Hotel Eibsee – MTB Germany/Austria

Last Time in Germany

Eibsee

Eibsee

The knowledge that this is the “last time” that I will be in Germany (at least as part of this contract) has made this 2-week stay much more interesting. For some things, like staying in Darmstadt in the Hotel Maritim Rhein-Main, there is only indifference. However, for riding my bike through the northern edges of the marvelous Odenwald and spending the weekend at the Hotel Eibsee…it is bittersweet. I’m happy that I’m getting to experience these wonderful places again, but sad that I won’t be seeing them again, probably for a long time.

I drove down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen from Darmstadt on Friday afternoon. The autobahns were slow, choked by a combination of “last-weekend-of-summer” traffic (including lots of RVs) and lane-closures due to road construction. However, I wasn’t in any great hurry, so I stayed relaxed. After all, it’s not like Laurie was waiting for me at the Hotel Eibsee…it was just me and a relaxing weekend away from work in the Alps. The normal 4 hour ride took about 6 hours, but once I exited the A7 at the Allgaeuer Tor (the foothills to the Alps), I started feeling great.

The verdant, rolling green pastures of the Allgaeuer hills are framed by the majestic thrust of the Alps. The paved trails/small roads are filled with MTBers and road-bikers. As I pass them, I feel a twinge of jealousy but am happy that they are out in this beautiful evening, enjoying the heat and the incredible panoramic view. The farmers are also out in force – large tractors crawling through the fields like oversized insects, performing the harvest. At every small village, I resist the urge to stop and get out of the car, and explore on foot. If I did this, I’d never get to Garmisch! But, I still want to stop…

The road weaves through beautiful countryside, each village marked by the church steeple at its center. Small shops advertise wood-carvings, farm cheeses, and vegetables. Nobody seems to be in a hurry; everyone being content to enjoy the shadows created by the almost-setting yellow sun. The hot air starts to move as a lighter, cooler breeze seems to descend from the peaks of the Alps.

Alpine Valley in Zugspitze Arena

Alpine Valley in Zugspitze Arena

At one particular bend in the road, I look ahead at the mountains, and am rewarded with a perfect view of Neuschwanstein (King Ludwig’s castle that the one in DisneyWorld is modeled after). I am still about 10 miles away, but the combination of clear air and bright sunlight allow me a view I’ve never had before. The size and majesty of the castle can be clearly seen, even from this distance. Amazing…

As I cross into Austria, the rocky Alps begin to crowd in on the road. I cross over the Lech river, flowing rapidly beside the road with its’ strange bluish-white color (due to minerals from the region).

The name “Lech Tal” (Lech Valley) on a road-sign sets my mind back about 18 years, and Laurie is in the car with me as we drive toward the Alps in the winter (from our home in Weil im Schoenbuch), looking forward to skiing over the weekend. There is a twinge of almost homesickness, for this easier, quieter time of life, before kids, back when Reagan was still in power, and all of life’s wonders were spread out before us. Everyday, we ran twice, and during these runs, we spoke of our future “dream house” and our goals. The reason that we moved to Germany was to “save up” in order to buy a single-family home in Northern Virginia. It’s interesting, looking back at these days from the other end…we have our dream house, we have our dream family, and I have a dream job. Still, it’s one misses those easier, simpler days…

Hotel Eibsee

The Hotel Eibsee is probably our (Laurie and my) favorite spot on the planet. When we lived in Germany from ’88-’91, we found this enchanting and romantic place and spent many weekends here. We’d run the 8+km around the crystal clear Eibsee (Eib Lake), enjoying the cool air that only can be experienced in the high mountains. The elevation at the Eibsee is 1,000 meters (3,000+ feet). Zugspitze stands towering over the valley from 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet) at its peak. This height-differential of 6,000+ feet is dramatic…it visually appears to be a straight-cliff up to the mountaineous peak.

Hotel Eibsee with Zugspitze

Hotel Eibsee with Zugspitze

I arrive at the Hotel Eibsee late Friday evening, with the sun already set behind the mountains. However, the sun was still striking the Zugspitze peaks, and the eery red-colored rocks of the mountains were partially obscured by low-lying clouds. It was a beautiful sight. But, all I can think was that I wish Laurie and the kids were here this weekend to experience it, too.

Zugspitze at Sunset, Blanketed in Clouds

Zugspitze at Sunset, Blanketed in Clouds

I eat dinner in the wonderful Hotel Eibsee restaurant, enjoying the view from the outside deck, which overlooks the lake. The restaurant is as full as I’ve ever seen – I guess mostly due to the fact that this is the last weekend of the summer, plus every radio announcer in the region had been saying “go outside this weekend, this will be the best weather of the summer”. The trout tartar appetizer and lamb dinner were outstanding.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

I slept in a bit Saturday morning, and decided to head into the city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen before riding my MTB. I got into GAP (short for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it’s on their license plates here) about 11am, and casually walked up and down its quaint, packed streets. The beautiful painted buildings with their magnificent thick-beam and stucco construction sit beneath soaring mountains literally in every direction. Everywhere one looks, it is like a picture-perfect postcard. Even the Germans dress the part – men wearing lederhosen and stately jackets. The women wear traditional dresses while they ride high tech MTBs.

Postcard Perfect

Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Postcard Perfect

 After browsing shops and wandering up and down the streets, I sit down outside at the Alpenhotel, under yellow umbrellas. This is the same place that Laurie, Rachael, William and I ate about a month ago. I ordered the Kaesespaetzle (cheese melted on Swabian noodles) and ate it slowly. I watched the mix of people – from the older stately gentleman wearing a Trachtensakko (traditional Bavarian jacket) to the tattoo and pierced goth teens dressed in all black. I also soak in the view of traditional painted storefronts, wondering how American gets by with its antiseptic buildings and culture?

