Saturday, March 10, 2007

Vacation Pictures - German Alps #1

Hurrah, mountains! After seeing the sights in and around Munich for the first week of my vacation, I boarded a train for a trip down to the German Alps. My childhood was spent in the Appalachians and right now I'm living a sea-level existence. To see actual mountains was a treat.
The town of Garmish-Partenkirchen has two things to attract visitors - it was the birthplace of the composer Richard Strauss, and it's been the site of the Winter Olympics. It's a small town, but had a touristy feel (it gets a lot of winter business).

To get to the Zugspitze, you board a train at the Olympic station. The train (a light commuter line) connects Garmisch with a string of small villages set among alpine meadows. Pretty.

Once you get on the cog railway, you start going up ... and up ... and up, sometimes at a fairly steep angle. About a third of the trip goes into a tunnel that puts you on the plateau on one of the mountain's shoulders.

This is the Sonn Alpin restaurant, on the plateau at the 2600-meter level. The cog railway's terminal is in the basement, and behind the place is the cable car terminal to get up to the summit.

This view is looking south at parts of the glacier that usually cloaks the mountains year-round. Global warming has made a lot of the Alpine communities start thinking of what to do when the glaciers disappear entirely. The structure on the right is a chapel, built in remembrance of those who tried to climb the mountain and didn't make it.

Another view of the chapel. The altitude difference really hits you (especially if you've been living at about 120 feet above sea level for 30 years). Just climbing up to the chapel left me winded and my heart galloping. I had to sit down on the rock steps for a few minutes.

The interior of the chapel, really a lovely little place.

Okay. Here's the view from the cable car terminal at the summit. The glacial remnants are the white that you see. In the center of the picture is the Sonn Alpin, and just above it and to the right is the chapel. I estimate that the chapel was about a hundred yards away, and about fifty feet or so higher than the restaurant.


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