Bavaria, Munich and the Top of Germany

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History, General Travel Info

It was the penultimate day of our holiday in Germany. We took a train leaving from Munich (Munich vacation rentals | Munich travel guide), heading towards Garmisch Partenkirchen in less than 90 minutes from where we connected to the Top of Germany – Zugspitze which is at the height of 2964 meters and can be visited by a cogwheel train or the glacier and Eibsee cable cars. On our arrival at the Garmisch Partenkirchen station, we were welcomed by Stephanie from Bayerische Zugspitzbahn. Garmisch Partenkirchen is a very popular summer and winter destination in Bavaria, located at the foothills of Germany's highest mountain – the Zugspitze, an ideal base for Alpine tours, skiing enthusiasts and also hosts the New Year's ski jumping event held as part of the Four Hills Tournament for 44 years. We did not have much time to explore the region as we were on a day trip, though ideally one can spend at least 2 to 3 days at Garmisch. From the railway station, we took a 4-minute stroll to the Eibsee Aerial Tramway to take the Cable Car to the German side of the mountain. You can also visit the Zugspitze from the Austrian side, as the mountain is located on the border of Austria and Germany. On the German side in Bavaria, is the town of Grainau (Grainau vacation rentals | Grainau travel guide) in the district of Garmisch Partenkirchen whereas on the Austrian side, there is the town of Ehrwald in Tyrol. A round trip ticket costing about 47 Euros per adult enables you to take the cogwheel train from Garmisch Partenkirchen, Grainau or Eibsee to the top of Zugspitze and come down the valley on the Eibsee Cable Car or take the glacier cable car to enjoy some fine Indian cuisine at the mountain top as there is a Biergarten restaurant with an Indian chef. The cogwheel train takes 75 minutes to the Zugspitze Plateau or from Lake Eibsee it is 40 minutes which then connects you to the Eibsee Cable car that takes you to the summit. Hikers can hike alongside the glacier from the Zugspitze Plateau in 45 minutes or reach the summit in 4 minutes by taking the Glacier cable car. Once on top, you can get a 360-degree panoramic view of over 400 peaks across 4 countries – Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Germany and you can do a visa-free border crossing on top of Zugspitze from the German side to the Tyrol side in Austria.

At 2962 metres, you can enjoy some traditional Bavarian delicacies in Germany's highest beer garden. There is also Germany's highest internet terminal from where you can send free e-cards to anywhere in the world. The restaurant known as Panorama Lounge 2962 is where you can get stunning views besides enjoying some fine cuisine. Three hundred metres below the summit is the Zugspitze Glacier where there is the SonnAlpin restaurant with sundeck and lounges.

We were lucky to experience some fine weather on Zugspitze – a combination of sun and snow, just the ideal weather to experience the panoramic views from the top of the mountain. On top of the mountain you can also find Germany's highest church consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI. The chapel known as Maria Himmelfahrt or the Assumption of Virgin Mary is located at Zugspitzplatt.

The region of Zugspitze is truly the El Dorado of all winter sports enthusiasts as it has optimum conditions to ski for 7 months starting from November and going until May. Whether there are amateurs or expert skiers, they can enjoy 150 kilometres of terrain combining Zugspitze with classic areas of Alpspitze, Kreuzeck and Hausberg.

The Zugspitzbahn started the first cogwheel train around 1930 covering a distance of 11.5 kilometres and rising to an altitude of 1838 metres. There are over 32 interconnected cable cars and lifts today that take riders to Germany's highest mountain and its adjacent peaks. After an interesting day at the Top of Germany, we were back in Munich and the following day we had a Lufthansa flight at 1915 hours to Mumbai from Munich airport. So we took the opportunity of taking a hop-on hop-off bus to get a glimpse of this wonderful city.

The hop-on hop-off bus is one of the best ways to get a glimpse of the capital city of Bavaria, and those who are on an express visit of the city can take an express tour which lasts about one hour. The Grand Circle Tour on the other hand lasts for about 2 ½ hours and the validity of the pass can be for one or two days. If you have time in hand, it is a good option to take the Grand Circle Tour to get a glimpse of the city and halt en route where you can see some of the major sights that the city of Munich has to offer. A 1-day pass for an adult costs 18 Euros whereas a 2-day pass comes to you at 23 Euros.

