What do you do when your kiddos have a 4-day weekend, you’ve recovered from the last batch of shenanigans and you’re all jonesing to go somewhere? You do the right thing; convince your better half to take a day off and hit the road. Here’s the
fun part catch: we haven’t done a road trip longer than 3 hours in over 4 years. We *know* how to do it…its just we haven’t *had* to for many moons. Since it’s Fall and the leaves are quite spectacular, we decided it was time to head over to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area. Let’s go road trippin’, y’all!
Trip Fail #1: I totally forgot how long 6.5 hours feels like. Garmisch is on the German-Austrian border. We live 40 minutes from the French border. We’ve done 12-13 hour road trips, but after NOT doing them for so long, 6.5 hours in a car with a semi-whiny Girl Child will make you question your sanity.
Trip Fail #2: When booking your hotel room, make sure that there is a no-fee cancellation policy or that if you have to cancel, you do it BEFORE the date they set. Also, make sure that the place has a good rating BEFORE you book it. Because really…it’s an expensive trip fail otherwise…not that I’d know anything about that (lies).
I’m from California originally. On a clear and non-smoggy day, you can see the Sierra Nevadas from the valley. As we were driving closer and closer, we couldn’t see any mountains. It was like the scene from “Dumb and Dumber” when Lloyd drives the wrong way. Just as we were questioning if this was a good idea, BOOM! There they are. The Alps. And then BOOM! The Austrian border.
Trip Fail #3: When crossing the border with Austria, you MUST buy a vignette. It’s basically a temporary toll tag. We didn’t. We kept seeing signs for tolls, but we didn’t see any toll stops, so we didn’t give it much thought. *Keeping fingers crossed that we don’t get a fine in the mail*. The fines for NOT having a vignette is somewhere between 400€ and 4,000€. Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, please forget that we ever drove into Austria, please.
As we crossed into Austria, we caught a glimpse of Zugspitze, which is the highest peak in Germany. It sits pretty at almost 10,000 feet in elevation. Zugspitze straddles the border, so we really weren’t in Austria very long. Once you cross back into Germany, you’re pretty much in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Interesting tidbit: Garmisch and Partenkirchen were once separate towns. It wasn’t until 1936 that they were forced to become one municipality (thanks to the German He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named) for the Winter Olympics.
We rolled into the hotel around 5:00 pm. We checked in to the Dorint Sporthotel and had a nice little apartment/suite. The only odd thing is that we had a dining room area, but no kitchen. We stayed at a local hotel, rather than the American facility that was down the road. We were originally planning on bringing Dog, but found a dog sitter last-minute. Because we couldn’t cancel because of the above-mentioned trip fail, we just stayed put where we were. It was in a good location and an awesome breakfast buffet was included. Trip win!
When we woke up on Saturday, we decided to check out the Olympic Stadium and then hike the Partnachklamm. The stadium and ski jumps were right across the street from where we were staying. They still use the ski jumps nowadays. Walking into the stadium was like walking back in time. It is amazing how small it is, especially when compared to the stadiums that are used today. We walked around a little and then decided to head over to Partnachklamm.
Partnachklamm translates into Partnach Gorge. The weather was cloudy, but it wasn’t frigid. We walked up the road a bit and found the ticket window. It was 14€ for all 4 of us to get in. Once we paid, we started walking through the gorge. It was simply beautiful. There are small water falls that run down the sides of the mountains into the river below. The trees at the top of the gorge were turning colors, so it made it even more beautiful. The walkway is pretty easy to get around on. There are a few places where you have to duck (if you’re over 5’6″ you might get clotheslined if you’re not careful), but it’s not very steep and it’s a pretty easy hike. After we made it through the gorge, there are a few other trails that you can take: you can go back the way you came, you can do a huge loop, or you can go up to the top of the gorge and then walk back down to where you started. We opted for the latter.
Trip Win #1: One really cool thing about German hiking trails is that they know how to give an incentive. At the top of the hill was a restaurant. They know that by the time you reach the top, you’re going to be tired, thirsty and most likely wanting to eat pretty much anything in sight.
We stopped at the restaurant at the top and had some beverages and apple cake…which was like a mixture of apple pie and cake smushed together. I loved it, Girl Child did not. She’s crazy. We walked back down the hill and back to where we started.
