Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On Top of Germany

A snowy family picture from the top of Germany
 On our final day in Garmisch we headed out to visit the Zugspitze, which at 2,962 meters above sea level, is the highest peak in Germany.  Located along the German-Austrian border, which runs over the mountain's western summit,  the mountain is a winter playground that is accessed through a combination of cog train and cable car.  I'm not a fan of heights but we decided to go to the top of the mountain because it is such a destination with spectacular views.  Besides, Sidney wanted to take another train ride and Glenn was still hoping for some real winter weather.

On a clear day visitors to the top of the mountain can see Italy, Austria, and Switzerland (and of course Germany).  We weren't hopeful that we would have this view since the weather was cloudy and overcast as we walked to the train station.  The temperatures were so warm that the lower ski slopes were grassy and once frozen ponds were now slushy pools of water.   We shared the train with skiers, snowboarders, and visitors like us who were going up the mountain for the (hopeful) views and the experience.  The train ride took a little over an hour and carried us through the rolling foothills of the mountains.  Even after we passed through Eibsee and began our steep ascent up the mountain, snow remained scarce. There were traces of it in the forest and it could be seen on the higher craggy peaks but overall the views were far from the winter wonderland we had envisioned.  Don't get me wrong; the scenery was beautiful.  The view of the icy cold Lake Eibsee was particularly stunning with its clear aquamarine water surrounded by snow studded peaks.  Now this is what I had envisioned Bavaria looking like.

A view of Lake Eibsee
The final twenty minutes of our ride carried us through a tunnel.  The audio commentary (provided  in both German and English) over the loudspeaker informed us that this was the most exciting part of the trip.  In reality it was a dark train ride with no scenery but lots of explanations about the safety features of the tunnel.  It reminded me of the pre-flight briefings that are provided before take off on airplanes.  While we had entered the tunnel in one weather zone we exited in another.  Upon our arrival at Sonn Alpin, one of three glaciers on the Zugspitze and one of five in all of Germany, we were in the winter wonderland we had sought.  A storm was rolling in and within a matter of minutes we went from having a small, yet majestic snowy view to standing in a squall with zero visibility.

Despite the snow, or maybe because of it, we loved our time on top of the Zugspitze.  It was cold and windy (which actually closed the cable car that continued on to the very top of the mountain).  To escape the blowing snow we hunkered down in the Glacier Garden Restaurant where we drank gluhwein and dined on what I think has been the best meal we've eaten on this vacation.  Torn between ordering off of the German menu or the poorly translated English menu which provided us with little insight into what would arrive at the table, we randomly picked two dishes off of the list of choices.  (I recognized the word cheese so I figured the dishes couldn't be all that bad).  Our first dish was a giant potato pancake smothered in melted Gruyere which was accompanied by pear slices that had been infused with fresh rosemary.  The second plate was grilled duck breast served with brie and bacon on a giant popover.  Oh my!  Both dishes were so good, that despite our claims that we weren't all that hungry, were quickly eaten with great gusto.  Not feeling adventurous, after nibbling on a piece of bacon, Sidney drank Fanta and ate a giant pretzel.

A chapel on top of the glacier before the storm rolled in
Following lunch we headed back out into the snow where we explored some more before heading back onto the train and down the mountain into more temperate weather.  Having gotten a taste of the Zugspitze, we want to go back on a clearer day.  We want to see the multi-national 360 degree views for ourselves and have an opportunity to go up to the very top.  I guess this just means we'll have to visit Bavaria again!

A view from the top as the storm approaches

1 comment:

  1. Looks so beautiful there! Sounds like a great vacation. That potato pancake has me drooling!