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With the nice September weather holding, I decided to spend my 2nd full day in Germany up in the mountains surrounding Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Zugspitze is the highest mountain in Germany, towering over the region at 9,718 feet. There are several ways of reaching the top. You can take a train from the town, winding through the valley before climbing via Bavarian Zugspitze Railway rack railway to Zugspitzeplatt, then transfer to a cable car for the rest of the journey. You can also access the mountain via cable car from Eibsee. Finally, you can hike up. I had considered doing the hike, but wisely chose not to. Seeing later how much scrambling hikers had to do over loose rocks on their way up, I was glad of my decision.
Instead, I chose the rack railway + cable car combo to get to the summit. The rail journey itself is nice, though the last part of it is entirely underground, as the route up consists of a winding tunnel. Once at Zugspitzeplatt, you realize that you’re not quite yet at the top, but it’s a nice stop before continuing to the summit.
As you can see, the views from Zugspitzeplatt were amazing. When I first arrived it was pretty clear, so I could see for miles toward Austria. I spent about an hour at Zugspitzeplatt, taking photos and hiking around. There’s still a bit of a glacier left there called the Schneeferner, so I hiked on that a bit. Given how the region is warming (I was wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt in late September), I can’t imagine that glacier will be around much longer, so see it while you can.
After a while there, I decided to brave the cable car journey to the summit of the mountain. I am not a fan of heights, so riding a swinging car held up by a couple of cables is not my idea of a good time, but if it means getting to see a great view, I can tolerate it. It also helps when there’s beer at the top.
In true German fashion, there were of course multiple beer gardens at the top of Zugspitze, so I had a beer and a bratwurst. Considering the mountain is the highest point in Germany, it’s unsurprising that the summit beer gardens are also the highest places to get a beer in the country.
It began to get a little bit cloudier and chillier as the afternoon went on, but I was still treated to great views of Garmish-Partenkirchen and the surrounding valley (including Lake Eibsee, which I would later hike around) from high above.
While the views were amazing, unfortunately the top of the mountain was quite crowded, especially considering it was a Thursday in September. It seemed like every person in Bavaria over the age of 80 had decided to go up that day. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but a lot of people were pushing their way around and standing uncomfortably close to me, which did not make a person like myself who was already uneasy with heights particularly happy while standing trying to take photos from several thousand feet above a steep drop-off. The buildings at the summit of Zugspitze actually straddle the border between Germany and Austria. The Austrian side is a bit lower, but it’s far less crowded, so if you find yourself in a similar situation you may want to escape to there for a bit.
With the weather getting even colder and the summit getting a bit more crowded, I headed back down the mountain, this time taking the cable car down to Eibsee. The beer made that cable car journey down a bit less nerve-racking.
Eibsee sits on Lake Eibsee, tranquil blue-green lake sitting at the base of Zugspitze. After having a snack at a cafe along the shore, I decided to hike around the perimeter of the lake, which is around 5 miles. While there are a few hills, the path is well-maintained and mostly level.
The trails again were more crowded than I expected, leaving me to conclude that nobody in the area has a job, or at least if they do, they have the wonderful freedom to do whatever they would like to on a sunny Thursday afternoon.
If you lived in a place that had these views, you’d try to get outside whenever you could too.
More posts from this trip:
Traveling to-and-from Munich, Germany via Philadelphia on USAirways: Days 1 & 11
Partnach Gorge + Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany: Day 2
Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany + Lake Eibsee + Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Day 3
Innsbruck, Austria: Day 4
Oktoberfest 2014 Opening Day, Munich, Germany: Day 5
Garmisch-Partenkirchen + Atlas Grand Hotel review: Day 6
Munich, Germany – Exploring + Oktoberfest: Day 7
Exploring the Old City Center of Munich, Germany: Day 8
Attending a Bayern Munich match at Allianz Arena
Dachau, Germany – Visiting the former concentration camp: Day 9
Craft Beer in Munich, Germany
The art museums of Munich, Germany: Day 10
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