When we woke up on Sunday, we had this great plan of taking a gondola to the top of the second highest peak, Alpspitze; hiking down the mountain a little, and then catching a different gondola down the rest of the way. We had debated taking the gondola up to the top of Zugspitze, but then we saw the price. 124€ for Zugspitze. Ummm, I’m sure it’s awesome and all, but let’s face it. We’re cheap. The gondola for Alpspitze was less than half the price and was just as cool. We drove over to the parking lot and noticed that there were a lot of clouds in the mountains. The air was a lot chillier, so we had made sure to bundle up. When we went to purchase our tickets, the gal at the counter deflated our plans. All of the summits were socked in with fog and clouds. We could buy the tickets, but we probably wouldn’t be able to see 2 feet in front of us, much less the view from the summit.
We got back in the car and decided to figure out our plan B. We had run into some friends the day prior and they had mentioned another gorge hike. We looked it up and seemed like a pretty awesome hike. Lots of neat scenery and c’mon…the hike yesterday wasn’t that bad, so we can TOTALLY do this one, right? Famous. Last. Words.
Trip Fail #4/Trip Win #2: When the name of a trail literally translates to Hell Valley Gorge, you should assume that it’s pretty literal.
The hike was Hoëllentalklamm. The trail itself is beautiful; especially with the leaves changing. However, the ascent was considerably more steep than the Partnach Gorge. At one point, we looked up and saw a building and a Bavarian flag. Girl Child mentioned that she had NO desire to go all the way up there. Duly noted, kid, but you’re outnumbered. We reminded her that she’d be earning her “Life” token…just minus the $10,000.
When we finally reached the top, the clouds had parted long enough for us to see how high we hiked. We also realized that we still hadn’t reached the actual gorge. Thankfully, the building served dual purpose: beer dispensary and tickets to the gorge. It was the same price to hike as the Partnach: 14€ for all 4 of us. When we went through the gate (for reals…the entrance is a revolving metal gate), we realized that the hike had been completely worth it. As Husband eloquently said, “The amount of effort in absolutely matches the outcome.” Which I’m guessing means that the pain was totally worth the gain.
This hike really isn’t for the faint of heart. This gorge is slightly wider than Partnach, but it’s walkways are more steep and beware–you will get wet. The amount of waterfalls cascading down the rock walls and even through the gorge itself is amazing. There is a bridge toward the start that is slightly rickety and warns you that only 5 people are allowed on the bridge at a time. It crosses over the gorge, so you really don’t want to test out their weight limit. The clouds had started to move back in and it made the experience ethereal. Husband again eloquently said, “It’s like walking into Mordor.” Just less fire, brimstone and lava. The nice thing is that when you walk through the cave sections, they are lit with electricity, so you’re not fumbling for the flashlight app on your phone.
We made it about 2/3 of the way to the top when Girl Child asked if we could turn around. At this point, we were all pretty wet and starting to get tired. We decided to turn and head back. When we reached the ticket booth/beer dispensary, we sat down and had some beverages. The little hut was perched on the edge of the mountain, but the clouds had come in so thick that you couldn’t see over the edge. Probably a good thing, since Husband has slight acrophobia (fear of heights). After beverage consumption, we headed back down the trail. By the time we got back to the parking lot, we realized that we had hiked over 6.5 miles and almost 2,000 ft in elevation. Without hiking boots. Without hiking poles. Without complaints from either one of the kids. Awesome.
When we woke up on Monday morning, we were all a
lot little sore. We knew we had to head home and since it had taken us longer to get to Garmisch than we had expected, we decided to leave a little early. Of course, as we left, the heavens parted and we were treated to a beautiful view of the Alps…literally as we were leaving.
We decided to stop in Stuttgart for lunch. Husband decided that he wanted to get gas, just in case.
Trip Fail #5: Google Maps. Utter Fail.
We punched in the gas station we needed and followed Google…to a park. 22 minutes out-of-the-way. Which turned into a total of 45 minutes out-of-the-way. Thinking it was a fluke, we put in our final destination. Silly us. Google took us 30 minutes further south than what we needed, and on back roads rather than the autobahn. At least we saw the Deutche Weinstraß (German Wine Road) and the leaves on the vineyards changing. That’s a win, right?
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a fun place to go. I think we hit it in between its busy seasons…summer and winter. The fall foliage was stunning and the hikes were both breathtaking. It truly amazes me that such magical places exist on this Earth. You read about them and hear about them secondhand; but to actually see it in person and witness it makes me realize how truly lucky and blessed we are.