Wednesday 2 January 2008

Christmas in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Our horse-drawn sleigh brought us through the snow-covered roofs of Garmisch Partenkirchen, past the ski jump slope that would be seen around the world the next day, and through snow-fringed streets that evoked the Christmas of a hundred idealised winter holiday movies. We spent the Christmas and New Year in this Bavarian Winter Olympic resort, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, from sipping gluwein at the Christmas market on Christmas eve to seeing in Christmas day with a splendidly sung mass at the Martinskirche, as the snow clung not only to Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, but surrounded the eponymous family-run hotel where we spent ten days. The resort is large enough to embrace dozens of restaurants - the best is Isi's Goldener Engel on Bankgasse; but there are several great pizzerias including Pizzeria Max on Griesstrasse. Our hotel, the Zugspitze, laid on excellent meals (and itself has a great restaurant) and good Christmas and New Year entertainment. Visiting the town, it is also essential to take the cogwheel train up the Zugspitze mountain, and having a meal on top (as non-skiers, there is still plenty to entertain; for skiers, the facilities are excellent) and to visit the Partnachklamm glacier. The town is really two towns merged, and the Partenkirchen side is full of splendid examples of houses and shops decorated with wall paintings in the Luftmalerei style; it is also worth visiting the excellent local Werdenfelser museum with plenty of local artefacts and recreated merchants' rooms. Garmisch is nearer to Innsbruck than Munich; we found it easier to get a Munich flight, but were pleased to be met late evening by a charming Garmisch taxi driver, Klaus Weisbrich, though there is a regular rail service available. Garmisch is the place for an excellent white Christmas.

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