We had three eventful days exploring this southern part of Bavaria. In the winter it’s a fashionable ski resort made popular particularly by the local attractions of the 1936 Olympic stadium (and towering ski jump), nearby Zugspitze (Germany’s highest mountain), a dramatic gorge and of course, the Wank which proved to be a dumpling shaped mountain with a family-run cable car and our campsite on it. The weather had changed as we crossed the border and mornings were cold and gloomy but afternoons were brighter. The bus to town called at the campsite so it was easy to get about.
Garmisch is a modern and busy centre of hotels, bars, outdoors clothes shops and a small historic centre of painted houses, now pensions and guesthouses. Partenkirchen is prettier and is an alpine village with cobbled streets, a flowing river, restaurants, designer shops and a casino.
They were joined together for the Winter Olympics in 1936 and both continue to host international ski events at the original, columned and Nazi-like stadium. The gravity-defying 62m high ski jump dominates the stadium as one of four slopes. We didn’t even fancy the ‘baby’ slope.
From the stadium we walked to Partnachklamm Gorge, a spectacular and extremely narrow 700 metre gorge where the stone walls rise up to nearly 100 metres on both sides. We dodged the branded adventure wearing teenagers taking ‘selfies’ and sneaking kisses on the walk to the entrance. Others were in flip-flops and crop-tops. There was even a Chinese lady wearing high heels. It takes all sorts.
A narrow, slippery rock passageway was carved out of the face of the stone in the early 1900’s and we inched along it, ducking under low hanging rock and groping through dark, unlit tunnels.
We paused to hear and experience the mood of the gorge. The flip-flop wearing girls had returned to the entrance. Remarkably, Chinese lady sporting her high heels was still scampering over slippery rocks and holding the guide rope.
Grateful for our hoods and jackets we were both drenched with cold spray by the time we emerged at the other end into sunshine and small groups of other walkers excitedly shaking out wet clothes and hair.
To get warm we hiked up the steep side of the gorge onto open alpine farmland. The sun was now hot and the hillsides full of hikers and Nordic pole-carrying people. A single farmhouse had a garden full of early lunching Germans sat along long trestle tables tucking into jugs of beer and plates of sauerkraut.
A surprising number of Americans were around but we realised they had arrived by a nearby cable car directly onto the summit. It was lovely to meander about and greet ducks, sheep, cattle and goats before slaloming down a nearly vertical roadside that was shored up with felled tree trunks to prevent the sides crumbling down the mountain. Incredibly, a white ford transit van passed us at high revs making its way up to the summit, the driver cheerily waving and shrugging off the challenging drive.