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Painted Storefronts

Garmisch-Partenkirchen Painted Storefronts

Mountain Biking

Let me put some emphasis on the word “Mountain” in Mountain Bike (MTB). After all, I’m about to do over 6,000 feet vertical on mostly gravel mountain trails ranging from a mere 4% to a lung- and leg-scorching 18%. I start at about 1pm from the Hotel Eibsee and head straight up the mountain trail. I should’ve warmed up on the flat around the lake, I think, as my hamstrings complain on the start of the climb.

Jeff (me) with Mountain Bike above Eibsee

Jeff (me) with Mountain Bike above Eibsee

The climb is unrelentant, and since I’ve done this exact same climb 5 times before, I know that I’m facing between 65-75 minutes of solid climb, depending on how fast I go. As I drop down into lower and lower gears on this yellow Wheeler soft-tail MTB, I hope that my legs will loosen up as the minutes tick by. I tell myself that after only 25 minutes, there will be an overlook where I can take some pics of the Seilbahn (Cable Car from Eibsee to the Zugspitze peak) and the beautiful Eibsee sitting far below.

Overlooking Eibsee from MTB

Overlooking Eibsee from MTB

After stopping just long enough to grab a drink (the hill’s too steep for me to drink and ride at the same time!) and take a few pics, I jump back on the bike and head uphill again. I’m feeling better now, and the legs aren’t complaining anymore. The next 20 minutes I’m “in the zone” of climbing,  and feeling good. I catch another couple bikers on the way up, right before the section where I have to carry my bike. You could call it single track, but it’s way too steep and difficult (roots, mud, etc.) for me to climb. Then, there’s one more 10 minute push to the top.

Once at the top, I decide to turn left instead of right, and go visit the Hochthoerle-Huette (HH). After a few short minutes of steep downhill, I find that the HH is a restaurant perched near the top of this mountain, sitting right below the stark, steep rocky barren slopes of the Zugspitze. I take some pics, and wait until tomorrow to stop and eat/drink there.

Hochtoerle-Huette Sign

Hochtoerle-Huette Sign

 

Hochtoerle-Huette

Hochthoerle-Huette

The HH sits at almost 1 mile above sea-level, and it filled with bikers and hikers. I notice that there is a paved road leading up to the HH, so I dive down this road toward Ehrwald, Austria, and take the switchback turns with a lot of caution, since many corners are covered with loose gravel. I think to myself, “I hope that this road meets the other trail right above Ehrwald”, and sure enough, it does. Whew. I am not lost!

View of Zugspite from Ehrwald, Austria

View of Zugspite from Ehrwald, Austria

This is a hard descent, made harder by the fact that my rental MTB seems to not really have a functioning rear brake and the front one seems to only “catch” on certain parts of the front wheel. The noise, “chh…chh…chh…chh”, accompanies me along with the whine of big, fat MTB wheels on pavement. Finally, at the bottom, I stop at my normal Tankstelle (gas station) and buy a Coke. I drink half of it, and put the bottle into my back pocket for drinking later.

View of Lermoos, Austria from Ehrwald

View of Lermoos, Austria from Ehrwald

The view from Ehwrald is amazing in all directions. Of course, Zugspitze towers over everything and the Tyrolian Cable Car is continually running, taking people from here to the top of the mountain. There are other almost-as-imposing mountain peaks, which surround the verdant green of the Austrian valley. No wonder Putzi misses her homeland (an Austrian ex-part, Olympian who has a great store in New Castle, PA USA). 

Hotel in Ehrwald at Base of Tyroler Cable Car to Zugspitze

Hotel in Ehrwald at Base of Tyroler Cable Car to Zugspitze

 

Austrian Flowers on Hotel in Ehrwald

Austrian Flowers on Hotel in Ehrwald

Now, I head back towards Germany and Garmisch-Partenkirchen through the valley. Here’s what I am absolutely dying for my road bike. I would love to cruise on the roads with the mountain-side stream roaring beside me, on this slightly downhill stretch for about 20km or so. However, I’m stuck on the fat tires and riding on a gravel road that weaves back and forth across the valley floor. It passes through a covered bridge, and then I see the sign for “D” – Deutschland. I’m back in Germany. Not long until the right turn back towards Eibsee.

I now start the gradual climb back towards Grainau. This part is easy, and almost lulls me into a false sense of thinking “I can make this easy” back to Eibsee. But, sure enough, with just 3 km to go in this ride, the slope kicks up to 10%, then 15%, then even more. I take a hiking trail which is covered by shade, but I’m still sweating heavily as I climb at a paltry 5mph, trying not to fall over, and struggling to not stand up to apply more torque to the pedals, and then have my rear wheel peel out.

Finally, I make it to the top, and the welcoming site of the Eibsee greets me. It’s taken just under 4 hours this time, and I’m glad to be done. I take the front wheel off my bike, put the bike into the back of the little Mercedes-Benz B180 that I got from Sixt Car Rental this time. Once again, I think, “if only others could see what my eyes have seen today”.

Jeff in front of Zugspitze at 6,000 ft above sea level

Jeff in front of Zugspitze at 6,000 ft above sea level

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 4:43 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Hi Jeffery
    Came across your very interesting blog while looking for a photo of Zugspitze.
    Going to a meeting at Hotel Eibsee and would like to use your photo of Hotel Eibsee with Zugspitze in the background on a powerpoint slide. If you have any objections to this please let me know.
    Richard


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