Back in March, it didn’t seem likely that we would take our annual family summer vacation. Down to what will likely be our final year in Europe, we were heartbroken with the thought that we would not be able to travel again. We had settled on the idea that we’d only be taking day trips for the next year. You could imagine our relief, when we were given the opportunity to travel again in late June.
As an Army family stationed in U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz, we follow the General Orders published by the Commanding General of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command. We booked a three night trip to Garmisch, but a week before our trip, a General Order was published that allowed travel out of country. And just like that, our three night visit to Garmisch turned into an almost two week European adventure! So since a two week trip will be too much for a single blog post, our Post Quarantine Summer Post #1 will only focus on our three night trip to Garmisch.
We had several reasons to rent a vehicle from Avis. First, we wanted a reliable vehicle that would take us thousands of miles and through several countries, without beating up our personal vehicle. Second, we we figured that we would off-set the cost of food, by renting a large van and transporting our own food (we cooked dinner most nights).
We departed Kaiserslautern mid-morning on June 26th enroute to Garmisch. On the way there, we stopped for two hours at Neuschwanstein Castle, as we normally do on our way to Garmisch. This was our first time seeing the castle in the Summer, as we always visit Garmisch in the Winter.
We parked at Parkplatz P4 for a small fee, and hiked up to Neuschwanstein Castle. We’ve taken the carriage ride before, but the weather was nice for a leisurely uphill walk. We passed the castle and went to Marienbrücke to get the most iconic pictures of the castle. It was about a 20-minute wait to get onto the bridge, but the view was worth the walk and wait.
Following our stop at Neuschwanstein Castle, we made a quick stop at St. Coloman’s Church, which was an amazing photo opportunity. If you drive just past the church, you get an awesome picture of the Catholic Church with the Alps right behind it. We continued an hour to Garmisch to check into the apartment we rented through Booking.com.
To be honest, we wanted to stay at Edelweiss as we normally do when we visit Garmisch. Since the hotel was booked to capacity, we took an opportunity to find a place to stay off-base. The apartment was great, and at €438 for three nights, the price was comparable to Edelweiss. As an added benefit, the apartment gave us much more space than we would at Edelweiss. We also were only a ten minute walk to Partenkirchen, which made it easy for us to grab dinner and drinks in the evening. Our favorite spot became Restaurant Pizzeria Renzo. Among all that, my favorite part about the apartment was the view. From the balcony, we could see four peaks in the Alps, including the Alpspitze and Zugspitze.
We began both full days of our trip with a four mile run around Eibsee. Our first run was late morning. It was exciting to see hordes of lake-goers finding a spot to sit along the beach, hiking around the lake, stand-up paddle boarding, or running just like us. The second day, we made it out early enough to see the sunrise. Watching the sunrise over the mountains and seeing the reflection in the lake, is one of the most majestic things you could ever see. There is no way a picture could ever capture the serenity and perfection.
On our first full day, we drove 30 minutes to Oberammergau to check out the alpine coaster. Honestly, I’ve lived in Germany for three years and up until this point, had no idea what an alpine coaster was, but I’m glad Nellie talked me into it. We paid €13 per person for a single ride, and took the ski lift to the mountain top. The line wasn’t too bad, as we waited for about 45 minutes for our turn to descend the mountain.
So, if you are like me two weeks ago, and are wondering, “What is an alpine coaster?,” it is like a gravity powered rollercoaster going down a mountain. It’s a single person event, and you have the opportunity to brake as you roll down on the track. I’m not sure if braking was ever necessary, but the twists and turns will make you feel like you are going to eject out of your seat. Needless to say, it is an amazing experience, that all people stationed in Germany should try at least once!
If you plan to take the alpine coaster while visiting Garmisch, check out this website before you head out. If you are looking to make a full day out of your trip, there is much more to do than just the alpine coaster. You can ascend the mountain via ski lift without having to take the thrilling coaster back down. There is a restaurant, playground, and even hiking trails once you make it to the top.
We decided to conquer and divide on our second full day. Nellie took the youngest to Partnach Gorge while I took the big girls to Dachau. Dachau is worth the visit, but we weren’t sure that our youngest would be mature enough for the visit. After spending a few hours there, I don’t think any age is too young to learn about the camp horrors.
Dachau Concentration Camp is just under 90 minutes from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We arrived there late morning to an almost empty parking lot, but many more visitors arrived just as we were leaving during the early afternoon. Entry was free, but we were given the option to purchase audio headsets for a tour. One of the workers discouraged us from purchasing a headset, as she informed us that all the signs are translated in English. She was absolutely right, and after visiting the camp, I don’t think there is a need to pay for a guided tour or headsets to tour the camp. While entry is free, there is an opportunity to donate to the maintenance of the camp.
There were workers throughout the camp, almost all who spoke English and eager to inform you about what stands in front of you. The camp is a powerful reminder of mankind at its worse, as you learn about the defective, awkward, criminal, homosexual, and Jew that were forced into the camp (among others). You can imagine the atrocity of standing at roll call, crammed into tight barracks spaces, or tortured during human experimentation. It is important that we visit places like this, as a reminder that we as mankind need to never let this happen again.
While we were at Dachau, Nellie took her yearly hike into Partnach Gorge. Entry into the gorge was €6, and everyone had to wear a mask while inside the gorge. In pre-COVID days, one could walk both ways in the gorge, but these days, you can only walk in one direction. Once you get out of the gorge is an area to stick your feet into the water and picnic. You may need the rest break, as the hilly return trip isn’t for the faint-hearted! Over 2,300 feet long, visiting Partnach Gorge is like being in a cave with rushing waters and dramatic waterfalls coming off the cliffs. It is a must visit while at Garmisch!
Just as we would at Edelweiss, we spent much of our time just hanging around the apartment. Nellie and I enjoyed gazing at the mountains from the balcony while sipping coffee or an alcoholic drink. The oldest enjoyed walking into town to enjoy the vacation village vibe, while the two youngest spent lots of time outside on a skateboard. One thing to also mention, is that we took full advantage of the base commissary and Exchange to grab snacks, beer, and restock for our follow on adventure to the French Riviera.
The COVID-19 conditions forced us to plan a trip in the German Alps, and Garmisch was naturally the best location for our family. We always enjoy our yearly winter ski trip, but we discovered that there is so much for the family to enjoy over a Summer 4-day weekend. We were also forced out of our Edelweiss comfort zone, which rewarded us with a new experience and adventure. Plan your Garmisch Summer trip, but now is also the time to plan your winter getaway. Make sure you check out our post “Garmisch- Winter Fun for the Family.”
Stay tuned. We will soon publish Post #2, which will let you in on our road trip from Garmisch to the French Riviera, and all the fun we had over seven days at the Côte d’Azur!