamkeit. The peaceful feeling of woodland solitude. It wasn’t that there weren’t other people in those woods — of course there were. But there is something about those mossy Bavarian forests, both dark and intimidating, and bright green and inviting all at once, that isolates you. You feel cut off from the sounds and presence of people even close by. You feel deliciously alone, surrounded only by damp earth and trees that reach up until they get lost on the mist. It is a perfect sort of solitude, a perfect way to end our German adventure.
- Used the Bayern pass to get from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
- We weren’t originally sure what we were going to do there, as there were all sorts of options. We didn’t settle on paying the [ungodly but totally worth it] price for the ticket up the Zugspitze until the clouds broke on our train ride and we realized that we were actually going to have a sunny day in Germany. Mountain summits it was! If I was going back, I would spend 2 days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and do some real hiking/check out the gorges and caves. I would then go to Oberammergau, a city that I was so bummed we missed out on seeing!
- I wasn’t sure if the summit and lake were enough to occupy us all day, but they totally were. And I really wish I had had a swimsuit! Those waters were cold, but we saw many people jumping in because the clear lake was just too inviting.