Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

back to overview

June 1997

Peaks and Piques: "The Weekender" goes to Garmisch

travelling in Garmisch

Once upon a time, Garmisch and Partenkirchen were just a pair of traditional Bavarian villageslocated at the foot of Germany's highest mountain (the Zugspitze) and the craggy peaks of the loftyWetterstein range. That was before 1936, when the railroad came to town and Garmisch and Partenkirchen were fused to accommodate the Winter Olympics. The Zugspitze's ski slopes are still very much Garmisch-Partenkirchen's lifeblood, but since the '30s the entire area has developed into a chic, bustling, year-round sports resort just a one-hour drive from Munich. SPLIT PERSONALITY Despite merging to form a sizable town, Garmisch and Partenkirchen continue to retain quite different characters. Partenkirchen still feels much more like a village, with narrow streets, inviting inns and cafés, and white-washed gabled houses brimming with flowers and decorated with gaily painted Lüftlmalereien (wall paintings). Don't miss the old quarter's Main Street, Ludwigstraße. By contrast, Garmisch is glitzy, modern and more expensive, with luxury hotels, smart shops, trendy brasseries and very few buildings predating World War I. For a glimpse of Garmisch's Alpine village origins, explore the northern outskirts around Frühlingstraße, where you'll find rustic houses and a small square splashed by fountains. Nearby, in a Jugendstil villa on Yöppritzstraße, composer Richard Strauss spent the last 40 years of his life and wrote the majority of his masterworks. In fact, 13 of Strauss' 16 operas were written in Garmisch, including Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra and Arabella. As it had for Gustav Mahler before him (and would for Carl Orff), Bavaria held a magnetic attraction for Munich-born Strauss and influenced his compositions considerably, particularly his Alpensinfonie and the rarely performed autobiographical opera, Intermezzo. He was a keen skier who was often spotted shooting down the pistes of the Zugspitze, and much of the first act of Intermezzo actually takes place on a toboggan in the mountains. Strauss died in Garmisch in 1949, but his family continues to live there and, in 1989, they initiated a music festival in his memory: Richard-Strauss-Tage (Richard Strauss Days). During the annual festival, June 10 through 15 this year, the town buzzes with street performances by day and a dazzling program of concerts by night. '97 highlights include a Liederabend with Felicity Lott (June 12), numerous performances of symphonic tone-poems - including Strauss' last work, the sorrowing Metamorphosen, with the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (June 11) - and a rare opportunity to hear the Singspiel Des Esels Schatten (Of the Donkey's Shadow) performed by Peter Ustinov and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (June 13). Festival tickets and more information are available through the Vorverkaufkasse at (08821) 48 62. The lush meadows and rolling hills ofGarmisch-Partenkirchen at the peak of their perfection: summer HIGH PERFORMANCE Most spring- and summertime visitors to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, though, don't come for the music. They come for the mountain sports, the invigorating air and the spectacular scenery - a symphony of meadows fragrant with flowers, rolling hills resounding to the echoes of cowbells, wooded valleys and turquoise lakes - all crowned by the snowcapped mountains that form the Austro-German border. It's no surprise that Garmisch-Partenkirchen is Bavaria's undisputed Alpine capital. The mountains surrounding the town contain over 200km of clearly marked paths to suit every walker and hiker, with countless summits to scale, including Kreuzeck, Eckbauer and Hausberg (all have cable cars for the less than sporty). One of the region's most dramatic walks heads up the wild Partnachklamm gorge along a path hewn from the rock face. More ambitious hikers might want to tackle the challenging Alpspitze (altitude: 2,628m) or Wank (at 1,780m). On a fine day, however, it's hard to beat a trip up the Zugspitze (2,964m). There are two ways of getting to the top by public transport: via Zugspitzbahn to Eibsee (1,000m), followed by a breathtaking cable-car ride to the peak; or by rack-railway up to Zugspitzplatt Station (2,600m), then a short cable-car trip over the glacier. At the summit you will find restaurants, a church, a sun terrace, ski slopes, a conference center and, even, an art gallery. But it's the awesome view from Germany's highest peak, across range after range of mountains over four countries, that makes a trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen truly unforgettable. Online Resources Further information on Garmisch-Partenkirchen is available GARMISCH INFORMATION Restaurants and Bars $$$ Partenkirchner Hof: Bahnhofstr. 15; (08821) 580 25. International cuisine in an intimate atmosphere. One of the town's top restaurants. $$$ Alpenhof: Bahnhofstr. 74; (08821) 590 55. This central restaurant serves fine, gourmet cuisine. Situated under the casino. Accommodation $$$ Post-Hotel Partenkirchen: Ludwigstr. 49; (08821) 510 67. A bit of the Old World in Partenkirchen. Well worth the price. Also has a first-class, Bavarian restaurant with a taverne Vinothek and a beer garden. (And one of Germany's best-documented Heimat museums is located next-door: the Werdenfelser Heimatmuseum, tracing the area's history from Rome to the 20th century.) $$ Gasthof Fraundorfer: Ludwigstr. 24; (08821) 21 76. A traditional inn in the heart of Partenkirchen. The restaurant's wonderful Bavarian fare is frequently accompanied by live country music, Platten dancing and yodeling. $ Zur Schönen Aussicht: Gsteig 36; (08821) 24 74. A family-run, mountain Gasthof with a magnificent view from the terrace. Fifteen minutes by foot from the center of Partenkirchen. Some hotels and guest houses offer Richard Strauss Days specials. Call the tourist office for information. Getting There By car: 95km southwest of Munich on the A95 Autobahn. By train: The direct 80-min. train ride leaves Munich Hauptbahnhof hourly. Tourist Office Fremdenverkehrsamt: (08821) 180-6, fax (08821) 180-450; Richard-Strauss-Platz 2, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

tell a friend