We are now deep into Alpine Bavaria, where we’ve holed up at a charming hotel in the resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I know what you’re thinking: That’s just too darn many syllables for a pretty mountain town! Well, Garmisch and Partenkirchen were two separate towns for centuries until Hitler forced them together to play host to the 1936 Winter Olympics.
Today, some people casually call the whole thing “Garmisch,” but apparently the Partenkircheners feel slighted by that, so that’s not OK. It is, however, acceptable to call it simply, “Ga-Pa.”
We spent our first day in Ga-Pa easing Jim out of isolation, as his COVID symptoms rapidly started to fade away. Despite the continued AWFUL weather, we had a lunch outside at a nice Bavarian restaurant where they had blankets to fight off the damp wet cold.
The next day we set out to encounter the reason people really come to Ga-Pa: the adjacent mountain Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak. We weren’t sure it made any sense to go there, since the weather was still horrible and everything was completely clouded over. But the hotel receptionist reported that the summit of Zugspitze was actually above the clouds that morning. So while we wouldn’t get amazing expansive views, it might still be interesting. So we chanced it.
We bought tickets to ascend Zugspitze by the incredibly sleek Swiss-designed cable car that was completed just before COVID. Most of the rapid 10-minute ride we were looking at nothing but fog as expected. Then suddenly the car swooshed above the clouds, and everyone gasped as the rugged, snow-covered face of Zugspitze suddenly appeared before us. The car was climbing so steeply, and the mountain face was so dramatic we were astounded.
Once we reached the summit, we found ourselves in a total winter wonderland. This stunning landscape felt especially other-worldly because it was so cut off from the rest of the world hidden under fog nearly 10,000 feet below. What a cool adventure!
And now that we were back in the business of seeing sights after Jim’s recovery, we added another quintessential Bavarian landmark to our roster as we headed north again. An hour from Ga-Pa we toured Neuschwanstein, the dramatic 19th-century castle built by mad King Ludwig II. It’s probably the first image that pops up if you google “Germany,” and it was a fun stop. The sun even peeked out a bit to reveal the beautiful fall colors below the castle.