I didn't expect to see Munich this early in the trip. Originally I thought I would visit as an extended weekend from Prague during Oktoberfest. As so often happens though my plans changed and suddenly this became a great option. I'll still probably come back for Oktoberfest though.
Like in Bern I was met at the train station (Sonja this time) and hustled me through the metro. I was desperate to unload the bulk of my mountain gear at her apartment. Once that mission was accomplished we could do a little siteseeing and plot our time together. She showed me her neighborhood quickly and I we visited the local beer garden before taking the bikes to a lake for some swimming. I don't remember the last time I truely went swimming, but it was incredibly hot outside. She convinced me to try and swim across the lake. I came very close, but when we intersected on her return trip I exited to what I discovered was the nudist area. That was bad naked. I soon returned to the water to escape.
Sonja arranged a little hiking trip for us today. About an hour from town the mountains rise from the flat glacial plain. She often goes hiking there and picked out a nice half day loop hike which even included a summit. The weather was hot and humid and we paid a heavy price in sweat. It was my first euro mountain summit albeit a minor one. I don't even remember the name. Sonja, what was it again? We conquered the peak and descended around the backside where I took the photo. After an hour we were at a table rehydrating with some cold drinks. The ski area serves hikers in the off season and I was grateful for it because my water was long exhausted and we still had a bit of a hike in the sun left.
That afternoon we returned to the city and I went for a walk around the old town. I couldn't be staying in a better location in Munich. Her apartment is a bit small so I am staying with her parents in her old room. There is even a childhood photo up on the wall. She'll be glad to know that I don't intend to put a picture of it on the site. I want to be invited back after all.
Here are the results of my exploration: Munich.
We immediately followed up our successful trip with another. This mountain is topped with a short rocky knob that has a via ferrata. It measures a whopping 5357 ft / 1633 m above sea level. In several ways it reminded me of a Mount Thielsen in Oregon. Both had pleasant forested approaches that led to a rocky summit cone that required at least some degree of scrambling. This mountain did not look as dramatic and was a bit easier but no less fun.
I had some new via ferrata gear that I wanted to try out before taking it to the Zugspitze. I didn't want to take totally untested gear to that mountain but when I arrived at the start of the 30 meter climb I just couldn't bring myself to put on my harness and gear. There were some other people coming down and I was too embarrassed to suit up for such an easy route. Now I know what level and "easy" via ferrata is in Bavaria. I suppose that we would call it class 2-3 which isn't really climbing.
It was a fun ascent on nice solid rock. It was also very steep in spots. Sonja put on her gear for practice and made it easily to the summit. I followed her up taking pics along the way. Then we switched off on the camera and she took photos on the way down. Here are both sets from the via. You will notice that once we were alone on the summit I put on my gear and tried it out on the way down.
My trip coordinator knew of some canyoning across the border in Ötzal region. She had done it once before there and set up another trip. We spent the previous night in a nice demi pension in a nearby village so we didn't have far to drive this morning.
The trip wasn't going to be very hard, in fact it was supposed to be easy, but any trip would be fun. This time I didn't forget my camera and I wanted to record some action movies. At the guiding company hq we joined about 10 others and got our gear. A short drive took us to the water and for once we didn't have a long, hot hike to the start of the fun. The water felt good and I got my pictures and movies. The trip was very easy though so I don't have anything real spectacular to share but here are some photos. The most interesting bits are my movie and Sonja's jump.
My partner didn't feel totally ready to tackle the highest mountain in Germany so after the canyon and some food she dropped me off at the trailhead for the Valley of Hell. Sounds delightful. I'm not sure why it is called that. The approach hike up the valley was beautiful. She has done the hike up to the hut a number of times and I can see why.
My plan was to hike 2 hours to the hut where I could sleep and eat quite reasonably. The the next morning I and many others would leave early for the 1600 meter ascent of the Zugspitze. This is a route that I researched back in the US. It is comprised of some nice hiking, scrambling, 2 sections of via ferrata, and a short stretch of glacier travel. At the top there is a giant summit house with gondolas and loads of tourists but until then the way is gorgeous.
I'll let my pictures speak for themselves. I will say that everything went well and although the glacier had a couple tricky spots there were no unpleasant surprises. The weather and views were great. The ascent took about 6 hours and then I spent several at the summit complex eating, drinking, and talking with some other climbers. Mmmm. Fresh grilled wurst and beer sold by the liter. I can get used to climbing like that. The descent was first by gondola then by train through the mountain and all the way down to town. Such comfort!
After getting down from the mountain I ended up in Reutte (Ehenbichl really), Austria. I decided that rather than return to Munich that night I'd check out some castles in the area the next day. They were not very far away so it seemed silly to not take a look.
The first set was a 2 - 3 hour round trip from where I had spent the night. It is a recently restored complex of 4 fortifications. They were originally all connected by walls and ramparts to control access to the old roman Via Claudia Augusta. I skipped Fort Claudia across the valley due to time constraints but visited 1) Ehrenberger Klause, a fortified tollhouse, 2) Festung Schlosskopf, a fortress from the age of artillery sitting high above all, and 3) Burgruine Ehrenberg, the nicest of the four.
The second set of castles I almost missed. For some reason there is no bus to Füssen on the weekends but I chatted with an American couple while waiting for a shuttle to the train station (to go back to Munich) and they were agreeable for going for a little ride in their rental. Twenty minutes is all it took to cross the border and arrive at the famous castles of Mad King Ludwig, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. Possibly every tourist to Germany visits these two. They dropped me off and even though it was after 4 o'clock the area was still crawling with tourists. I didn't have time to take a tour inside either of the two castles but I was able to see lots from the outside and courtyards. This was time well spent. Eventually the rains came but not until after I was waiting for the local bus back down the hill.
After a very full day I found myself back in Munich around 9 pm and soon in the shower.
One last lazy day in Munich before I need to leave. I'd like to stay but I really need to get on with my trip since I'll be meeting my sister in London in about a month. I spent much of this day arranging travel but I was able to get out and see the insides of a few churches that had been closed before. I also made a quick visit to a small museum before packing up. I'm almost done with carrying all this luggage! Sonja will drop me at the train station later this evening where I'll take an overnight ride direct to Amsterdam.
And so concludes my very successful time in Bavaria and Tirol. I was able to see and do much more than the typical American tourist and I am glad for that. Special thanks to Sonja and her parents for all their hospitality.
What is next for me is a lot of hiking through the UK. First I return to Amsterdam to drop off all the climbing gear that I am lugging, then I fly to Edinburgh, Scotland to begin the jolly good time.