Sunday, October 16, 2011


Last weekend we took our first overnight family trip since being in Germany. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is located southeast of Stuttgart in Bavaria, just this side of the Austrian border on the edge of the Alps. Yeah – The Alps. Cool, huh? It started as two separate towns (you can guess the names) that were forced to join together in 1935 by Adolf Hitler in preparation for the 1936 Olympic Winter Games. People usually just refer to it as “Garmisch,” which probably gets the Partenkircheners’ collective goat but is a lot easier to say. One of our kids called it “Garnish,” and that seems to have stuck with us.

Even though the kids had Friday off from school, we had to wait till Tom was done with work, so we didn’t get on the road till almost 5:00. It was a beautiful three-hour drive. Well, I take that back. It was a beautiful two-hour drive (my turn) followed by a white-knuckled, dark-narrow-windy-road, we-should-have-changed-the-windshield-wipers-before-it-started-pouring, are-we-supposed-to-be-in-Austria? one-hour drive (Tom’s turn). But all is well that ends well, and we arrived in one piece. We stayed at Hostel 2962, which we thought was a random name but turns out to refer to the elevation in meters of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, which is south of Garmisch and directly on the Austria/Germany border. Though this hostel has many individual rooms and shared bathrooms, we stayed in the Apartment, at the very tippy top of the place. We had several rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen all to ourselves. The décor was quite unique and impressed the kids. There was the master bedroom with bricks and arches…
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The sitting room with mountain peaks and birds…
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The kitchen with a sun light…
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And this space…
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There is great debate about whether this is a snow cave or a tidal wave. Snow cave makes more sense given the surroundings, but it sure looks like a breaking wave, and they had fun surfing underneath it. Jonah took one look at it and decided to sleep in what I would describe as a mudroom with a bed.
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It was late and pouring rain when we got there, so we stayed in. Noah actually came down with a fever, so it took a while to get him settled down to sleep. By then, Tom was exhausted and went to bed and Jonah was curled up with a book, so the younger two and I played Skip-Bo and had hot chocolate before I tucked them into their snow cave beds.

I have to mention at this point that the thing the kids were looking forward to the most on this trip was seeing snow. Even though we keep telling them that pretty soon they will have more snow than they can shake a stick at, they couldn’t wait to see the stuff. We haven’t been in snow since we left Maryland seven years ago, which means that Vienna has never seen snow, Noah only vaguely remembers it, and Elijah definitely doesn’t remember as he was just a baby then. The forecast called for precipitation, leaning more toward snow the closer we got to the day, so they were psyched.

Morning came, and there was a lot of rain, but no snow. However, Noah’s Eskimo Senses were tingling…
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…and Tom and I were determined to have a fun family day, even if it meant getting a little wet or staying inside more than we hoped. As we got packed up and ready to check out, we could see from our windows that the tops of the nearby mountains were turning white, but we were below the snow line. We had no real plan for the day, other than to drive around and see what we could see. A short drive found us at the Olympic Ski Stadium. The ski jump was rebuilt in 2007, but the stadium itself is mostly unchanged from when it was built.
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We walked through the stadium, but it was wet and downright cold. We hadn’t had rain at home for a while, so Vienna was at least enjoying using her new umbrella and thrift store boots to jump through all the puddles, and the boys were decked out in their winter attire.
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We decided to get some lunch and then come back to take a gondola ride up the mountain. It was still raining, and the kids were coming to terms with the fact that we might not be seeing snow this trip. I had read about a famous restaurant where they have dancers like you might remember from National Lampoon’s European Vacation, but without the fistfight. So we found our way to Gasthof Frauendorfer and settled in for a Bavarian lunch. Four orders of chicken nuggets with fries (notice the “Garnish”)…
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One slaughter plate (don’t ask)…
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potato soup with bread (not pictured – it smelled so good I dove right in), and drinks all around…
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Alas, there were no dancers, but the atmosphere and our waitress were very nice and the food was good.
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Noah came down with a fever while we were waiting for our food, so Tom walked to the nearest Apotheke to get some medicine.
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Apparently the Germans make good medicine, because he was perking up by the time we finished our meal. It had been raining the whole time we were inside, and we had almost decided to start making our way home, but when we came out of the restaurant, we found a gorgeous site: The rain had gone, the air had cleared, and the mountains were full of fresh snow.
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We walked down historic, ancient Ludwigstrasse, with its fantastic murals, inns, shops, and parish church.
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Vienna stopped to admire some miniature umbrellas in a store window – “Just like mine!”
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With Noah feeling better and the weather improving, we went back to the Stadium. Here is a before and after of a view from the parking lot…
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We bought tickets for the 2-person, covered gondolas. Guess who got to be my partner!
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I have only been on a ski lift once before (see this post), and both times it amazed me how far they travel, both horizontally and vertically. From the base, we could only see a short rise before the gondola line went out of sight. Over the next fifteen to twenty minutes, we climbed up and up away from the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and into a new world. The green forest began to be dotted with white, and it fun to be with Vienna as she realized that this was SNOW!
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She had no fear of being so high up above the ground, even though I gripped the sides tightly a few times, especially when we hit the bumps and began to swing a little. 2011-10-07 Garmisch 0902011-10-07 Garmisch 095
As the elevation increased, the landscape became more monochrome – the sky grayed and the ground was covered in white. Beautiful!
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The boys were waiting for us at the top, anxious to get in the snow. I had to capture the historic first snowball.
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They threw, they fell, they laughed, they played as we made our way over the hill. It felt like we had the mountain to ourselves as hardly anyone else was outside.
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When everyone was nice and cold, we went into the restaurant for some hot chocolate. I wish I had a picture of that, because it was goo-ood. It was then that the younger two, who hadn’t donned gloves, realized how much it can hurt when cold fingers warm up. Ouch! After tracking down an MIA camera (not mine, BTW) we headed back out and were fortunate to run into a German couple who took a family picture for us. I call it, “Hey, look – proof I was there!”
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We worked our way back to the lift station – is that what it is called? – and had a little more play time. The kids really enjoyed themselves. Noah even said he thinks snow is his “natural element.”
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I often forget that my camera (a Nikon D90 DSLR) can take video, but luckily I remembered to capture a few minutes before we left. You don’t want to miss Elijah catching a snowball in the face!

To make matters worse for him, he suffered a slight wardrobe malfunction.2011-10-07 Garmisch 154
We got the pants hitched up and got back into our gondolas. Some more pretty views of the ride down, and my lift partner…
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Here is a shot of the map showing where we went. (I know you probably don’t care, but I thought it was interesting.)
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After that, we headed home! The dip into Austria was not so bad this time – daylight and no rain.
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I believe that this picture I took from the road is of the Zugspite, but I won’t be offended if someone corrects me.
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We did make one minor pit-stop on the way home. You see, just inside the German border is a castle that I have dreamt of seeing for as long as I can remember. Though we didn’t have time on this trip to stop and take a full tour, my adorable husband wanted to make sure that I at least got to lay my eyes on Mad King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein. He may have regretted that decision for a moment, because as we were following the signs to the parking lot below it, I got a glimpse of My Castle through the trees, and my, um, overwhelming reaction almost caused him to crash.

So here it is, as close as I could get to it. For now.
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  1. What a great post! I couldn't view most of the pictures though. Can you post them somewhere else?

  2. I LOVE that family picture with all of you! Can I just say, holy smokes that Vienna has just grown so much. She is darling as ever. What a flipping awesome trip for you guys! and your castle..oh I can't wait for you to go inside and take a ton of pictures and let me live vicareously through you.

  3. Missing my friends! Cute family. Growing!