Today We Climbed a Mountain

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Saturday, May 7, 2011

Yesterday we got on the train and went to a town called Garmisch about 2 hours east of Fussen but only a short way from Mittenwald where we are staying for the next couple of days.  We stopped there to go to the top of the tallest mountain in Germany called Zugspitz.  They have a cable car that goes to the top and they say it is still completely like winter up there with snow everywhere.  Sounded cool, but when we got there it turned out that it would have cost us around a hundred euros (~$150) to go to the top and the cable car was being fixed so we'd have to take a bus through tunnels.  No thank you, so we jumped back on the train and went the rest of the way to Mittenwald.
Mittenwald is another perfect little Bavarian town right on the Austrian border.  They are famous for making violins and have a lot of shops where they hand-carve them out of a surprising thick piece of wood.  Our hotel that we booked a few days ago it right in the middle of town.  The entire front of the building was a huge fresco.  It wasn't a hotel as much as an old fashion inn.  The main part of the building was a restaurant and our rooms were above it.  It was an amazing place.  It felt like an old German hunting lodge with antiques everywhere.  Our room was on the backside of the hotel with a balcony overlooking a small parking lot/square but with a huge alp towering over the city.  Jacki was exhausted so she took a nap for an hour or so while I sat on the balcony reading my book. 
After a while we explored the town, finding a few trails up in the hills overlooking the city.  Around 7:30pm we went back to our inn for dinner and they had live music.  Outside where we sat were two kids, one playing guitar and the other playing the accordion, which might be our new favorite instrument.  Dinner was awesome.  I got wild boar smothered in red wine gravy with a huge knodel (German dumpling which are amazing) and Jacki got a huge plate of bratwurst and sauerkraut with potato salad.  The music was fun and we had a great time.  It was getting a little cold though so afterwards we went inside and split an apple strudel.  Inside was an older guy playing the slide guitar, or I think that what that instrument is called.  Every once in a while he would look down almost as if he was embarrassed and start to yodel.  He was really good at it too.  It was definitely something that we don't get to experience every day.
Today we climbed a mountain.  Well not the whole way, but at least the hardest part.  
We could have either hiked through the hills on one side of town which had lakes and streams throughout, or we could take the cable car up to the top of one of the huge alps surrounding the town.  We decided to go with the cable car up the mountain.  On the ride up the cable car was crammed full of people and ridiculously hot and stuff.   Due to that and the elevation when we reached the top Jacki was hit with a quick bought of altitude sickness.  I'm not sure if that's a real thing or not, but either way we thought that our trip up the mountain might be done a little sooner than expected.  After 15 minutes or so it passed completely and we were good to go.  Weird, but we were glad.  The top of the cable car was awesome.  It overlooked the town, but it was so high up you could barely see anything.  There was a large 'bowl' in the mountaintop still very full of snow.  It was unbelievably sunny up there.  It was much cooler, but we had our coats and with the sun it was almost hot.  One of the coolest parts of this mountain was that there were tons of hiking trails all over it.  You could actually hike all the way up from the town, but it would have taken at least 6 or 7 hours during the summer, now with a lot of snow covering the narrow steep trails up I would not try it, although we did see a few people doing it.  There is a restaurant halfway up the mountain that is open during the summer but is still closed.  It looked awfully dangerous though.  From the top of the cable car a trail wrapped up and around the bowl.  We went to the top of that trail, and even that wasn't that easy.  There is no way they'd let a trail like this be open in America.  It was narrow and the areas that weren't covered in snow were slippery from the melted snow.  If you were to slip you'd find yourself very quickly at the bottom of the bowl.  You'd probably survive, but I have no idea how you'd get back up.  That said, there were a lot of people there, many with small kids.  The hiking trend in Germany seems to be people with backpack carriers for little kids where the guys would carry two toddlers on their backs around the mountain.
At the top of that trail it split off into several directions.  The peak of the mountain wasn't far away, but it was all rock and mostly still covered in snow wherever it was not steep enough for it to fall off.  The peak was so close so we had to give it a shot.  It wasn't a trail really, it was just a metal cable that was set into the rock wall.  It wasn't physically demanding, it was just a very slow process where after every movement you had to make sure you had a good hand or foothold.  There were a couple paths that went off from the main one, and from there we realized that the purpose of the cable was for the serious climbers to be able to connect a safety line to.  We passed a few people on our path, and none of them were using it though.  A couple of people we saw doing the ridiculously difficult/dangerous paths were young kids maybe 11 or 12 years old with their dads.  
It was very slow going and we had to use all of our limbs (and nerves) but we made it to the very top peak.  The only accident on the way up was when Jacki stepped on some loose snow and ended up sinking to just below her waist.  The peak was awesome.  There was a huge cross at the very highest stone lined in metal so that it reflects off the sun and can be seen faintly from the valley below.  The weather was perfect so that we could see for miles in ever direction.  All the lakes in the hills on the other side of the valley were visible, but looked about the size of a dime from there.  On the back side of the mountain the mountain range stretched out as far as you could see.  It was completely barren with no towns or roads.  The mountain top was the border between Germany and Austria, so at that point I'm not sure what country we were in.  A few hundred meters below us was the top of the cable car and while we were at the top a guy jumped off the mountain from that point with a hang glider floating down below us.  The only company we had on the top was a huge black bird.  It would sit on the cross right next to us then jump down diving towards the restaurant by the cable car.  A few minutes later it would fly right back up and sit on the rocks right next to us.  This was the highest point off all the mountains that we could see.  It was absolutely awesome.  
Going down was even slower and probably more difficult.  Jacki bumped her knee on a sharp rock and got a small battle wound, but never complained once.  Eventually we made it and feeling accomplished took the cable car back down after taking in the view from the balcony.  We kept an eye out but never saw any edelweiss.  
After taking a short break, we put on our Saturday best and wandered around town for a little bit.  We found a park with a big chess set and played a game. It was a hard fought game and the winner had to buy an early dinner at the Alpenrose.  They had another couple of kids playing music again outside and the same guy playing inside.  It was still early afterwards, but we had already had a full day and still had a lot of "work" to do, so we sat in the common room upstairs and played on the computer planning the next few steps of our trip, journalling, and reading books.  
It was our last full day in Bavaria.  We absolutely loved it here.  I think we had the most fun here as anywhere we have been so far.  We will be back.  Tomorrow we head to the Black Forest. 
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