Day Six - Mt. Zugspitze

Biberwier Travel Blog

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Biberwier, Austria in the morning light.

Monday morning dawned clear and cool with the promise of sunshine everywhere.  After a quick shower and even quicker breakfast, Derik and I dumped the water and cassette and filled the freshwater tank.  Then after a few last minute pictures of our gorgeous surroundings, we obtained directions from our campground receptionist to go to the gondola we’d seen up a nearby peak.  As it turns out, it’s Germany’s highest peak, Mt. Zugspitze.

After a much delayed time in line and 64 euros later, Derik and I boarded our gondola to begin our trek to the summit.

Looking at the thread ahead.
  A quick 8-minute ride is all it took to reach the 2964metre peak where we were greeted by 1 degree Celsius temps, accompanied with a stiff wind chill.  Frigid comes to mind.  But nothing could really ruin the sights.

I’m not exactly sure how one would describe a Rocky Mountain High.  I guess it is good enough to write a song about.  But it can’t begin to compare to having an Alp High.  No matter where you looked, from the North East, to the East, to the South - all the way to the North West; stunning mountaintops gleamed back in the brilliant morning sunlight.  Their snow capped peaks glittered like millions of diamonds in a Tiffany’s case.

Perhaps it was the breathtaking quality of this majestic vista, or just the fact that the oxygen is thinner, but somehow the entire experience seemed to be transforming for everyone.

Our gondola
  People talked in a quieter tone.  Children were more reserved.  Even the dogs that made the trek were well-heeled.  “Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture of the two of us” you would hear from a couple to the right.  Or someone observing a young child taking a picture of his parents would offer, “May I take a picture of you with your whole family?”  It truly was awe-inspiring and while I’m not aware of a song for the Alps, there should be one.  It might help in some way, to keep that feeling alive in you long after you’ve left.

While this is Germany’s highest peak, we accessed it from the Austrian side.  Later we learned that the border between the two countries goes directly through the center of the mountain.

Arriving at the top.
  When you’re up there you’re going between the two as often as you walk from one side to the other.  And in the days prior to the EU, you actually had to show your passport to go between.  But now thanks to unification, your progress is slowed only by the press of tourists who seem like hundreds of camera-toting mountain goats following each other from one side to the other.

Two of those goats, Derik and I, made our way around the summit taking pictures the whole time and being grateful that we’ve moved into a digital age.  Film costs would have either killed us or severely limited the memories we would be able to capture.  After a sufficient time of oohing and aahing, mentally if not aloud, we decided our time would be well spent waiting for the earth to continue further along its trajectory.  This would allow the shadows time to grow in different directions.

Looking down towards Biberwier.

Spying a few empty seats by a railing, we sat down and soaked up the sun’s rays.  Then we made our way to a free internet kiosk and attempted to send e-mails to friends.  We could take a picture of ourselves to attach, which we both did, but unfortunately the picture was just of us in front of a wooden roof.  It would have been great if they’d green screened us into a shot of the mountain top, but apparently despite all their other advances, that one alludes them.  The keyboards were VASTLY different from what we’re used to, and in fact, we neither one could ever discover how to undo the caps lock, but eventually we did accomplish our task and then decided it was time for a relaxing visit to the restaurant for a coffee.

One Latte and Espresso later we were sitting at a window overlooking yet another gorgeous view of the Alps.

High atop the world overlooking the alps.
  We could see ski lifts below us and people were going there in order to hike up to where we were.  The route of choice was along a mountain ridge of rock precipice.  With their traditional two walking/hiking sticks they traipsed along, looking positively like the mountain climber on The Price is Right “Cliff Hangers” game.

After another hour had gone by we decided to take another pass outside, but in the meanwhile we became distracted with a museum which provided information on the history of the mountain and those who have conquered it.  The first person to make it to the summit did so in 1824 and in 1922 the first Gondola run was made to the top.  Since then countless ascents have been made, both mechanical and physical.  The number of visitors has increased steadily requiring updating of the transport system until finally in 1988, they began construction on the current system we rode on.

Incredible views
  It was completed in 1991 and uses only three supports to make the ascent.  Despite being that new, the main boarding house burned in 2003 and was rebuilt in only 6 months!

By now enough time had passed that we once more made our way outside to traipse around the perimeter and view the newly relit vistas.  Not only was the lighting design different, but so was the temperature.  It was comfortable enough now that a jacket was hardly needed.  But there were also more people (though Derik said less - but neither of us counted).

It took less time the second time around and not because it was any less majestic, but simply because we were beginning to suffer from sensory overload.  It’s remarkable, but true, that after several hours of such soul-awakening scenery you feel you really can’t take much more right then.

It's a whole different world up there.
  You feel the need to remove yourself so you can absorb the impact and place it into context in your life.

I left the mountain high on life, and I think Derik did too.  There’s no way you couldn’t.  Although when I jokingly started to sing, “Climb Every Mountain, Ford every stream,” Derik didn’t really get the connection.  Oh well.

We drove away from Mr. Zugspitze and headed for Germany, a mere 18kilometre away.  Fortunately we are using Betty on this trip (Betty is our affectionate name for our GPS system - I have NO idea why we call her Betty) because without her we wouldn’t have had a clue when we crossed back into Germany.

Cold stones!
  There was no sign or anything to indicate where the border was, but Betty never lost sight of us.  And just shortly after we crossed the border, we came into Garmisch-Partenkirchen.   Since Derik needed to send a postcard, we found a parking location and trekked into town to see what there was to see.

In all honesty, I already knew where I wanted to go.  I spied a Christmas shop on the way through town which happened to be directly across the street from the post office.  So, I headed there and left Derik to figure out the Post Office on his own.  It was a Käthe Wohlfahrt store - the same store chain I visited last January in Rothenburg with Mom.  What irony!

Fortunately for me and my bank account there really wasn’t anything there I couldn’t live without.
Marker designating the hights point on the German side.
  So after Derik completed his task at the post office and we wandered the streets for a few minutes, we headed on out of town, happily chomping on some apples.  We trekked straight towards Munich and a campground Derik had previously located there.  We checked in and were directed to a parking spot and after another pasta dinner, we settled down for the night.
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Biberwier, Austria in the morning …
Biberwier, Austria in the morning…
Looking at the thread ahead.
Looking at the thread ahead.
Our gondola
Our gondola
Arriving at the top.
Arriving at the top.
Looking down towards Biberwier.
Looking down towards Biberwier.
High atop the world overlooking th…
High atop the world overlooking t…
Incredible views
Incredible views
Its a whole different world up th…
It's a whole different world up t…
Cold stones!
Cold stones!
Marker designating the hights poin…
Marker designating the hights poi…
German gondola ascent.
German gondola ascent.
Standing on the German side, looki…
Standing on the German side, look…
Cool temps, but still pleasant.
Cool temps, but still pleasant.
Pictures really dont do it justic…
Pictures really don't do it justi…
More alp beauty in the fall.
More alp beauty in the fall.
Biberwier
photo by: Chokk