January 26 2008:
A couple of days ago I lamented the fact that I had not taken the opportunity to visit the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland. This weekend I have (partially) rectified that error. By happy circumstance, I and some colleagues decided to vacate Greding and head south for fresh air, namely to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the site of the 1936 winter Olympics. What I didn’t know was that the highest peak in Germany, the zugspitze at 2962m ASL, is located not far from Garmisch.
Whilst my friends attempted to inveigle me into trying my hand at down-hill skiing, I decided not to (the thought of forking over a substantial amount of money simply to spend the day falling on my ass didn’t entice me), but rather I was determined not to pass up an opportunity to stand on the spitze, so instead I accompanied them up to the high glacier ski area. Because of the lack of snow at lower elevations, the best skiing appears to be had above 5000 feet – around here that means my skiing friends headed up the zugspitze to the bowl on top.
To get there we travelled by car the short distance from Garmisch to Eibsee and then bought our aerial tramway/zugspitzebahn tickets and queued for the gondola. For euro 34.50 ($50 CAD) your ticket gives you a round trip on either the gondola or the tunnel train, or combination of both, plus all day access to the ski lifts and t-bars. The gondola rises directly from eibsee to a station just below the zugspitze peak (less than 30m below). The station was recently rebuilt to include a hugely overpriced but scenic restaurant, a quite detailed interpretive centre – which elaborates on the history of human activity on the spitze (tunnelling – cable cars – skiing etc) – and a substantial weather station.
The view from the peak is simply stunning. Being the highest peak in Germany it is of course considerably higher than surrounding German mountains, and seems to be at somewhat higher than those nearby in Austria. It was quite windy and thus cold but well worth it.
To get to the ski area you transfer inside the station to another gondola which descends into the glacier bowl about 350m to the ski centre. This is also where you may take the zugspitzebahn cogwheel train through a longish tunnel back down to eibsee, grainau and on into garmisch.
I spent about two hours on the terrace people watching and enjoying the fairly warm sunshine in the lee of the buildings. My observations reveal the following: Ugly people* are not allowed to ski. There appears to be no actual plan to exclude ugly folks from the ski hill, but clearly the conditions which surround the culture of skiing pretty much excludes the less beautiful from participating. Skiers (and snowboarders for that matter) are pretty much young, and if they aren’t young they are reasonably wealthy – enough to be able to afford ski vacations in the first place.
To get there (from Munich Airport):
1. By car. Depart the airport following signs for Munchen and join the A92. At kreuz neufahrn, follow signs for A9 towards Munchen and follow until the A9 ends at the Mittler-ring. Be aware that the off ramp to the Mittler ring does not give you much distance to join the through traffic, so get over to the left sharpish. Follow the Mittler-ring and signs for garmisch west and then south towards the beginning of the A95. Follow the A95 for about 90km towards garmisch and then follow the local road up into town. You may consider staying at the Atlas Posthotel, Marienplatz 12, Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
When in Garmisch, you may also wish to eat good local cuisine. The Restaurant Wildshutz has a very good chef and interesting menu including venison and my recommendation, the Ziebelfleisch in dark beer sauce.
*warning – for the easily offended – ugly people are actually allowed on the skill hill, but only in limited quantities.