Zugspitze, being the highest mountain in Germany, offers impressive views:
At 2,962 metres (9,718 ft) high, Zugspitze is Germany’s highest peak. We first set eyes on the mountain last September when we were on top of the Tegelberg, near the town of Füssen. We didn’t have time to get to Zugspitze then, so it was fortuitous that on this trip that we were able to answer the call of Germany’s highest peak and enjoy the marvellous views from the top of Germany.
From Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Our friend Stephan had kindly gone out in the morning to buy us train tickets for Munich Hbf to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a town to the north of Zugspitze.
At Munich central station we boarded the train without any problems, but soon found ourselves outnumbered by high-school age students all heading for Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It must have been the school holidays and they all looked geared up for a camping trip.
So much for our anticipated peaceful train ride and quiet enjoyment of the German countryside…
There was non-stop chatter and excited interaction amongst these youngsters. They also seemed to be on an endless circuit of musical chairs!
Buy the right fare
When the conductor came around, she admonished one of the girls – I suspect there were more passengers than allowed on their group ticket. She then turned her attention on us and with a rather stern tone, she seemed to be ticking us off for something. We didn’t understand her and so she asked the young German girl in front of us to convey the message.
All she was saying to us was that we had paid too much for our ticket! Stephan paid €43 for two single tickets whereas we could have travelled on a group ticket for much cheaper. Yes, on the DBahn system, a “group” can mean just two people! We later found out at Garmisch-Partenkirchen that our group ticket should have cost us €26 only.
To walk or catch a train to Zugspitze summit?
At Garmisch-Partenkirchen everyone piled out of the train. Our friends had originally suggested that we do a couple of walks along the mountain foothills, or climb up to a mountain crevice. However, due to the weather forecast, and the advice of the staff at the train station, we decided against doing any long walks. Instead, we would head up to the summit of Zugspitze, using the mountain transport, which was infinitely much more appealing to me.
Our return tickets up the Zugspitze allowed us to use any of the mountain transport options. Our intention was to take the rack railway to Eibsee and then catch the Eibsee-Seilbahn (cable car) up to Zugspitze. On the return trip we would take the Gletscherbahn (cable car) from the summit to Zugspitzeplatt and then the rack railway all the way down.
Plans Can go Wrong
At Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we boarded the rack railway and when we arrived at Grainau we were told to alight here as this train was terminating here and was not going to Eibsee. When the next train came along, we were advised that it was better to stay on the train all the way to Zugspitzeplatt as the next cable car was not due for another hour. So we stayed on the rack railway train to the Zugspitzeplatt.
The train was packed and it became obvious that any thoughts of moving around the train to take snaps was not practical. But the journey up was pleasant enough and we got to see the beautiful Lake Eibsee. Although we thought a storm was approaching at ground level, blue skies opened up before us as the train made its way up the mountainside.
We spent some time at Zugspitzeplatt enjoying the scenery. The weather was great so Tony had a chance to do his videos. There’s a huge restaurant with plenty of outdoor tables and chairs to have a break and enjoy the mountain air. Zugspitze is popular for its winter sports but there are many activities for summer visitors as well. If you wanted to be active, there are many walking trails, hang gliding, etc. There’s also a church with interesting icons in it.
On Top of Germany
From Zugspitzeplatt, a short 10-minute ride on the Gletscherbahn cable car took us to the summit of Zugspitze. Surprisingly, it was warm enough not to require any coats.
The scenery was stunning and the panels on the summit platform showed you where all the various peaks are. Tony spotted Tegelberg where we were last September, looking across to Zugspitze.
The summit was just as busy as at Zugspitzeplatt, with many visitors enjoying a drink or snack at one of the restaurants. Tony couldn’t resist having a beer at Germany’s highest pub and so we ordered drinks and enjoyed our lunch on Top of Germany. Stephan had packed us a huge bag of food for our walk. There was muesli and yoghurt, pretzel, croissant, salmon sandwiches in a nutty wheat bread, and eggs.
Not content at having made it to the Zugspitze summit, we watched painfully as some people made their way up to the summit cross to get their selfies. Some did not have proper shoes on and were taking a big risk as it would have been so easy to slip.
There were plenty of people at the summit. We were mindful that we needed to get back down in good time because of the crowd. When it started raining at 2 pm, that was our cue to make our way down. Again our plans to catch the cable car down didn’t work as there was a 40 minutes delay, so we took the rack railway all the way down to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
We’re not sure why the rack railway and cable cars were not running to schedule and whether this was a regular occurrence. It seemed very “un-German” to us that the timetables seemed so unreliable on this day. But we got back down in time for our train back to Munich.
We enjoyed our trip to the top of Zugspitze and the views from up there were spectacular. If you knew which way to look, you could even see across to Austria!