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Wunderbar! Now this is Deutschland… – Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany

Wunderbar! Now this is Deutschland…

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany

The Loisach River in the middle of winter.
The Loisach River in the middle of winter.
Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and allow your mind to wander. Imagine that you are traveling through Europe – seeing the sites, hearing the music, tasting the food, and meeting the people. Specifically imagine yourself in the center of Europe – a country steeped in history, a powerhouse country active in yesterday’s and today’s world events – Germany. What do you see? Farmhouses with white stucco siding and wooden roofs? Cobblestone streets lined with cafes, taverns, and restaurants? What do you hear? Accordions and brass bands playing “oompah” music and polkas? What do you taste? Big potato dumplings, pork served in rich gravies, with a strong flavorful beer? Who do you see? Men with full curly mustaches dressed in lederhosen with a plumed hat? Women in dresses with colorful aprons? That is the picture that most would conjure in their mind when imagining Germany.

When you travel, however, what you picture and what you actually get are sometimes very different. Unfortunately, if you traveled Germany with the above image, you would probably be disappointed. Germany has many stunning towns filled with churches, small streets, and restaurants that serve “wiener schnitzel and pommes.” However, there is only one town that offers all aspects of the picture. The small resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria is the ideal location for capturing the full spirit of the country in a peaceful setting.

Fully surrounded by the Alps, including the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in Germany, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a storybook town that welcomes visitors throughout the year. Just a short 45-minute car ride from Munich, Bavaria’s capital, the quaint town offers a wide variety of things to do, places to stay, and experiences to be had year-round.

History buffs will find it a fascinating town with a long rich history that traces back to approximately 2,000 B.C. As one can judge from the name, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is actually two different cities that were forced to join together in 1935 by Adolf Hitler in order to host the 1936 Winter Olympics. The first settlers in the area were believed to have been the Illyrian tribes, people from the western Balkans; later, Partenkirchen became a stopover for the Romans on their military road between Brenner in Italy and Augsburg. Garmisch, the younger of the two cities, celebrated its 1200-year anniversary in 2002 with a medieval fest, complete with fire-eaters and other street performers.

Adventures thrive in Garmisch. During the winter, the town turns into a typical ski town with skiing, snowboarding, sledding, hockey, and ice-skating available. The town often hosts downhill skiing events and the ski jump on New Year’s Day is always a packed affair. In the summer, recreation activities turn to hiking, biking, swimming, and canoeing. Horseback riding, white water rafting, and bungee jumping are also available in nearby towns.

As a resort town, there are many choices for high-quality food, even at low prices. Cuisines range from Indian to Italian, Greek to Japanese, but, of course, German is the favorite. Traditional German fare is available everywhere you turn with menus ranging from a four Euro rotisserie half chicken to a twenty Euro roasted pork knuckle with all the trimmings.

Lodging opportunities abound, as well. Traditional guesthouses with comfortable beds and large feather comforters are available at very low prices; large elegant hotels with deluxe rooms are also available for those that desire to have a more luxurious vacation.

Fruhling Strasse--a well-known street in town.
Fruhling Strasse–a well-known street in town.
If you’re not participating in any of the recreational activities, eating, or sleeping, there is still more to do. Check out the castle ruins, the WWII memorial, the casino, or the breathtaking gorge. Take a day trip to the famous Neuschwanstein castle (the model for Disney Land’s Sleeping Beauty castle), the small town of woodworkers, Oberammergau, or visit the monks at Ettal monastery that make their own beer and liqueurs. And, of course, Munich and Innsbruck, two major European cities are located with an hour’s drive or a 90-minute train ride.

To truly experience typical Germany, complete with townspeople wearing lederhosen and dirndls, visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen and your image of Germany will come alive.

For more information on this lovely Bavarian town, visit their website at www.garmisch-partenkirchen.de.

Getting There
Although Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a small town way down south in Germany, there are many ways to get yourself there.

There are two nearby airports if you are planning on flying. Both have nearby train or subway stations to lead you to Garmisch or rental car agencies within the airport for you to pick up a car and hit the autobahns of Germany.

Munich’s Franz Josef International Airport, the eighth largest airport in Europe, is just a two-hour train ride or 45-minute drive from the dreamy town of Garmisch. More than 90 airlines fly into Munich, including all of the major airlines like Delta, Lufthansa, and United, but also the budget airline EasyJet. To find out more about the airport and which airlines fly there, check out the website

While Innsbruck, Austria’s airport isn’t quite as large as Munich’s; it, too, could be an ideal airport to fly into Garmisch. There are more than fifty airlines that fly into Innsbruck, which is also just a two-hour train ride or 45-minute drive away. It’s website is here.

If you’ve already been backpacking around Europe, you are probably familiar with the great train system and can take advantage of that to get to Garmisch.

From Munich, the train leaves approximately every hour on the half hour until the last train, currently at 2327. (Check the schedule though, particularly for weekends and holidays). Even better about the train from Munich is that by purchasing the “Bayernpass” from the desk in the train station, the automatic machine, or even from the conductor on the train, it costs approximately 22 Euro for up to five people for the whole day, including Munich’s subway and underground system.

If you’re coming from the South, coming through Innsbruck might be the easier way. It too, runs regular trains to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, but a little less often; only every two hours.

Of course, from anywhere in Europe, you can rent a car and “fly” to Garmisch on the world-famous autobahns of Germany. It is an exciting thrill to look down and realize that you’re driving 100 miles an hour, but always be careful and don’t push yourself, or your car, farther than you can handle. And it is a myth that there aren’t speed limits?”in certain places, there are, and you will be ticketed if you go over the limit.

A view from above (while paragliding!) of the whole town.
A view from above (while paragliding!) of the whole town.
The A95 from Munich is the largest road that enters Garmisch, but to the South there is also the 2 coming from Innsbruck or the 23 coming from Fussen (site of the world-famous Neuschwanstein).

Whether you’re heading straight to Garmisch or stopping at a few other places along the way, you have many options to make sure you make it to this resort town filled with lots of things to do.

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