Month: October 2020

Zugspitze – the top of Germany

After our damp and cloudy trip to Wank Mountain, Sunday dawned bright and clear for our trip to the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. There are multiple cable cars to the summit, but the Seilbahn Zugspitze is the newest and departed from right next to the Eibsee, walking distance from our hotel. As we headed over, we got our first glimpse of our goal…

The Summit

Yep. Right up there.

The cable car is a marvel of engineering, and it currently holds two world records: the longest freespan in a cable car at 3,213m (10,541 ft – more than two miles!) as well as the tallest support tower at 127m. (I highly recommend you check out this video of how they built it. Even in German, it’ll blow your mind.) We masked up, joined the queue, and boarded the car. And then…


We could very quickly see all of the Eibsee, including our hotel there on the edge closest to the Seilbahn. We kept climbing…

Past the tower

We reached the single (world-record-breakingly high) tower and knew that we were then on the two mile free span straight up to the top. In case you’re wondering how we both were feeling at this point…


The ride was very smooth and very fast, and the whole thing takes less than seven minutes. This portion got very steep…

Even higher

and soon we could see the entire valley spread out below us, with snow-covered rocky peaks to either side.

Nearing the Summit

I’m not going to lie – by the time we pulled into the station at the top, I was really, really eager to stand on solid ground. The summit complex itself is perched like some James Bond villain’s lair right on the peak, parts of it hanging out into space. It’s all steel and glass, with the lower floors having access to transport, bathrooms, museum exhibits, a restaurant, and a gift shop. We were really looking forward to the view though, so we followed the crowd and climbed the stairs up to the rooftop terrace…


It was amazing. We had feared it would be super cold and windy, but with the sunshine it was actually really nice. We could see practically all the way back to Munich!


See the lake far off in the middle there on the horizon? Munich is just a bit farther north from there. We wandered all over the rooftop complex. Thankfully it wasn’t too crowded either…



DANGER! Don’t climb out on the roof. Noted. 😳

The chain of mountains that the Zugspitze is in forms the northernmost part of the Alps, and the border with Austria actually runs right near the summit. There used to actually be a border crossing up there, but now that both countries are in the Schengen zone, you can just walk straight into Tirol in Austria. (The other big cable car runs down on the Austrian side.)


“I’m pretty sure Austria is designated a Covid hotspot,” the Snook whispered. “We better not go in there or we might have to quarantine!” We instead turned back to the Bavarian side…


The actual summit is marked with a golden cross, and we cable car plebs can’t actually get up to it. Only real mountain climbers are allowed to go up there. We can pose for photos though!



In the middle of the terrace there’s actually a bar with tables set up so you can have a drink. I couldn’t resist having a hot chocolate on the top of Germany’s highest mountain!

Hot chocolate

Meanwhile, this cheeky boy threw a snowball at me!

Naughty boy

Eventually we decided to move on to our next destination, the Zugspitzplatt (plateau). It’s basically the other side of the mountain from where we came up in the Seilbahn. We took the much smaller Gletscherbahn (glacier cable car) down to the Platt, where you can find a beer garden, ski and sledding slopes, and the train through the mountain back to the Eibsee.


If you look straight up the mountain behind the Snook, you can see the summit complex there at the top. We decided to go for a wander in the snow. There were lots of folks hiking, sledding, and even building snow forts.

Queen of the mountain



I nearly fell over laughing while watching the Snook try to walk back down a snow-covered hill without falling on his ass. “Ich komme aus Australien!” he yelled. “Wir haben kein Schnee!”

Aussie in the snow

After our hike, it was time for lunch. We found a table in the sun and split a beer with our meal. It was a good day.


To get back to the Eibsee, we caught the Zugspitzbahn, one of four remaining working rack railways in Germany. These are the ones with a special rail up the middle that looks like a zipper so that the train can climb or descend steep grades. (You can see it in the middle of the tracks in the photo below.) This train actually goes down into the mountain in a long tunnel and eventually emerges back on the north side. It’s a lot longer trip than taking the cable car, around 45 minutes to get back to the Eibsee.

Waiting for the Zugspitzbahn

Back at ground level, we picked up our bags from the hotel and then began the long trek home. We caught the Eibsee bus back to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen railway station, and then got a train back to Munich.

What a lovely little weekend trip! And given that we’re about to go into a “light lockdown,” I imagine we won’t get to do any more leisure travelling for quite a while…

A Trip to Wank Mountain

…in which I get my blog blocked by even more parental filters. 😂

Not long after we got to Germany, we had a realisation that gave us a new sense of urgency: if we’re only in Europe for two years (which is the thing we keep telling our family, whether or not that stays true), then that gives us roughly 100 weekends to fill. With a countdown like that staring you in the face, watching Netflix and sitting on the couch seems like a big waste of time, even in a pandemic.

