A day in the snow

Friday 19th – Monday 22nd March 2010

A quick holiday report but not canal related – sorry. The only link I can think of is snow, as for the last 4 days I have been in and around the Austrian and German Alps, while the UK is recovering from the most snowy winter in memory.

From the top of the Zugspitze - Germany's highest mountain
From the top of the Zugspitze - Germany's highest mountain

I have always wanted to fly into Innsbruck as it has a mountainous approach which requires the pilot to undergo specific training before operating there.  Friday’s weather was absolutely amazing and our Easyjet flight from Gatwick touched down perfectly out of the blue sky – the approach is certainly spectacular.  Innsbruck is a lovely little airport with a regular local bus service to town, although at a pinch it could even be walked.

Zugspitze Cogwheel Railway
Zugspitze Cogwheel Railway

The highlight of the trip was a ride up the Zugspitze railway from Garmisch Partenkirchen, just over the Austrian border with Germany.  The cogwheel train is ultra modern, and powers its way up the steep gradient to within a short cable car ride from the summit of Germany’s highest mountain (2962m).  Suddenly we were amongst skiers and snow boarders and with a view across the hundreds of snow covered peaks stretching for miles and miles.  We had lunch in Austria by walking across the border on the top of the mountain, then took a different cable car straight down the mountain side to Eibsee in the steepest and longest single span I have ever ridden on.  With a third cable car down the Austrian side of the mountain to Erfurt, and the original lodge, the Munchner Haus still standing beside the weather station, this is undoubtedly one of the world’s engineering marvels – all in the aid of tourism and one I will remember for a long time – I hope.  The biggest regret was not being prepared in advance or we could have booked a night in the Iglu Ice Hotel close to the summit.  Sleeping in a room made entirely of snow, including the bed and toilet is one thing, but I can only try to imagine what it is like at night once all the tourists go home.

We also visited the incredible Bergisel ski jump in Innsbruck and the resort of Kandahar near Garmisch (not the other Kandahar which makes the news too often!), which will be the venue for the 2011 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, and this weekend was very busy with skiers of all ages, but there weren’t any beginners in sight so we didn’t try to join in.

The second highlight was Munich Hofbrauhaus, which allegedly can seat 5,000 drinkers, and whilst it is 100% tourist trap the general atmosphere was brilliant, serving beer by the litre (no halves!) and piles of excellent filling food to soak it up, all at inflated prices but what the hell… with the accompaniment of the Oompah band it was great fun!

Flying back to Gatwick from Munich, again with Easyjet, completed the round trip.  Its strange to be back in the UK where a pound buys a pounds worth of goods instead of buying a Euro’s worth.   Whatever happened to the exchange rate!

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