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A Winter Visit to Garmisch-Partenkirchen

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This was my birthday gift to myself: four days in the Bavarian Alps. I chose Garmisch-Partenkirchen because it is a winter resort in the snowy mountain landscape but there is a lot to do for non-skiers like me, like hikes on cleared trails and of course the attractions of the two old town centres in Garmisch and Partenkirchen.

The winter in my home region has so far been no winter, far too mild and not a single snowflake on the ground. I wanted at least a bit of real winter. The obvious choice was going into the mountains. I found an affordable and nice place to stay and booked my train ticket and the room. Then I remembered that, through another travel forum, I knew someone who lives there. I contacted her - and it turned out that her birthday is one day before mine. Which lead to a notable amount of celebrations during that weekend...

Even nature, or St Peter, or what/whoever is in charge of the weather, celebrated with us. I was granted the most glorious sunny winter weather for the entire four days, as you'll see in my photos. (Much appreciated, many thanks!)

Even without skiing and without the use of cable cars I took the chance to enjoy the winter landscapes. Garmisch-Partenkirchen and surroundings offer lots of options for winter walks.

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Ski Jump and Olympic Stadium

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The new ski jump on the slope of Gudiberg, which substituted the old one in 2007, is a landmark of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The daring architecture is amazing at daytime but even more impressive at night when it is illuminated from inside.

To me, looking up at the thing from the ground was enough. If you want to experience how the ski jumpers feel up there, there are guided tours to the top on Saturday afternoon. Enquire and sign up for a tour in advance at the tourist information office - details on their website.

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The ski stadium at the foot of the ski jump is worth a closer look. The cubic entrance portals, the oversized reliefs and statues have that certain *flair* that betrays them as Nazi architecture. Indeed, the stadium was built for the 1936 winter Olympics. The side entrance was open when I walked by so I was able to enter the stadium. I don't know if this is always the case but it is worth checking.

Being a centre of winter sports, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the location of many competitions in almost all winter disciplines. Of course there are the big World Cup events, like the downhill races on the famous Kandahar track and the ski jumping on New Year’s Day. These are announced well in advance and require buying expensive tickets.

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However, top athletes don't drop from heaven. It takes a lot of work in training children and teenagers to lead the best of them to world-class level. Many competitions are held for children and teenagers, boys and girls in the different age groups.

When I passed the ski stadium on the way to Partnach gorge, I heard a loudspeaker and had a look what was going on. There were slalom races for kids going on on the slope of Gudiberg. Those kids were really good. Here is one of the participants, a girl of maybe 11 or 12 years, already in the same race suit as the professionals.

Old Garmisch

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Garmisch's history dates back to the early middle ages. Of course the present houses are not that old, but there are a couple of streets where you'll find an ensemble of historical houses in the typical style of the Bavarian Alps, with big roofs and wooden balconies over the gables.

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The prettiest of these old streets is probably Frühlingstraße. The name translates to „spring street“ and might refer to (my guess) its location on the „spring“ or „summer“ side of the valley on the Northern bank of Loisach river, the side that receives more sunshine than the Southern bank which remains in the shade of the mountains much longer. It is the second street parallel to the river, hence arleady a bit uphill. The houses line up on one side only, all facing Southeast - photos are best taken between morning and early afternoon. Towards the valley there are the declining gardens of the houses in Loisachstraße below. This topography makes Frühlingstraße appear like a sunny terrace.

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Sonnenstraße is the second one worth mentioning in addition to Frühlingstraße. It is one of the streets in the old village respective town centre South of Loisach river. Just a few steps from Garmisch's most touristy area, Marienplatz and the pedestrian zone, it is nevertheless quiet. Some houses are part of a rather upscale looking apartment(?) hotel, others are residential homes.

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The Old Church of St Martin is the oldest church of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In the middle ages it used to be the one and only parish church for the whole valley. Its history dates back to the 12th century, probably even to around 800 A.D. The present church was erected in the late 13th century and extended in the 15th and 16th. There were no more changes in early modern times because the church lost its role when the new, bigger parish church was built on the opposite side of Loisach river in the 1730s.