Last week it felt like we were both getting anxious cooped up in the house, so it was time to go on another adventure. “Only one hundred weekends, right?” Plus the forecast looked like we might get one day of sun amidst all the relentless rain and gray skies. (And as Covid numbers are rising, it also felt like we probably wouldn’t have many more opportunities this winter to travel.) Our original thought was Neuschwanstein, but to our surprise, it’s booked out for months! “What about the Zugspitze?” I asked. I knew it was Germany’s highest mountain, and it supposedly wasn’t very far away. “Did you know,” the Snook giggled, “there’s a mountain near it called the Wank?” That settled it. We were definitely going to go to there.

Train from Munich

We caught the train Saturday morning from Munich Hauptbahnhof (central railway station). There’s a special ticket you can buy called the “Bavaria ticket” that gets you pretty much all trains and buses for a full day, so we travelled on that. The weather continued to be horrible and cold and gray. I had my knitting with me, but within 20 minutes realised I’d made a fundamental error and had to pull the whole thing apart. So the train trip was perhaps less fun that it might’ve been. Still, the scenery was pretty and the train wasn’t too crowded. (Everyone wore masks the entire time.)

Our destination was Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the foot of the Alps, and the trip took less than 90 minutes. At the train station we stowed our little suitcase in a locker and then caught a bus over to Wank. Unfortunately due to reduced Covid numbers the cable car isn’t running as frequently as usual, so we had a little time to kill. We discovered the “Philosophenweg” (philosopher’s trail) nearby and went for a wander. It was very, very pretty.


In the distance we could even see the ski jump from the 1936 Olympics! Unfortunately most of the tall mountains were completely hidden by clouds, so the Zugspitze was as yet hidden from us.

Then it was time… time to ascend Wank Mountain.


The cable car was small – it would seat four people at most – and the trip took about 15 minutes all the way to the top. We would get moments where we could see, but then as soon as we crossed a valley or crevasse we’d be plunged into clouds again.

The Wankbahn drops you off directly at the Sonnenalm restaurant. We were hungry for lunch, so we went straight in to refuel. We both went for “Bergsteiger” (mountain climber) schnitzels and beer. I had a laugh at all the “I ❤️ WANK” merchandise they had for sale. 😂

Sonnenalm lunch

To be honest, there wasn’t much else to do on the top of Wank Mountain. Normally it’s a lovely place to hike and wander, but visibility was really poor and there didn’t seem to be much chance of it improving. It was just gray and damp and cold. We did spot some patches of snow on the ground, which was mildly exciting. (Nothing at all like what was coming the next day!) We hiked a little ways up to the Wankhaus, a guesthouse for hikers, but it was closed. We snapped a quick photo, marvelled at the non-view, and decided we might as well head back down. Bye-bye, Wank!


The ride back down the mountain was just as harrowing as the way up. The clouds in the distance were starting to break up though, and we got tantalising glimpses of far off peaks…

Back at the bottom, we hiked back to the railway station on foot to reclaim our luggage and wait for the bus to our hotel. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is ridiculously pretty. It looks like a mock Disney European village at Epcot Center, except it’s real and people actually live here. I’m like, can you actually believe this??


The Snook realised there was an ice cream shop nearby, so we headed over for a coffee and a treat… and I noticed they had Spaghettieis (ice cream extruded to look like spaghetti with strawberry “sauce” and coconut “parmesan”). Folks, I haven’t had this since I was a 16-year-old studying in Germany in 1994. I ordered it and I ate the entire thing with a smile on my face. JOY ON A PLATE.


Then we caught the Eibsee Bus over to the Eibsee Hotel on the shores of, you guessed it, the Eibsee. “Due to its location below the Zugspitze and the clear, green-tinted water, the lake is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the Bavarian Alps.” Yes, 100%, can concur. Our room had a balcony with a lake view. We sat and watched as the sun went down. It was very, very peaceful.

After an early dinner in the hotel restaurant, we decided FOR THE SAKE OF SCIENCE to check out the fancy European sauna in the hotel spa. “You’re meant to go naked,” Rodd said as I put on my swimsuit. I wasn’t sure if he was tricking me, so I messaged my German friend Sally to confirm. (FKK, you’ll recall, is an acronym used in Germany that refers to nudism.) Sally confirmed. 😳


As you can see above, we went for it. We waited to disrobe until we were in the spa changing room, and then we wrapped towels around ourselves as we went in. They had two different saunas, and we went first to the “pine sauna” (65°C/149°F). Thankfully, no one else was in there! It was hot but not steamy like I expected, so we cautiously threw off our towels and sat there sweating for about ten minutes. Then we wrapped up again and headed to check out the “Kelo lake sauna (95°C/203°F)”. I have no idea what “Kelo lake” refers to, but that was HOT. We managed about two minutes in there (again, alone) before heading for the door. We quickly changed back into our swimsuits and then went for a quick dip in the empty hotel pool to cool off.

