When: August 2017
Why Germany: After a couple of nights in Austria (recap here), it was time to head back to Stuttgart – but first stopping in Garmisch, a popular town at the base of the highest mountain in Germany (the Zugspitze) and known for all things outdoors. The tiny “downtown” is quintessential Germany, while the outer areas are filled with mountains for hikes, pretty lakes for water sports and a great place to overall get out and relax. Our day in Garmisch would take the whole day before we headed back to Stuttgart for a few more day trips.
The Trip: Garmisch-Partenkirchen is actually the full name, and is two towns in one – although they remain very separate in terms of identity and Garmisch often outshines the other with it’s reputation as a resort town. The two cities were forced to combine in 1935 by Hitler to help prepare for the 1936 Winter Olympics.
I’ll be honest – I don’t know that I would have included Garmisch as a stop had I not talked to my co-workers about great places to take kids. John and I stayed in Garmisch in 2013, because it was MUCH less expensive than staying in Munich for Oktoberfest, and we stopped there in 2015 with my friend Karyn on the way back from Italy, but I had no idea all Garmisch actually has to offer. (In another post, I’ll write about our camping trip this past summer). But my co-worker told me about Partnach Gorge, and described it as a place right out of the movie Frozen. It sounded cool and perfect for our trip.
The easiest way to get to the Partnach Gorge is to park at the 1936 Olympic Stadium with the ski jumps (that have since closed for renovations), and make the 20 minute walk to the Gorge. We went mid-day Friday, and it wasn’t busy at all – thankfully. When/if it reopens, it is definitely worth stopping in the Olympic Stadium and taking a look around.
The walk from the Olympic Stadium is an one – mostly flat, and as you get closer, rushing waters and optional hiking trails if you want something more taxing than going through the Gorge itself. To prepare for the gorge, it is really important to wear good shoes – not only for comfort, but the path in the Gorge is wet from the rushing water and could be super slippery in sandals. Also take a rain coat – even on sunny days, because you’ll definitely get splashed from the running water.
I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what to expect and I certainly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. You get a little bit of the preview of what you’ll see inside the gorge as you get closer and the water turns to the beautiful glacier blue color. What I didn’t realize is that inside, the path can get super narrow (at times to where you’ll have to wait for groups to pass before continuing on as there is one way in and one way out), and it’s almost pitch black as the path winds through the caves of the gorge (have a flashlight ready). And I definitely wasn’t expecting the speed of the water as it thundered through the gorge. It’s so beautiful.
There is no buying tickets online, so you have to purchase them when you get there. I took John there in the summer of 2019, and on a Saturday there was a line to get in. But we were lucky on this trip as there was no waiting to get in.
There is an option to take a horse-driven carriage back to the parking lot, and as my niece loves horses and her little legs were getting tired, instead of walking back to the car, we opted to take the carriage ride back. It’s not expensive at all, and a fun little way to get back to the parking lot – especially with little kids.
Before we hit the road for the 3-hour drive back to Stuttgart, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant with gorgeous views of the German alps.
Final Impressions: Garmisch isn’t really a secret, although visitors to Germany may overlook Garmisch for the more popular towns. It is a great base for exploring the Alps – and surrounding countries. Day trips to Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are easily accomplished. For military families – there’s the very popular (but waaaayyyy overpriced) Edelweiss hotel, but the campgrounds, with cabins, are great and come with perfect views of the Zugspitze. There’s also cheaper options at nearby Army lodging, non-discript but super cheap. Although, staying in town is equally affordable. I really like Garmisch, and the Gorge is one of my favorite natural landscapes in Germany. It was definitely worth it.