Germans seem to be born with the “Wanderlust” gene; it compels young and old, thick and thin, man, woman and even canines to go on long outings guaranteed to court blisters, shin splints and aching muscles. And there is no discrimination between musically gifted or not; at any moment the opportunity seems to arise when you just have to break out into off-key renditions of “The Hills are Alive” or Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann or worse, yodel like a local. Beware when you go walking with me; despite decades lived away from Germany, the affliction lingers (like a dormant disease). And, like a box of chocolates, “you never know what (song) you’ll get.”
On a misty morning I crossed the Loisach, a clear, ice-gray mountain river that wends wildly through town, and stumbled on a new path. I lumbered up a quiet street, past yet another cow-filled meadow, eventually stopping for lunch at the Berggasthof Almhuette.
Directly across from the restaurant several trails lead out into the woods. One sign points to Burgruine Werdenfels. Through forests and meadows, passing wildflowers and mushrooms I traipsed, encountering only the odd man or woman that, social custom requires, I greeted with a chirpy “Gruess Gott“. Two hours later, huffing and puffing, I made my solitary way up a slippery path and faced the remains of an ancient castle. The ruins of Werdenfels command a spot high on a hill overlooking the valley. To the left, narrow roads wind through small towns towards Munich, on the right, nestles Garmisch-Partenkirchen; across the valley the Olympic Ski-jump, first build for the 1936 Winter Olympics, curves downhill towards the Stadium.
Scanning the densely wooded tree line I looked for signs of the Partnach River.
A few years back I had gone day-hiking with my then husband, Mark. We began the journey gently swaying up the mountain in an open, two-seat gondola, walked winding, narrow mountain trails and rested at one of those ubiquitous restaurants perched in a bucolic setting that defines G-P. Then, with the wild mountain river rushing alongside, sounding very much like a herd of thundering thoroughbreds trampling on our heels, we tottered our way out of the damp, slippery, refrigerator-cool grotto that is the Partnacklamm.
Last year, I decided to retrace previous steps leading to a hidden lake, home to abundant trout and fowl, and that on a clear, still day, perfectly reflects the majestic Zugspitze.
All went well until I came upon a fork in the road.
Turning left, the path led downhill and, as the sign indicated, to a familiar restaurant. Head right –the dirt road, slick from early morning rain and mist, curved uphill and seemed steep — and the name was unfamiliar.
I have a tendency to be a bit of a glutton (Duh Vera, you think? –eating enough butter-cream cakes and pastries to feed a small party); the decision was simple: right –undiscovered territory; left – no pain, just pleasures within easy reach.
So on I went.
Fortune smiles on the innocent and/or dumb.
Within the hour I stumbled on remaining evidence of what made Garmisch-Partenkirchen famous: a bobsled track, long abandoned, run to ruin, with one lone sled.
The trek was arduous, the reward hard won. This time I became a glutton for punishment, letting my muscles pay the inevitable price. In the end though, the decision to head right came with another jewel to add to the treasure trove that is Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The day before departure found me and my companion, along with others, rising through groves of giant pine forests, suspended above gurgling brooks and lush, green, goat-speckled meadows. Human and canine, (two Yorkies made the ascent cozy in a jacket pocket; in Germany even dogs are mountaineers), traveled packed shoulder to withers in a cable car that dangled its way up to the Alpspitz. Near the top we burst, Jack and the Beanstalk like, through the clouds and stepped out on the platform. Outside the station, below us, lay a Christmas tree-skirt of dense, puffy clouds. Above, the brilliant sun hung high in a patchy, pale, blue sky; it was a perfect day to fulfill my mission.