Forget about ‘Top of the Rock’. This is Germany’s top. And much higher than the observation deck of New York’s Rockefeller Center. And of course, the scenery to look at is different: breathtaking views of a vast variety of snowcapped mountains, frozen lakes and the splendid green nature of the valleys below make sure you stand in awe looking at them.
From Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen it’s only 1 1/4 hours by train and a little less by car. Using the Bayern day (and optional group) ticket makes it quite cheap to get there (starting from € 25 for the first person and then € 7 for every other person up to 5; as of January 2019). And yes, it’s definitely worth it!
Directly located at the main train station of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you also find the platform of the rack railway leading towards the top of Zugspitze and/or the aerial lift. You have the choice: either you take the record railway directly up to the top, which takes you – at a later stage of the trajectory – through some tunnels built into the mountain massif, or, at station Eibsee, you change to the all new aerial lift / cable car. We chose the latter, as we found it more interesting to see something of the landscape rather than the dark inside of tunnels. The price is actually the same, currently € 46,50 for a round trip from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the top and back (and if you can present a DB train ticket a bit cheaper even). Also, you can choose to take the respective other means of transport for the return journey.
The trip with the cable car was quite spectacular. All modern and top-notch, it takes you within 10 minutes to the top of Zugspitze. As we were the first ones in the waiting queue, we were able to choose our place in the cable car, which of course was the window towards the top. Hovering over a snowy aisle with trees left and right to it, it was interesting to see what’s beneath you − like the not yet vanished tracks of a skier or the footprints of some wild or not so wild animal.
When we reached the only pillar (with 127 metres the highest steel pillar for aerial tramways), the cable car slowed down a bit to get over the strut until it reached its top and slid down with a fair increase of speed. And this gave us this most wonderful feeling in the stomach that you get when gravity suddenly doesn’t hold you down that much.
On the last metres, when reaching the aerial lift’s final destination from underneath, we could see the protruding steel construction holding the station in its place on top of the mountain. Everything was covered with snow. It felt like the eternal ice – a magic power you can’t escape, an everlasting fight between nature and human creation.
Getting out of the station, finally on top of the mountain, a cold snowy wind was awaiting and welcoming us. But also the gleaming sun and, of course, an utterly breathtaking view. A scenery with a multitude of mountaintops, covered in white glistening snow. The legendary and often mentioned sugar-coated mountain peaks. We were very fortunate to have such a clear and magnificent view, the visibility was excellent. When trying to take some pictures at the railing, the wind took the very fine snow from the sides of the top up to us and blew it around our noses. Magnificent to feel some of nature’s elements.
It was also quite impressive to see what thousands and thousands of years have moulded into the rocks, all those peaks and valleys, crests and slopes – an incredible landscape.
From up above we could see the loips and ski lifts and followed the skiers downhill with our eyes – from that altitude like a visit to a miniature wonderland:
We then went to the other side of the top and had a look upon the nearly entirely frozen lake Eibsee with only a few water ‘puddles’ left.
When returning from our lookout point, we realised that we just have been to Austria, seeing the signs marking the ‘exit’/’entrance’ of the Free State of Bavaria (DE) and the State of Tyrol (AT). In that moment, we also noticed the old customs post that was used in ‘ancient’ times to secure the border and grant access to the other country. Standing there, we just became aware of how easy it is to travel in this day and age. You just stumble and already you are in a different country. Only one of the perks of having peace and countries moving closer together as in the European Union.
Looking around us, our glances revealed an entirely different world, an universe completely unknown to us. For example this snow-covered golden hemisphere …
… which obviously belongs to Matt Damon’s Mark Watney in the film ‘The Martian’.
The summit cross with some snow stuck to it was glistening golden in the sun:
And the communication array that didn’t look like you could use it:
Looking from a different side of the peak onto the buildings on its top, it made us feel like in a James Bond film, when you await 007 to appear on the snowcapped slanting roof, slide down, take his belt and then jump onto the cable car cable to slide down to the valley.
After some time and getting frosted up there, we decided to take a different cable car (the ride also included in the original price) to get to the glacier (Zugspitzplatt) and to have lunch in one of the restaurants there. With envy we looked at the people with bobsleighs speeding down the hill. There I regretted not to have brought, well, actually ‘bought’, ski clothes. So, we just had our lunch and a Hoibe, which managed to get us and the world into an equilibrium again.
After some looking around and for us without any ski clothes not much to do, we decided to descend again to have a closer look at the frozen lake Eibsee. Though the lake’s water was frozen for the most part, there were still some weaker spots and areas with half-melt ice, which however did not prevent some people accessing the ice, which was just stupid. Fortunately, nothing happened. Why do people forget that they are not ducks, which can handle themselves when on the lake. (Wasn’t that a smooth thematical bridge to the next photo?)
Back in Garmisch-Partenkirchen we strolled a bit around to get a look at the city, which actually I thought to be a bit more beautiful. I don’t know if we just have seen the weaker bits, or if I indeed had a little misconception. Despite this, there were still some beautiful things to see like the town hall:
Though we also came across some awkward bits in the shop windows of an arts store:
Now I’m curious, who would pay € 119 for this baby Jesus posing like an influencer model on Instagram and having this undefinable something between his legs…
On our way back to Munich, we made a quick stop in Murnau, a picturesque city situated between Garmisch and Munich, where at the beginning of the 20th century artists Gabriele Münter, Wassily Kandinsky, Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej Jawlensky stayed for some time to paint some of their artworks. Writer Ödön von Horváth also lived here for quite some time. In 2015, the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, drank a non-alcoholic beer (who does that?) from a glass from the local brewery. However, the beer inside the glass wasn’t from the brewery as it only produces proper beer. Still quite a coup for the brewery. We, however, had a quick Griesbräu (we had, like, 8 minutes for it) before rushing to the train at a run.
So, this was our trip to Germany’s highest mountain top. Definitely a thumbs up, 5 stars! If the weather is good, it’s a real treat. We absolutely loved it!