The Grand Circle Tour starts in front of the Bahnhofplatz outside the department store of Karstadt near the train station and it is recommended to start early. The first departure is at 0900 hours and that would give you a glimpse of the city in 2 ½ hours flat. However, you have a choice of getting off at any of the stops and then hop onto another bus as the frequency of the buses is quite high. As we had limited time on our hands we did not make many stops barring a few photo stops. The bus started on a fine sunny day heading in the direction of the Pinakotheken or the painting galleries before moving towards the Max Joseph Platz or square where there is the National Theatre, Opera House, Residence Museum with the Treasure Chamber. The Max Joseph Platz is located at the beginning of the Maximilian Street and is a good place to do a walking tour of the area to see some of the fine monuments, memorials and buildings. The New Residence Theatre at the north side of the square is a classic style King's building which dates back to the early 19th Century. Here you find the entrance to the Museum of the Residence and the Treasury which is well worth a visit.

The Cuvillies Theatre is a unique Rococo theatre and is one of the most beautiful Rococo theatres in the world. There are guided tours to the Treasury and the Theatre which can also be visited without a guide as well. On the way to the Marienplatz, you have the Viktualienmarkt – an open air food market comprising of colourful outdoor stalls which is well worth a visit. Marienplatz is truly the heart of Munich with the Old and the New City Halls, the Frauenkirche (Cathedral), the Church of St. Peter, the New Jewish Cultural Centre, the Markets and the Hofbrauhaus or the Beer Hall which will be bustling during the Oktoberfest later this year. Our next halt was at the impressive Palace of Nymphenburg with its Royal Gardens which also houses the hunting lodge of Amalienburg within the complex. The Marstallmuseum along with the Porcelain Museum are well worth a visit here. Munich is truly a city of art and museums and houses over 50 museums which give the city a truly royal touch. The Nymphenburg District is highly impressive with its lavish Baroque Palace and jewel-like museums. The Palace was built as a summer residence for the Electors of Bavaria and has many historical rooms to see including where King Ludwig II was born, the Marstallmuseum which houses the largest collection of historic coaches in the world and one of the finest porcelain collections in the porcelain museum.

When you look at Munich, the new constructions in the city give a new dimension highlighting the creativity of internationally renowned architects. To name a few, there is the Allianz Arena – the new football stadium which looks like a giant air cushion for the Bayern Munich and the TSV Munich Clubs. During matches the imposing façade is illuminated in white and at night there are artificial colours which add beauty to this great work of architecture. The new BMW Museum is an impressive work of architecture where the legendary Bavarian car-maker displays some of its fine automobiles in a construction within a shape of a bowl with four curved platforms inside where the vehicles are on display. One of the greatest pieces of architecture is the Olympic Park located in the northern part of the city. We had an opportunity to halt at the Olympic Grounds from where you can see the 291-metre high Olympic Tower and are very close to the BMW Museum. The Olympic Park started taking shape from 1968 and the highlight is the 3 square-kilometer area where there is a 52-metre high hill made of rubble of the bombed city.

There is also an artificial lake, the Olympic Stadium, the Olympic Hall and the Olympic Swimming Pool with an impressive net-like roof which sets new trends in architecture. On our way back, we crossed the suburb of Schwabing (Schwabing vacation rentals | Schwabing travel guide) which was once a village and a meeting place for artists. Today, this area is known for all kinds of entertainment and also there is the Lustspeilhaus Theatre. The left side of the Leopold Street is more of a residential area including boutique, art shops, restaurants and cafes. And there is the iconic Walking Man, 17 meters high which was built by American artist Jonathan Borofsky in 1995 which is found on the Leopold Street and always invites mixed reactions for this imposing statue in the middle of nowhere. The Walking Man was made in sections and transported from USA and the workers spent up to 5 weeks in Munich to put it together. It has a steel inner structure and the outer shell is made of fibre-glass; quite an imposing figure and hard to miss. The bus then headed back to the Munich Hauptbahnhof crossing the English Garden which is the green lung of this bustling metropolis and probably one of the largest green areas within any city of Europe. We finally took the Lufthansa Bus to the airport. It was indeed one of my most memorable holidays as we had seen so much in the span of 10 days – starting from Frankfurt (Frankfurt vacation rentals | Frankfurt travel guide) and ending at Munich.

Germany has so much to offer and I was fortunate to visit this wonderful country in less than 2 months to visit the Magic Cities of Hamburg (Hamburg vacation rentals | Hamburg travel guide), Hannover (Hannover vacation rentals | Hannover travel guide) and Berlin (Berlin vacation rentals | Berlin travel guide).

The exciting photo opportunities in Germany has compelled us to start Travel Pixels: Hi-Definition Photo Tours for photo enthusiasts. We invite you to experience Germany like never before.

This article has been written by Subhash Motwani (Original Article: Bavaria, Munich, and the Top of Germany)

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Location: Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany

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