Last Days In Germany: Castle Ruins, Old Friends, and The Bavarian Alps

Thanks to missing our bus in Berlin, we got into Kaiserslautern a few hours later than intended. Why Kaiserslautern, you ask? Because my oldest friend Stephani lives near there with her husband Chris, that’s why!

I will spare you the details of how great it was to see Steph and Chris and get a glimpse of their life in Germany.. I’ll spare you of our late night dancing and my first time using the face swap app. What I won’t spare you from are pictures of the region they took us during the day, which is known for its wine fests!

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We arrived a bit too early to get the wine, so we took the time to explore the abbey and the castle ruins of Hardenberg that were nearby. The abbey holds a restaurant now among its ruins and is also an awesome place for a concert venue. We were there when the band was doing sound checks, and I can tell you with confidence that a concert here would be pretty epic for more than one reason.

 

From the abbey you can see the castle, and from the castle you can see the abbey.

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In order to get to the castle entrance, we had to walk through quaint and somewhat narrow residential streets, and Pat got to use more of his German to ask some people specific directions. We kept seeing the castle walls hovering above the houses, but couldn’t quite figure out how to make it:

Once we made it, though, it was pretty incredible to explore. I kind of loved how overgrown with weeds and flowers the walls were, because it really enhanced the visual experience of walking through. It just kept going and getting more interesting, and the aerial view was stunning, as you can see below. It was definitely worth the time and was an unexpected and and awesome gem:

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I wish we had more time to stay with Steph and Chris, but I’m so glad we got to have the time that we had, and so fortunate to have such an old friend who I can see randomly throughout our lives and pick it right back up where we started. Love you, Steph, and hope to see you somewhere in the world again soon.  ❤

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But, continuing with a strong theme of this trip, morning came quick after a festive evning. It was time to catch our train..which brings me to:

 

Garmisch-Partenkirchen. What a mouthful, right? This little town in the Bavarian Alps, was a gorgeous introduction to these mountains. As a reminder, our trip was not even an idea until the end of May, when we realized Ireland was just not our cuppa tea, if you know what I’m saying. So, a lot of this has been planned on the fly, and certain parts of it seem really fast. More of a taste of places, and the ones we enjoyed we put on a list to hopefully return to one day. This area of Germany was beautiful, and we didn’t get to explore it nearly enough, with only 2 nights in this town, but with the train and bus system, getting around is so easy!

Continuing, we took the train from Kaiserslautern to Garmisc, and it was a pretty rad first-time train ride for me. It was smooth, on time, and comfortable. We got coffee and snacks from the little café, too!

Once in Garmisch, we stayed in Hostel 2396, and if you ever find yourself here and stay in this hostel, be warned: it’s fine as far as most things go, but the guy working reception who’s name is Nicholaus, is a weird and extremely rude dude. He either blatantly ignored me when I spoke or he was hostile. When we arrived, he didn’t offer a greeting of any sorts, and so I asked him his name in order to break the ice and you know..be friendly and introduce myself as we were staying there 2 nights and would probably run into him when we were coming and going. He sneered at me and said, “It’s Nicholaus. Why are you asking that information?”. I later read in all the reviews of this hostel that everything about the hostel is fine, a bit outdated, but the guy working reception is an ass to foreigners. Great pick for the reception person at a hostel.

Anyway, for our first night we had the 4 person dorm room to ourselves, and as tempting as it was to squeeze into one twin bed, we each decided to take our own bunk. After a late night party session with Steph and Chris the night before, followed by the travel to get here, we were both pretty beat. But, the weather forecast was not looking great for the following day, and we only had a short stop-over in this town, so we decided to take the bus and check out Eibsee Lake.

As soon as we got off the bus it started to pour, but we found a restaurant right up the lane. I would say it was not the worst place to be stuck in the rain, and infact it was peaceful and so lovely. We drank a coffee at a table under the awning and waited for a break in the rain (if you haven’t noticed, I drink coffee whenever possible, and the small sizes allow me to guiltlessly feed my adoration).
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When the rain left it took all the people with it. The lake has a beautiful hotel, a restaurant, and some other shops in one area on the shore. During the day on a nice day, it probably gets pretty crowded. To have it to ourselves was incredible, with mountains surrounding 3 sides, crystal clear water in colors colors of blue and teal and as smooth as glass. We started on the trail around the edge of the lake and stopped to take in the view.


At one point not too far along, Pat felt the water and we were both surprised that it wasn’t that cold. It was borderline warm, actually. I looked at Pat and told him it was probably a good idea to go swimming here, you know, take advantage of this and wake ourselves up. I changed into my suit right there on the bank and we dove in and swam, looking at mountains and breathing in cool-post rain air. Amazingly, my hangover and travel fatigue was cured.
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We took the bus back to our hostel and this time it was not the express. Because of this, it went through a lot of neighborhoods, taking it’s time. It was extremely scenic and relaxing, with all the houses and hotels/guest homes with the backdrop of peaks. It looked like this, although this is not my photo:

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The following day we had plans to go up one of the cable cars and hike between some of the peaks, maybe even take a cable car up to Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany. However, the weather was as predicted and we were told by multiple people that the visibility was so limited today, and therefore was not worth the ascent or the price (would have cost us 53 Euro per person to go up the cable car and back, including the train ride to the base. Woof. Why you gotta be so expensive for real?). Here’s what we could have seen on a beautiful clear day, but in the spirit of budget travel, we felt it was not worth the gamble with the weather being so cloudy with scattered rain. We could have been just as happy as these two Alpine hikers off the internet, but it was not in the cards for us:
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Instead we tried out the gorge that every person who turned us away from the peak and our hostel recommended as an alternative. This gorge, Partnach Gorge, is one of the most popular and visited attraction, but in comparison with the tranquility and beauty of the lake, for example, I don’t recommend it. The walk from our hostel to the entrance of the gorge was beautiful and worthwhile, but the entrance to the gorge is a really long walk and quite a buildup for such a tourist-clogged spot. Either way, the walk was great for a morning stroll, and you go right past the Olympic ski stadium/run.

During this walk, and I’m sure in other places that we did not get to explore, we zigzagged through residential neighborhoods, full of the traditional houses half white, half wood with decorative carvings and bright flower boxes drooping from balconies. I only got one photo of the houses, probably because I was too busy looking around. It was like walking through a postcard.

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Once we left this residential area, we were corralled onto a road and walked over a mile to the gorge entrance, with the small tourist trinket shops increasing in number the closer we got. When we did make it to the entrance, we had to wait in line, pay the entrance fee, and we were shoulder to shoulder with people throughout the entire walk through the gorge. We found we were both quickly miserable with the huge crowd of people, shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall, toe to toe. It’s the exact opposite feeling you’re supposed to have when visiting such a naturally beautiful place, which it was. We didn’t make it too far before we decided to turn back. I did take one picture when we emerged from the gorge itself and the line of people was able to spread out along the river.

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We ended our day back at Lake Eibsee, because why not? This time, we rented a row boat and rowed under a little bridge into a second with the most vibrantly teal lake water and a breathtaking view of the mountains. Normally, you’d see Zugspitze as well, but it was engulfed in clouds. It felt so good to be in an environment like this, and both of us agreed we hope to be able to spend much more time in these mountains hiking and swimming in lakes in the future. Not to mention the color and feel of this water was pretty amazing.

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Well, that concludes our German experience, from Berlin to castles to mountains. Until next time, thanks for reading!

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