Sunday, September 30, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, Lance, his sister and I traveled down to Garmisch. Now of course, Lance and I were there last Christmas. I won't talk much about Garmisch itself. But we took some tours out of Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, which I will write about in a bit more detail.

Anyway, we arrived on Monday the 17th, really too late in the day to do much. We just settled into our hotel room, had dinner at Zuggy's Base Camp, and relaxed a bit.

Tuesday, Sept. 18
Our tours didn't start until Wednesday, so we decided to spend this day sightseeing in Garmisch. Unfortunately, this was not a good day for it. It was very cloudy and rainy, and we got tickets to go to the top of the Zugspitze (which are expensive), only to find the weather conditions too murky to see anything. A cloud was directly below us, obscuring our view, and it was snowing and sleeting on the mountain.

So that was a wash.

We were planning to follow that with a trip to Partnach Gorge, including lunch at Forsthaus Graseck, where Lance and I had eaten before, but the city busses were crammed full of people at lunch time. So we decided to wait awhile and opted instead to have lunch at El Greco and then walk around a bit. Lunch at El Greco was delicious. Lance and I had eaten there last Christmas Eve and liked it. I just had tomato soup and pita with tzatziki...something simple and light, but Lance shared some of his Greek cheese pie with me, which was also very good.

We followed up lunch with a walk through the main shopping district in Garmisch. It was raining buckets and very chilly, but it was really nothing compared to what we were about to experience at Partnach Gorge.

So once the lunch rush cleared, we took a bus out to the Olympic Ski Stadium, to walk to Partnach Gorge from there. On the way, we enjoyed the delightful chorus of the sheep's bells as they grazed in the pastures. Lance and I had been out to the gorge in winter, so everything was frozen over then. This time, there were waterfalls everywhere. We were all soaked by the time we left the gorge, and the trip through the gorge very nearly ruined my camera.

From there, we took the Graseck Bahn up to Forsthaus Graseck for an early dinner. Problem is, German restaurants don't serve dinner that early. They had a snack menu, and snacks are generally pretty ample. We had the restaurant all to ourselves. Lance and his sister shared a Bavarian cheese plate with a basket of bread. I got weissewurst (white sausages) that come with their own special mustard and a giant Bavarian pretzel. The wurst is kind of gross looking, but very tasty (if you ever have some, be sure to take off the casing...some servers neglect to tell people this if they order it!).

After warming up and drying off there a little, we made our way back into town and called it a night. Our clothes were still soaked, and I ran downstairs to the Starbucks in the basement of our hotel to get a hot chocolate to help warm me up.

Wednesday, Sept. 19

The first of our tours was this day - Berchtesgaden and the Eagle's Nest. We had this tiny, elfin German woman as our guide...she was absolutely hilarious. She kept calling us "Gaaaaaaawmish Gwoup"...a term we would end up repeating throughout the rest of our trip.

Anyway, the drive to Berchtesgaden took almost 3 hours (and this was the longest tour of all the ones we took because of the distance). It's near Salzburg, Austria. In fact, Hitler's Eagle's Nest overlooks Salzburg...not that it mattered. The weather up there was similar to what we had on the Zugspitze the day before. We had treacherous drives over curvy mountain roads, so it felt a bit daring and scary.

If the weather is bad at the Eagle's Nest, the tour goes instead to some nearby salt mines. But we were approved for the Eagle's Nest, so we had to get off our bus below the mountain and then take another bus up to a point high up the mountain. From there, we walk through a tunnel, get on an elevator, and go up directly into Hitler's residence.

I was surprised to find it so uninteresting. It's not preserved to look like it did when Hitler lived there. The largest room is now a restaurant and the other rooms sit empty. The fireplace was the only thing of interest, as it has some historical significance, which is explained on the tour. And, as I said before, the view from up there was obscured by clouds.

We didn't stay up there too long. We took the elevator back down and waited for the bus that would take us back down to our starting point. At that point, some of the clouds dissipated and we got a bit of a view of the valley below.

Eventually, we made our way into the town of Berchtesgaden, where we had a group lunch at The Golden Bear. I had a very delicious meal of meatloaf smothered in mushroom gravy with spaetzle on the side. Fantastic. The weather in Berchtesgaden was actually pretty nice, and we had some time to walk around the town a bit and poke into the shops. It's a cute little town.

Overall, unless you are guaranteed gorgeous weather, skip this tour. This was my least favorite of all of them. And Berchtesgaden, while adorable, wasn't as pretty as other Bavarian towns we saw on the other tours.

Thursday, Sept. 20

Our tour guide, Andrea, came to get us around 8:30 or so, I think. The drive to Neuschwanstein wasn't long...probably around an hour. It looked to be a gorgeous day.

On the way toward Neuschwanstein, we drove past the town of Fuessen, on which I had written a travel guide but had never seen. It looked like such a pretty town, but I wasn't able to photograph it, sadly. A few minutes later, we arrived in Schwangau, which sits below Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles.

Neuschwanstein is probably the most famous castle in Germany. Built by mad King Ludwig II, it was never finished before his mysterious death. This castle is the inspiration for the castle at Disney World. His parents' castle, Hohenschwangau, is very nearby, and can be seen from Neuschwanstein.

Our tour of the castle was to start at 11:15, and we had 3 ways to get up there: by foot, by bus, or by horse and carriage. We opted to walk, which takes about half an hour. It's a pretty steep climb, but we were game for it. Once the castle tour started, it lasted about 30 minutes. There are only a handful of completed rooms in the castle, so it doesn't take long to see them. And the rooms are nice, but I've seen nicer. Photographs aren't allowed inside, so unfortunately, I don't have pictures.

After the castle tour, we walked to the nearby Marienbrucke - a rickety bridge over a ravine that gives you an amazing view of the castle. Since we were running short on time, we took the bus back down into town. We grabbed some fast food at a German snack stand and did some shopping.

On the way back from Neuschwanstein, we stopped in the town of Wies to visit the famous Wieskirche. This church was built to house a statue of Jesus Christ in chains, which was the subject of a miracle in the 18th century, since the statue was said to have shed real tears. The statue was originally housed in a small chapel (which is next to the church), but so many pilgrims came to see it that a church had to be constructed.

The church is unusual because it's pretty much out in the middle of nowhere...yet it's huge and magnificent.

After our detour there, we drove for a while longer before we stopped at a shop that sold wood handicrafts and carvings. It is a pretty large shop and has a wide variety of objects to buy, but it seemed to specialize in nativity pieces. Things there ran in price from very inexpensive to stuff that requires a lottery win in order to buy. Overall, an interesting little diversion, and I'm glad we went there. The items were crafted by various artisans, so we got to see many different examples of woodworking.

Because we had a little extra time, the bus driver suggested that we drive through Oberammergau, a town that is mostly famous for its Passion play, which is put on every 10 years and features local actors. We drove past the theatre where this play is performed and the bus stopped so Andrea could point out some interesting paintings on some of the local buildings - fairy tales depicted on the houses! There was Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel & Gretel.

We also drove through Ettal on the way back to Garmisch, a town primarily known for its monastery. Edelweiss has a new tour that goes to the cheese-making shop there.

I would really recommend this Neuschwanstein tour. The little towns we drove through were just unbelievably beautiful.

Okay...more tomorrow (Innsbruck and South Tyrol). I also have Oktoberfest, but that almost deserves its own post.

Here are pictures. There are about 60 of them. I had to delete a lot because the weather made them turn out badly. But these things happen. The pictures that I thought were really important turned out well, which is good. There are also 3 photos of Fort St. Pieter from our Maastricht trip on the 16th.

Photos - Klicken Sie hier!

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