Thursday, November 1, 2012

Things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Richard Strauss Villa – On the eastern edge of Garmisch, at the end of Zöppritzstrasse, stands the home of composer Richard Strauss, who lived here until his death in 1949. It's the center of activity during the Richard-Strauss-Tage, an annual music festival held in mid-June that features concerts and lectures on the town's most famous son. Displays are audiovisual, and each day at 10, noon, 2, and 4 samples of Strauss's works are played in the concert hall.

St. Martin Church Garmisch-Partenkirchen isn't all sports and cars, however. In Garmisch, some beautiful examples of Upper Bavarian houses line Frühlingstrasse, and a pedestrian zone begins at Richard-Strauss-Platz. Off Marienplatz, at one end of the car-free zone, is the 18th-century parish church. It contains some significant stuccowork by the Wessobrunn artists Schmutzer, Schmidt, and Bader. The chancel is by another fine 18th-century artist from Austria, Franz Hosp. Across the Loisach River, on Pfarrerhausweg, stands another St. Martin church, dating from 1280, whose Gothic wall paintings include a larger-than-life-size figure of St. Christopher.

Werdenfelser Museum Objects and exhibitions on the region's history can be found in this excellent museum, which is itself housed in a building dating back to around 1200. The museum is spread over five floors, and explores every aspect of life in the Werdenfelser region, which was an independent county for more than 700 years (until 1802).

Zugspitze The highest mountain (9,731 feet) in Germany, this is the number one attraction in Garmisch. There are two ways up the mountain: a leisurely 75-minute ride on a cog railway from the train station in the town center, combined with a cable-car ride up the last stretch; or a 10-minute hoist by cable car, which begins its giddy ascent from the Eibsee, 10 km (6 mi) outside town on the road to Austria. There are two restaurants with sunny terraces at the summit and another at the top of the cog railway. A round-trip combination ticket allows you to mix your modes of travel up and down the mountain. Prices are lower in winter than in summer, even though winter rates include use of all the ski lifts on the mountain. You can rent skis at the top. Ascending the Zugspitze from the Austrian side is cheaper and more scenic. The Tiroler Zugspitzbahn departs three times per hour from near the village of Ehrwald. The round-trip ticket costs €35.50 and buses connect the gondolas to the Ehrwald train station. There are also a number of other peaks in the area with gondolas, but the views from the Zugspitze are the best. A four-seat cable car goes to the top of one of the lesser peaks: the Wank or the Alpspitze, some 2,000 feet lower than the Zugspitze. You can tackle both mountains on foot, provided you're properly shod and physically fit.

Usually visited in the winter because of its glacial skiing, the Zugspitze is an amazing site regardless of the time of year. In the winter it is a favorite area to board or ski by many locals and visitors. If you have never been skiing or boarding on a glacier it is unlike anything you have done. 
Situated in the bowl of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest moutain, runs are considerably long for being on a glacier. So long in fact, that many begginer skiiers are suprised at how short winded they can become as you are above 3000m elevation and a run from the highest point to the lowest will take you down aprox 1000m. 
If you are visiting in the summer, chances are you will find better weather for site seeing. On a good day you can see 4 countries from the summit. Bring a sweater or jacket as temps in the summer may be in the high 80s at the base, it will be around freezing at the summit. Cost for the roundtrip cable car ride is not cheap, aprox 45 Euro, but it is well worth it, especially if you have lunch at the summit or spend the day boarding. 
If cable cars are not your thing, there is a cog wheel train the carves back and forth up the mountain and through it to the cable car station in the middle of the bowl.

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