Of all the places we were hitting up on our epic Alps road trip, I was most excited for Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
And it would turn out to be the place that disappointed me the most.
But let me start from the beginning.
After our hike at Leutasch Gorge and dip in the chilly Isar River, we ventured back into Mittenwald for a spell. It’s just so cute and quintessentially Bavarian, wouldn’t you want to spend all your time here, too?
While there, we sipped Paulaners in a beer garden and I hopped on my phone—we rented a GlocalMe device for this trip so I had Wi-Fi everywhere we went, and it turned out to be the best decision since we hadn’t booked any accommodation in advance. We were using credit card points for most bookings, and once I opened the rewards app, I couldn’t find anywhere to stay in Mittenwald. Literally anywhere.
A shame really, since it was perhaps my favorite alpine town.
So instead, we drove 25 minutes north to a place very close to SVV’s heart: the place he skied as an impressionable twentysomething while in the Navy. Never one to squander vacation time, SVV would squirrel away his 30 days of annual PTO and use them in big chunks to visit different regions in Europe or go skiing with his military bros.
Needless to say, he was stoked to be back for the first time in nearly 20 years. Only, we’d come to find it to be one of the most unfriendly towns along our route—a huge departure from the warm welcome we’d received in Munich.
I’m not going to lie, right out the gate, my initial impression of Garmisch wasn’t a favorable one, and it started with how rude the receptionist was in our mediocre hotel.
It’s sad how a few negative encounters can shape a place in your mind, isn’t it? This also taught me that there’s a reasoning behind my obsessive Type A planning self; traveling a popular vacation region during the last week of summer holiday and trying to book last minute zimmers simply isn’t a feasible game plan, much as my husband would like for us to travel more spontaneously in the future. Not to mention, Germany isn’t super cheap, and I was not about to pay $400 (or more) for the few resorts that did have space. Got to save that money when you can (to turn around and spend on sausages and Weisse beers, of course).
So, we went where our hotel points dictated, and that’s how we found ourselves in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
First off, everything here was expensive. Look, I get it. Garmisch is a ski resort town. Ski resort towns are, by nature, much pricier.
That said, 53 euro apiece for the two of us to go up the gondola for a beer and quick picture? No. Thank. You.
But here’s were I finally learned to love—or, at the very least, like—Garmisch.
After we stopped into the tourist information center and asked the (yet again unfriendly, tolerant at best) local for the cheapest gondola in the area—21 euro apiece, she told us; yikes—she begrudgingly shared that it was just 14 euro to go up to the top of Eckbauerbahn.
But, “the views are lousy today,” she told us. Don’t waste your time, she said. Perhaps Germans have a different opinion of what constitutes “stunning,” “breathtaking” and “WOW” as we didn’t find the vista from the peak to be all that shabby.
Yeah, lousy is exactly what I’d call this.
Germans are accustomed to nice things, and I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she didn’t immediately direct us here because the lift up was a bit, well, outdated.
That’s two moderately sized Americans who can barely fit in the two-person car. We absolutely loved it (no trace of irony).
Partially because when we arrived at the top, there was the most gorgeous bar and zimmer from which to share a pint.
Who are we kidding? We had two (and possibly a half) each, because there was no pulling ourselves away from this view anytime soon.
We didn’t have a ton of time to kill after our beers went dry as we had some friends to meet in the center. So we took a quick stroll up the hill so I could channel my inner Sound of Music (no prizes for guessing which song I sang here).
The Eckbauer lift was so worth the trip up in that rickety old cable car—I’m not sure why the tourist officer would lead us anywhere but here. We loved how open it was and devoid of tourists.
The way back down was nearly as fun as the way up, as the clouds parted and we had a nice view of the entire town.
Once we reached the parking lot, we zoomed back into the city center as we had some very special friends to see. Layne pops up a lot on this blog, and as it turns out she and our friend Chris—both of whom I just saw a few weeks ago in Fort Collins—were in Germany for a Semester at Sea embarkation. When they saw via Snapchat they were but an hour away from us by car, they hopped in their rental and popped in for a visit.
I’ve now been to more countries with Layne—26 and counting, I believe—than any other person aside from SVV. It was so cool getting to catch up with them in the heart of Bavaria, even if it was just for mere hours.
We took them to the restaurant, Mohrenplatz, we’d discovered the night before, which not only boasted delicious food, but some of the only friendly locals we met while in Garmisch.
Then, all too soon, our catch-up was over; they were off to Munich, and we were heading back toward Vienna with a stopover in Salzburg for the night.
What It Costs
- Hotel (summer): $147 for a three- or four-star accommodation
- Gondola up Zugspitze (summer): $56 per person, round-trip
- Tram up mountain: $14 per person, round-trip
- Stein of beer: $5
- Parking: $5 for 2.5 hours
- Gas: $63 for a tank
Have you ever been somewhere you immediately disliked, but learned to unearth its beauty?
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Oooh, those mountains, tho! They look so much like the ones that guard my hometown, this post makes my heart happy/homesick.
Awww! They are very Utah-like! Did you make it home for the holidays?
Sadly, no. It was a cactus-and-sunshine Christmas (and I’m still not very happy about it). BUT! I have a trip north scheduled in a few weeks and I will probably just plop myself on the side of a mountain and sit there oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing until my toes freeze. It’ll be perfection! 🙂
I need to get out there to visit! Scott has a new client based in Arizona so I’m hoping he’ll let me tag along at some point this year on a business trip =)
Come visit! Hopefully not when it’s 120 degrees!
I’m going to say something really strange and I blame it on my alcohol-less week in India: the colour of the beer against that stunning green backdrop is simply wow!
Ha! I’m also having an alcohol-less week as I’m back on Whole30 (womp, womp). Can’t wait to read all about your India adventures!
I especially love the cable car ride and the views at the top! Those are the kinds of travel moments you never forget. ❤️
Born and raised in Germany and have been back for the last ten years. Every vacation I get…my child and I return to Garmisch. This is our “go-to” location and the locals remember us…and treat us well. Both my child and I speak fluent German, so this may be one reason. Once, when he had chicken pox, he was spoiled by the locals…all over this lovely town. Sorry, your experience was not totally positive…but it truly is a friendly town made up kind, friendly, fun locals.
I’ll give it another chance, Claire! Maybe in the shoulder season next time =)
Sorry about your experience here in Garmisch. But “when in Rome”…less expensive and more enjoyable to stay in a Ferienwohnung. My landlord charges 90 euro/night and there are cheaper. The tourist office in Garmisch does great referrals. Bavarians hike. Don’t take the lifts. Besides, the beer will taste so much better. You didn’t hike down through the Partnachklamm? Shame on you! 🙂 I do love Mittenwald, though. Next time check out Grainau next door (unser Zugspitzdorf) That’s where we live now.
I had to look up what a Ferienwohnung was, Jim, ha! Yeah, I’m the Type A planner of the pair of us, and Scott forced me to do a “go-with-the-flow” road trip, which doesn’t work so well for the Alps at the tail end of high season as so many of the places we tried were booked! Next time, we’ll hit you up for recs =)
Looks like a lovely way to spend an afternoon. I’ve never seen such an unusual little cable car before, how cute!
Rickety, for sure. Cute, definitely. 😉
Excellent post! The place is just stunning… and the food looks delicious 🙂