August, 2005

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Bavaria is Germany's oldest, and largest state. It borders the Austrian Alps
on the south, and the Czech Republic in the east. The Lech, Isar, and Donau rivers
run through it. Munich, home of Oktoberfest, is its largest city.

But we went further south, about 90 miles south of Munich, to Garmisch-
Partenkirchen, at the foot of the German/Austrian Alps, in a small valley
which was created by two streams that are prone to flooding, as we found out.

Click here for a large map of Germany. The arrow at the bottom points to
Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Use the Back button on your browser to return to here.

Garmisch and Partenkirchen were once two very competitive towns. In 1936,
Hitler forced them together to host the Winter Olympics. The stadium is at the
foot of Alpspitze. After descending from that mountain, we walked through it on
our way back to the car. (Photos from our hike down Alpspitze are below)

1936 Winter Olympic Stadium

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The summer of 2005 was a really rotten one for Bavaria.
It had been cold and rainy for months before we arrived, and, actually, continued to be that
way after we left. We got a little bit lucky in that we only had three continuous days of rain.

When we arrived, it was sunny and warm. So we decided to visit Zugspitze, Germany's
highest peak, at 9,718 feet, on the next day. While we were up there, the weather closed in.
However, I did have time to get a few shots. Looking straight down a mile and a half from the
top of that alpine peak to the Eibsee, the lake at the bottom, was, well, very hairy. How these
people built not only the multitude of buildings that perch on this peak, and that they did most
of it a very long time ago by climbing (kegs, ropes, and building materials on their backs)and
by mule, before they got the cable car running 90 years ago, nevermind the underground railway
they tunneled up through this mountain, blows my mind. And they did that in blizzards.

These photos are from our trip up, atop, and down Germany highest peak:


While we were up on top of Zugspitze, the weather turned for the worse. Then it rained
for three days. Partenkirchen flooded completely, and Garmisch had only half
a road open, which was the only way in or out of the entire valley. Those evenings,
we played kegel, which is an old form of bowling, at the alley across the street
from our house. It did not flood.

But, the rivers in the valley did. Shots from very close to where we were staying...

Garmish Flooded

Later, when the water receded, we visited another Alp, Alpspitze. More cable cars,
and a lot of hiking, not to mention alpine cows. The cows in the photo at the top of
this page were taking a break on the slopes of Alpspitze. These shots are the Alps in
southern Germany.


We also spent two evenings out of a possible eight at a real Bavarian festival,
inside a huge tent, with dancers slapping their shoes, their thighs, and each
other, people standing on tables cracking whips to accordian music, and beer
served by the litre, or, in smaller quantities for we non-Bavarians. As an Auslander
looking in, uninvited, it was easy to see that these people take themselves and
their traditions very seriously, which I think is a good thing.


Not too far from Garmisch-Partenkirchen is Fussen. It was near Fussen that
King Ludwig II built Neuschwanstein, possibly the most beautiful castle I have seen
in my life. Unfortunately, one is not allowed to take interior pictures. I took mental
ones that I will never forget. I also bought an excellent book by Julius Desing to help
me preserve those memories.

We did take shots from the outside. This is the castle that Walt Disney modeled
his plastic one on for Disneyland in California. I know of no mention that Walt
was even a Wagner fan, which is for whom Ludwig II built, and decorated, this
castle. The interior scenes from Wagner's operas that are painted on the walls
are stunning.


We only saw one small little corner of Bavaria. But, it was enough to learn what
a wonderful, unchanged place it is. Tradition is ancient, the people are proud and
very friendly, the food is fantastic, and a Bavarian can laugh in the face of
ridiculous challenges, like building all that stuff on the top of Zugspitze...during
blizzards...with mules... I was impressed.

-Jim Girard, October 2005

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