And that was it for day one! Stay tuned for our adventure on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze…

Bicycles, motorcycles, cars, and trains!

With the weather so crappy of late, we have been restricting our explorations to close to home. Luckily, we have the Deutsches Museum Verkehrzentrum just five minutes’ walk from our house! The Deutsches Museum is a museum of science and industry, and it has several different locations around Munich. (You’ll recall that we went to their aviation center at Flugwerft Schleissheim a few weeks back.) The one near us in Schwanthalerhöhe is dedicated to all things transportation. Because of Covid, you have to purchase your ticket ahead of time online and wear your mask at all times inside.

There are three halls. The first one is devoted to urban transport, and it was full of cars and motorbikes. I was very excited to finally see a Trabi in real life!

Snookums and a Trabi

Some more highlights from the first hall. I’m not really much of a motorhead, so I tend to look at these machines in purely aesthetic terms. I am definitely drawn to retro designs! I loved that blue “Vicky” German moped, and if such a thing were available today, I’d be buying one. We also had a laugh when we saw the Goggomobile. (There’s a famous Australian commercial that features one.)

There were a lot of bicycles too, including some very unusual designs. This one with the springs was meant to provide a smoother ride (since it had solid tires rather than pneumatic). I did a double-take when I saw these other ones. “Is that… crochet??” I said. It was. These are “Damenfahrrad” (women’s bikes) that featured a “skirt guard” to keep your skirts from getting caught in your wheels! They were really beautiful, and each one was unique.

There was one other special vehicle we couldn’t resist checking out… a Waymo self-driving car. “So this is what I’m meant to watch YouTube ads in while I’m whizzing down the Autobahn in the glorious future??” To be honest, it’s really goofy looking. I had thought they were the size of a Smart car, but they’re actually much bigger. With that camera wart on top, I think it was taller than me! This looks like something from Playskool.

Waymo car

The second hall was themed around “travel,” and it had more cars along with horse-drawn carriages and full-sized train cars. You could walk alongside and above some of them. The other guests were mostly families, and little kids were really going nuts for the trains!


We are so embarrassing. There were several points at which we would point to something and mutter to each other, “Now that looks like something from Indiana Jones…” Here are some of those.

I fell in love with some more over-the-top retro car designs.

The 1962 pink Cadillac complete with Route 66 diorama cracked me up. It had a sign near it with lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s “Pink Cadillac” translated into German. 😂

Pink Cadillac

The third hall – “Mobility and technology” had some very special exhibits of rare and concept vehicles. I don’t think I’d ever seen a “Tin Lizzie” (Model T Ford) in person before! I was also intrigued by an exhibit of the “VaMP” – a self-driving car from the 1990’s. I’ll admit I burst out laughing when I looked in the back seat. It was loaded up with desktop computers with multiple monitors and keyboards! (There was another one in the passenger seat!) But apparently this thing was able to drive from Munich to Copenhagen with the human driver only having to take over a couple times. No GPS – just computer vision! It even changed lanes! I had no idea people were tackling this problem 25 years ago…

There was also an interactive area filled with kids where you could watch a model train, fire up an engine, or try different types of brakes. I spotted a pennyfarthing and, to our delight, it had a sign nearby inviting you to climb aboard! I had the first go, and sadly, I couldn’t even make it with my bum knees. The Snook managed to clamber up there though, finally fulfilling his destiny as That Beardy Hipster.

Pennyfarthing hipster

To finish our day, we used our normal-sized bikes to ride over to the Augustiner Keller, the third-largest beer garden in Munich. (It has 5000 seats!) Unfortunately with the cold weather, the only people outside were a few lonely smokers. We headed in and enjoyed a quick “hoibe” (that’s Bayerische for half-liter of beer). We will definitely have to go back for a full meal sometime!


Milo Socks

Finished knitting project! These are the Milo Socks from Cookie A’s book Sock Innovation.

I started these way back in June but they took me forever to finish. Part of that is because, as usual, Cookie A patterns are way more complicated than they need to be. And there was the whole “moving international during a pandemic” thing to contend with as well. 🤷‍♀️

The wool is Crazyfoot by Mountain Colors, which I bought in Phoenix, Arizona many years ago. I probably should’ve used a solid colour for such a complicated pattern, but it reminds me of the colours of the desert on that amazing drive that day through Sedona to Flagstaff.