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Old St Martin is located North of the river, a bit away from what is now the centre of Garmisch. You will spot the pointed steeple. This quarter is quiet and has some beautiful painted houses, for example „Haus zum Husaren“.

The church's main attractions are the medieval frescoes on the walls inside. Most remarkable: the picture of St Christophorus, 7 metres high. The Northern side wall shows the Passion of Christ in two rows of scenes. Then there is the Last Judgment and the row of the apostles above the arch towards the choir, the church's patron saint, St Martin, sharing his coat with the beggar on the right, and pictures of several other saints.

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This picture is in every book about Garmisch and on many postcards: the painted window, two soldiers in uniforms from around 1800 leaning out and watching the world go by. One is a hussar, the other an infantryman. After the hussar, this house has been named „Haus zum Husaren“. It hosts a restaurant - I did not eat there so I cannot tell how good it is, but it looked nice.

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The facade was painted in 1801. The ornaments around the windows show the neoclassical elements that were popular then. The house is almost 200 years older, though. The background story involves the wars between Napoleon and the Emperor, France and Austria. In 1800 a group of French hussars and Bavarian infantrymen had to be billeted in the house. The landlord was not happy with them, though, and to get rid of them he showed them a secret path over the Wetterstein mountains to the next valley where the troops of the Emperor were camping.

To find the house and the picture, you have to cross Loisach river and explore the quarter around the Old Church of St Martin. Haus zum Husaren is located in Fürstenstraße in the curve and on the corner of Lazarettstraße.

Wolpertinger

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Wolpertinger is a species of animals that is endemic to Bavaria. They are weird creatures with the furry body of a rodent, like a marmot or hare, with horns or antlers, fangs and feathered wings.

Wolpertinger are extremely shy and leave their hiding spots only in the middle of the night. Locals have their special methods of spotting and catching them. For example, they promise that young women can see them when they are accompanied by a strong male who knows the secret spots on the edge of the forest (ha, ha). Other methods involve sprinkling salt on the Wolpertinger's tail, or the use of a sack, a light and a spade.
In other words, this species is closely related to, for example, the Elwetritschen in Palatine or the Australian drop-bears.

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Some souvenir shops sell stuffed Wolpertinger to tourists at high prices. Of course these are the works of imaginative taxidermists...

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If you want to see some, there is a large souvenir shop in Garmisch in the pedestrian zone that has a couple of them in the shop windows and more inside. The exact location is corner Am Kurpark/Fürstenstraße, in the little square about halfway between Marienplatz and the casino. This is where I took my photos. Best at night when the shop windows are illuminated and there are hardly any reflections from the outside (and when the shop is closed, so no one can object against you taking photos).

Old Partenkirchen

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The main street of Partenkirchen is Ludwigstraße. A long street with painted houses, everything that is needed for a postcard view.

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Partenkirchen probably has an even more “Bavarian” feel than Garmisch - Bavarian as tourists imagine it. Its present appearance is not as old as it pretends. After two large fires in the 19th century, the houses along the street were rebuilt, at first in a rather simple style. Very few buildings are older than that.

With the upcoming tourism and the romantic ideas of “Heimat” in the early 20th century, the facades were refurbished with oriels, balconies and other details, and painted with frescoes. The result certainly meets the expectations of visitors. The frescoes may appear baroque due to the rococo ornaments... but they are not.

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Fresco on the facade of Gasthof Fraundorfer

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One of the oldest houses in Partenkirchen

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Inn sign

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This little chapel marks the northern end of Partenkirchen’s old town. The baroque church is dedicated to St Sebastian. The interior can be seen from the entrance through a wrought-iron gate. Cute as the architecture is, it bears some rather drastic images. The gable front has been painted with a large fresco showing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The story of St Sebastian on the altarpiece is not for the faint-hearted either.

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This beautiful villa in the park once belonged to the famous composer Richard Strauss.

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The summit of Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, dominates the panorama. I did not go up this time, I have been to the top once before... and cable cars are not for me any more, sorry.

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Morning view from my room

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Evening on Loisach river

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:41 Archived in Germany Tagged snow alps bavaria bayern

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