Zugspitze – Germany

This week’s journey takes us back to one of our favorite birthday adventure destinations of all time: Zugspitze, Germany. We ventured to the top of this breathtaking Alpine peak to celebrate B.’s birthday in February 2016.

Located in southern Bavaria a short distance from the popular ski town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Zugspitze rises 9,718ft (2,962m) above sea level, making it Germany’s highest point. First climbed by a team of German land surveyors in 1820, the summit is today reached via three mountaineering paths – from the Höllental valley to the northeast, the Reintal valley to the southeast, or from the west over the Austrian Cirque – as well as by three cable car routes. In 1933, the summit was occupied by Nazi paramilitary troops, who hoisted a swastika and deployed in swastika formation on the nearby Schneeferner glacier. On April 20, 1945, the U.S. Air Force dropped bombs over Zugspitze, destroying a railway depot in the valley and a hotel situated on the ridge. From 1945 to 1952, the U.S. military occupied the Schneefernerhaus (as the hotel at the summit was then called) for the exclusive recreational use of military and civilian employees. Today, the only facilities at the summit include cable car stations, a restaurant, a weather station and a multi-agency climate research station. Numerous alpine huts dot the flanks of the mountain, and multiple lifts cover the ski area on the plateau (Zugspitzplatt) below.

Given its proximity to our hotel in Garmisch, we opted to reach the summit via the Eibsee Cable Car early in the morning on February 11. Below are some photos of our views of Zugspitze while driving from Garmisch to Eibsee.

B., who is not fond of cable cars, found the journey to the summit utterly terrifying, and didn’t snap a single photo!

Once at the summit – marked by a golden cross first erected in 1851 – we were greeted with some of the most spectacular mountain views we’ve ever seen, in every direction.

The western portion of the summit is actually located in the Austrian state of Tyrol; the border between Germany and Austria can be easily traversed on foot simply by walking from one end of the viewing platform (in Freistaat Bayern, or Free State Bavaria) to the other (in Land Tirol, or Tyrolean Austria). We enjoyed a yummy dunkelweizen on the German side, and a few warm mugs of glühwein on the Austrian side!

After spending a breathtaking hour at the summit, we headed back down the way we came (this time, B. was feeling confident enough to snap some photos of the journey!).

Thank you for joining us on B.’s birthday adventure in Germany and Austria! -T. & B. June

Our next journey: Bourscheid Castle, Luxembourg

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