Rivers and Lakes and a Staircase to Nowhere

After spending last weekend lying about the house like slugs (our first since we got here), we decided that we needed to get outside again. A few different folks had recommended we visit some of the many lakes near Munich, so this past Saturday we caught a train to Lake Tegernsee

Lake Tegernsee

It was about a one hour ride south from Munich on one of the regional trains, which was nevertheless smooth and fast and sparkling. There were more folks on the train than I expected, including some in full lederhosen and dirndls (celebrating what would’ve been the end of Oktoberfest with a cooler bag full of beers). The forecast was for rain and wind, but we had all opted to take our chances. We whizzed through forests and fields and, for the time being, the sun was bright and warm. The last bit of the trip ran south along the east coast of the lake from Gmund to the village of Tegernsee, which was literally the end of the line.

Walking into Tegernsee

The train station is fairly high up, so to get to the lake you have to walk down into the village. We passed over little brooks with crystal clear water and wandered through narrow cobblestone streets that looked straight out of a storybook. Most shops were closed as it was German Unity Day, but we knew our destination was open: the Herzogliches Bräustüberl Tegernsee. This is a famous brewpub next to the Brauhaus Tegernsee brewery, and we were hungry for lunch.

Rodd at lunch

The place was pretty packed, but we managed to get an outdoor table that was still under cover. This was lucky, because just as we were finishing our lunch the rain hit!

Tegernsee in rain

Here we are huddled under a tree next to the lake. We’d hoped to go for a walk on the shore – or possibly even go on a boat ride – but it just got grayer and windier and colder. We made our way to the Seehaus Cafe and waited in a queue to get in. (Everybody had the same idea we did!) Thankfully it was warm and cosy inside, and we had a great spot overlooking the lake. We saw a large group of sailboats all making for the shore, and the Snook had fun trying to identify the various seabirds we could see along the shore.

We gave up on any further lakeside activities and headed back to the train station for home. As we walked from the station to the house, the Snook pointed out that we were close to a very special sculpture…


This is called “Umschreibung,” and it’s literally a staircase to nowhere. It does have an opening so you can climb on it, but there’s a sign on it now telling you to stay off (presumably due to Covid or something?). At any rate, it seemed a fitting end to our day to Tegernsee and back.


On Sunday the sun was shining again, but we decided to stick a little closer to home with a bicycle ride. We plotted a route over to the Flaucher, the park that runs along the Isar River. Thanks to Munich’s excellent separated cycleways, we were safely there in no time.


We crossed the river and joined the many, many folks riding, running, and strolling along the banks. It was very hard for these Aussies to imagine that this rocky shore is as close to the beach as you’re going to get here!

Rocky beach

In the middle of the park we found the Zum Flaucher beer garden and refreshed ourselves with a quick lunch of leberkäse, potato salad, and Pommes frites. And of course, since we were riding, we washed it down with Radlers!


Oh, and did I mention there’s a famous nudist (FKK) beach on the Isar? And people literally stop on the bridge to gawk at the sunbathers? And so did we??


On our return trip, we checked out the northeast corner of the park, including the Entenweiher (duck pond). Munich really is ridiculously pretty, you guys. I can’t wait to see it when the leaves have finished changing colours…


Then it was time to head home! We took a city route up across the Wittelsbacherbrücke and then up Kapuzinerstrasse back to Theriesenwiese. This would’ve been the final day of Oktoberfest, so we stopped to pay homage to the statue of Bavaria. Unfortunately she’s closed now due to Covid so we couldn’t climb inside, but I’m sure we will one of these days. Prost!


Rubbish. Human garbage. Trash.

Oh, did you think I was talking about him? Nope. In this case I happen to be discussing actual literal trash. I bet you feel silly now.

If you guessed that Germans would be Very Systematic About Dealing with Rubbish, you are correct. Rodd had done his research before arrival and informed me quite seriously that there were at least seven types of waste that we’d need to sort and deal with. After a few weeks, I think I’ve got it figured out.

Waste room

Our building has a rubbish room (Müllraum) with three different bins. The little brown one is for organic waste (Bio): vegetable trimmings, meat off-cuts, coffee grounds, egg shells, paper towels, and things that will decompose. The blue one is for paper and cardboard. And the grey one is for the rest (Restmüll)… but not counting the recyclables.


The recyclables get dropped off in bins down the street, and there are actually four different options there: white glass, green glass, brown glass, and “Kunststoff und Dosen” (plastic and cans). And by plastic, they mean pretty much any packaging material. I’ve been checking, and just about all of them have recycling symbols on them. So really, by the time you sort all that stuff out, there’s really not a lot left for the Restmüll.

In terms of how we organise at home, I got a couple of these Rotho Albula waste bins from Amazon. The big blue one is for the mixed recycling that we take down the street, and the little one lives on the counter for the compostables. We also have a pull-out double bin under the sink for paper and the remaining rubbish.

How very organised and logical and sustainable right? Don’t you wish we could deal with all human garbage this way? 😬