German Road Trip #4: Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Our three-night stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen was the most-planned portion of our two week road trip. The Edelweiss Lodge & Resort is a really popular place to stay for Americans living overseas, and we had heard a lot of good things about it. Although we don't consider ourselves the "Lodge and Resort" type, we decided "~to try it out at least once~".
Prices were a little high compared to the rest of our trip because this location is really popular, and for good reason. It is large as far as German towns go, yet has managed to keep its charm. It's a huge destination for winter sports, even having hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics. One of its major attractions is Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze. While we didn't have time to take the cable car up to the top, we did watch an episode about it on the Disney+ series, 'Europe From Above'.
The most important part of the trip, of course, was my birthday. After a lazy morning we drove to Linderhof Palace, the hunting-lodge-turned-palace of King Ludwig II. We had visited some of his other palaces, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, but this one is a little different. This is his only palace he lived to see completed, and he lived here for, I think, eight years.
What I know about Ludwig II, I have only learned passively through tours. I'm not saying that we would have been best friends, but I think on a surface-level we have a lot in common. For one, we're both Virgos. He was very inspired by everything King Louis XIV and Versailles, he loved decadent food and classical music, he was a night owl and seemed to enjoy his alone time. I am basically French (my ancestors, at least), and I too enjoy food and music. If I had it my way, I would stay up all night puttering around and working on creative projects. I also require spurts of solitude and get cranky if I'm around people for too long. In conclusion, we would AT LEAST be acquaintances.
We went on a small tour, in English, of the interior of the palace. Pictures are not allowed, but the website has some photos if you're curious. It was beautiful in all of its Rococo glory. While this is the smallest of his palaces, I experienced complete sensory overload. Every inch of each room was designed with attention to detail. My favorite parts were the the "Hall of Mirrors" and the dining room table.
The Hall of Mirrors was used by King Ludwig II as a drawing room. He had a habit of sleeping all day and staying up all night in this room. It's filled with mirrors and crystal, and at night the lit candles would reflect off of everything to create a bright, beautiful ambiance.
The dining table might be the most ~extra~ thing I've ever seen. The King wanted to eat his meals alone, undisturbed by servants, and adapted this solution from the French courts. The table is located right above the kitchen on top of a trap door. Using a dumb-waiter system, the table would be lowered to the kitchen between courses. This way, the food was hot and fresh, and he did not need to be interrupted. According to our tour guide, he would sometimes have up to twelve courses for dinner each night. According to Wikipedia, "The staff had to lay the table for at least four persons because it is said that the king used to talk to imaginary people like Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour or Marie Antoinette while he was eating."
I loved the tour, but I was especially amused with how it ended. Most times you expect these types of tours to end on a happy note, maybe a nod in the direction of the gift shop or some further tourist-y recommendations. In this instance, however; the tour guide solemnly stopped us one last time in vestibule to describe the King's mysterious death. She basically told us that his body was found drowned in a few feet of water, while the man was a strong swimmer and over six feet tall. "No one knows what really happened. It is a mystery" she said with an indifferent shrug. And then it was over. I stepped outside into the sunshine thinking, "what was that?" and had to stop myself from spending the rest of the day on Google.
This place has a lot going on. It's first and foremost a monastery with a basilica and abbey. It's a boarding school. It's a brewery and distillery. It's also a dairy farm and cheese manufacturer as well as an agricultural farm and forest nature preserve. There are a lot of public tours available of the different aspects of the Kloster Ettal, but we didn't do any of that. We checked out the basilica and then went across the courtyard to the cafe where I ordered a coffee and a piece of strawberry (birthday) cake. We bought a six-pack of beer from the monastery shop and then walked over to the cheese store to buy a little something for later. I don't know what kind of cheese we bought, but it was really good when enjoyed with aforementioned beer and some meats.
We spent the rest of the day on an unfruitful hunt for Birkenstocks and later enjoyed a traditional Bavarian dinner at Gasthaus Bräuwastl. It was one of the only restaurants open within walking distance of the hotel, but it made some good käsespätzle (grown up mac and cheese and basically all that I ever order).
Partnach Gorge (Partnachklamm)
A large chunk of our second day was spent at the Partnach Gorge. Parking was available at Olympic Ski Jump site where a children's soccer practice was happening. It's about a twenty minute walk to the gorge entrance / pay kiosk.
I wasn't expecting much when we arrived, so I was pleasantly surprised when we began to walk down the stone-carved path. The views are so beautiful that you don't notice the cold or the dripping wetness everywhere. It feels like you're on another planet as you navigate a pitch black path through caves and weave in and out of the stone walls. Every view was stunning and we spent a good chunk of time in here. I can image that during non-Covid times, this narrow pathway can be very crowded and overwhelming, but during our visit there were only a few people to navigate around.
The Partnach trail is not a loop. It dumps you out seemingly in the middle of the woods with no clear indication of the direction of the parking lot. We guessed, and took the trail to the right. I believe this was the incorrect choice because it took us nearly 2 hours to find our way back to the main path to the car. Luckily, there was a little gasthaus along the way and we were able to stop for a bite to eat, which is where I saw this fun sign and some cute goats (much less scary than cows):
We freshened up at the hotel and ordered some to-go cactus tacos from Sausalitos. By 'freshened up', I mean had a few glasses of Woodford Reserve (pro tip: travel with a bottle and you'll save a lot of money). It wasn't until after the drinks were consumed that we realized the restaurant was two miles away from the hotel. We begrudgingly walked for what seemed like hours to pick up our lukewarm tacos. We couldn't wait til we got back to eat, so we found a nice roadside bench to dine on. It's little moments like this that make me love traveling. It's just so random. I was perfectly content sitting at this bus stop at 11 PM, eating a taco and watching the cars and late-night dog walkers go by. With happy bellies and lingering bourbon buzz we took the scenic route back to the hotel, enjoying the stillness and window shopping along the way.
Our last activity in Garmisch-Partenkirchen was paragliding. Rather, Will went paragliding and I watched. I'm not much of an extreme sport person and I'd rather save the $100 for something more... cultural? Like an underground wine tasting experience or a niche history tour led by an actress playing a 17th century witch. Anyways, the hotel set us up with an appointment and we met the paragliding people at the designated area near the cable cars. I sat on a folding chair in the vicinity of the other paragliders, who all knew each other and mostly left me alone.
After Will got his adrenaline rush we were ready to drive to Chiemsee! More on that next time.