Alpen Adventure

Trip Start Jun 15, 2010
Trip End Jul 21, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Sunday, July 18, 2010

With our travels through Italy behind us, we drove through the Alps to the village of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is right on the border between Austria and Bavaria.  The mountain scenery and bauhaus style of the Alps region is very pretty: lots of places up on the mountainside with stucco / timbered walls, flower boxes with their red geraniums, and everywhere the evergreen countryside.  One funny thing about driving there is that we found a "shortcut" on the highway system that trimmed about a quarter of the distance off of the trip through Italy.  The shortcut involved taking a short segment of secondary highway to get from one autostrada to the next one leading out of the country.  What a joke!   We needed to go about 50km on the secondary road (figure about 20-25 min at our normal pace), but it took us about two hours!  The secondary highway was only a two-lane road that led all the way up a steep mountain pass and we spent some time creeping along behind a couple RVs.  When we weren't behind the RVs, the drive was more like a rally cup with lots of hairpin turns and steep grades.  We were under some pressure to get through that section as quickly as possible, so we could reach the destination before dark.  During that part of the drive, Natalie managed to vomit on the seat of the car (surprise!), which lead to a lot of squawking about the smell and general pollution issues in the back seat.  Perfect memory: shouting vomit cleanup instructions to the backseat miserables while driving through hairpin turns along the gorge.  But we did manage to reach Garmisch shortly before dark, didn't get lost (I think that's two times for the whole expedition), and were up in the hotel room at a reasonable time.

The hotel was very cool.  It's set a little bit out of town, up on the mountainside, and is reachable only by hiking trail and by a cable car that I think is a relic from the 30's era Olympics held in Garmisch.  The kids loved getting in to the cable car and riding up the mountain, over a rushing stream and through some of the countryside I was describing.  At the top the hotel was ready for us, but the hotel restaurant had closed its kitchen and there was no possibility to get dinner.  Not a big deal for myself (I could probably stand to skip a meal here or there), but we felt bad for the kids who got by on just drinks and saltines that night.  One of the two rooms didn't have a private bathroom (we had expected this), but the shared bathroom facilities were very clean and generally wasn't a problem for us.

In the morning I woke up early to the sound of bells.  The local herd of goats (each with a bell around its neck) was heading up the hillside next to the hotel and made a noise like a dozen cowbells in the clothes dryer.   Just to see what things were like, I took a short walk up the mountainside.  Trails were very clearly marked, and were wide with a fine gravel covering.  Judging by the roadside signs, there's a network of hiking trails that led all through these mountains and hikers have their pick of guest houses and restaurants when it's time for a break and a beer.  Some of the hiking signs are sponsored by breweries, and I even saw a couple of small billboards advertising to hikers along the way.

After the walk and the family was awake, we had a very nice breakfast at the hotel.  Our first coffee in a while, and some great homemade marmalade in four different flavors. Typical German fare was like sliced meats and bread, as well as a granola / musli bar that had this fantastic chocolate granola that was a little like those chocolate / peanut butter no-bake cookies.  We planned out our day to include a hike up one of the mountain trails.  One of the trails had a 90-minute walk up the mountain with a cable car set up for the trip back down.  That sounded like our speed, so we spent the morning on that one.  All the trails branched out from the old Olympic ski stadium near the hotel.  The stadium is still in use by the German national team, and has the big ski jump building (see pics) as its central feature.  

On the trail, we found no miscreant bees this time, and nobody got carsick on the way back down.  Some pics from that trip are attached.  The hike was a little long and steep for some of us, but everybody's spirits picked up when we found the the first signs of the cable car house towards the top of the mountain (and they could agree that we were not on a death march to nowhere).  We all made it to the top of the mountain.

 After hiking the mountain, we found a bobsled track right next to the stadium.  The bobsled track was set up with a winch to pull the sleds up the hill a ways, and let them go down through a steeply banked course to the finish.  The great thing is that these bobsleds all had wheels, so the sleds were usable during the summer.  It was really cheap for us to ride it as well (seems like Germany's famly-oriented activities are usually affordable).  Six Euros bought rides for all the kids, and it was only another 1.50 each for Melinda and I.  What a blast.  It was like a roller coaster, but you could control how fast your sled went with a brake handle built into the sled.  I used the brake a bit and still thought it went really fast, but the kids said they could make it all the way without.  A good time; everyone enjoyed the day in the Alps.
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Jane on

Wow! It sounds like such a un day and some wonderful views! I loved the pictures... the ones of Tom and Natalie were really cute.

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