For many people (like me), the very idea of Germany conjures images of Bavaria. And Garmisch-Partenkirchen was just the perfect base from which to discover this picturesque region.
POSTED BY PINKY
This southern section of the country was everything I’d always imagined Germany to be. Half-timbered houses dotting endless rolling hills, storybook castles rising high above thick, dark forests, bell-wearing cows grazing in the meadows, snow-capped mountains overlooking winding rivers, and busy town squares with outdoor biergartens.
Not all of Germany may look like this. But can anyone blame me if this was how I wanted Germany introduced to our kids?
Finding a base in Bavaria was key. Traveling in a van to fit the kids, my in-laws, ourselves, and all our luggage, we didn’t have to stay right smack in a city centre. But because we enjoy walking around after dark, there should at least be some options for a pleasant stroll in the evening. And free parking for the van would be nice.
We also like to stay in apartments whenever we travel – with or without the kids. We like to be able to stay in after a long day, kick off our shoes, prepare a simple dinner, do the dishes…okay, doing the dishes maybe not so. But generally, that’s how we roll.
A mountain ski resort town at the foot of the Bavarian Alps, it was still a good place to stay even in the late spring (late May) as they offer all kinds of activities throughout the year. It’s pretty, the supermarkets are well-stocked, and it has a charming town center which, we found, had just enough shopping and dining options for those times we did stay in town. Plus, it has a beautiful baroque rococo Catholic Church for Sunday mass.
During our visit, we could sense that there was a genuine community in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There’s an American military base in the area, yes, but more than that, it seems like the community doesn’t rely solely on winter tourism, so the town manages to stay vibrant all year.
That isn’t always the case in other ski resort towns, which we’d had to learn the hard way. But no harm done. We learned and now we’re here.
Composed of two villages – Garmisch and Partenkirchen – which united to host the 1936 Winter Olympics when alpine skiing was first introduced in the games, Garmisch, where we stayed, felt like it was the more prosperous of the two.
We stayed in a quiet residential area relatively close to town. Our hostess, Heike, and her family run several self-catering accommodations in the area and we stayed in a house called Amethyst, which had basement units with a direct access to the garden. We chose instead to stay in the upper floors to enjoy the view from the deck that wrapped around the back of the house.
Heike’s place was very clean, dealing with her was a breeze, and when our son left his phone charger at the apartment, she was kind enough to take the trouble of mailing it to us in Manila.
For self-catering accommodations in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you can check out http://www.alpenferienwohnungen.de/
How can you resist such a lovely town? Buildings with trompe l’oeil facades set against an Alpine backdrop, pedestrian roads lined with pots of blooms in season, wooden benches under the shade of a tree to rest tired feet. Not to mention the boutiques and galleries, the cafés and restaurants, and enough space for restless kids to wander around safely. There’s a little something for everyone.
St. Martin’s Church, Marienplatz
Built in 1733, what locals refer to as the “new church” (the old St. Martin’s being further away from the center of town) is a delight to go to Mass in. I think its bright baroque interiors actually inspire prayer, in contrast perhaps to the more sombre look of the romanesque or gothic churches more common in Europe. Different periods, different styles.
But what made the experience truly unforgettable was something that my husband and I had also seen many years before (also on a trip with my in-laws) in another storybook though much smaller Bavarian village, Mittenwald.
It was the sight of local men in worship, proudly dressed in their traditional Bavarian lederhosen and hats, their voices in perfect harmony leading the rest of the congregation in song. Quite moving, actually.
Zum Wildschütz, Marienplatz
For a nice and cozy traditional German dinner in town, I think it’ll be hard to go wrong with this place. Translated “The Poacher”, you can pretty much guess that there will be meat or game in the menu. So vegetarians, beware.
They do have salads and will offer vegetarian options but are known more for solid German fare such as pork knuckles, schnitzels, and sausages.
Make sure to book a reservation, specially during the busy season. Or better yet, go early.
For more posts on Bavaria, keep checking back!
Major international airports closest to Garmisch-Partenkirchen are in Innsbruck, Austria (a 1-hour drive) and Munich, Germany (a 1-1/2 hour drive). Salzburg, Austria is just over 2 hours away by car.