Garmisch-Partenkirtchen, More Than a Ski Resort by Bonnie and Bill Neely

Garmisch-Partenkirtchen is famed as the largest ski area in Germany, but we were there in summer to discover the other wonderf of this historic little town in Bavaria. We opted for a walking tour, even though it was a bit drizzly, because that is easier than maneuvering the traffic and a better way to be able to take photos. There are several fascinating museums, and we chose first to see Garmisch and the Richard Strauss Institute of Music, where we viewed a film in English on his life, most of which he spent here in a private house nearby. He built this summer home when he was paid for his first successful opera Salome, but it was soon declared scandalous by the head of state. Strauss said,” I don’t care if he says it is scandalous, as it has already given me a summer home in the place I love.” He spent more and more of his time writing here. In the back yard of his home, which is not available for tour, he has a tombstone where he buried the score of his very first opera, which was a big failure because it was 6 hours long and too much like other operas. The film was interesting, but we were disappointed not to be able to tour the home also.

In old Partenkirchen the Hotel Poste, now restored, is one of the most striking buildings because of its beautiful murals. This is where postal riders of past centuries brought mail, got fresh horses, and spent the night. It and all the surrounding buildings burned in the mid nineteenth century. The only building not destroyed in the fire is what is now the Museum of Ancient Artifacts. The story goes that this house was spared because on the night of the fire an old beggar woman had asked help at each of the buildings but was turned away. When she came to this house she was welcomed in, and this was the only building not burned down by the fire. The others were reconstructed much like the originals and are well preserved today, with their frescoes on the outside being among the prizes that make Bavaria so beautiful.
In historic times these scenes were painted on fresh, wet plaster to show the neighbors how wealthy the owner was, each out-doing the other. Scenes might be religious, or show what kind of shop is within, or show a scenic picture of the times. About every 50 years these must be restored, and only a few artists are skilled enough to do this. However, children are now taught to treasure ancient traditions and to learn the skills required to carry them on. Throughout Bavaria traditional festive clothing is still used regularly for a meaningful event, and always for church, which the folk attend faithfully at least once a week. This area, which was not affected by Luther’s rebellion, is mostly Catholic. On our walking tour of in Garmisch we saw the oldest Protestant church of the area, with its fading frescos and simple interior, and the contrasting grand St. Martin’s Cathedral, with its lovely pink marble interior and ceiling frescoes. Along the strasse we saw the oldest houses, handed down from generation to generation within one family, and this inheritance forced people to marry close relatives sometimes just to keep the property.
We dressed up to go to the free concert at Kurpark, a gorgeous park filled with bright colored flowers, where they have a free outdoor concert every night from 8 – 10 PM. Your tourist card, which you can request free at each hotel where you stay, gives you free bus transport everywhere, reduced museum and points of interest entrance fees, and these free nightly concerts May through October. In this city that loves music, so on Fridays there are three free concerts 10-12 AM, 2-4 PM, and 8 – 10 PM, each with different bands or orchestra! Many people from surrounding towns come every Friday. Bavaria is truly filled with the Sound of Music.

We found our seats in the empty room and soon people began to drift in till it was about half filled. To our surprise the couples started dancing with the first piece the 12 piece band played. Two couples were quite excellent dancers and fun to watch,just local couples having a great time, who obviously love to dance. All ages of couples and varying degrees of proficiency danced, waltzes, tango, cha-cha-cha, and polka and a few we didn’t recognize.

Next we went to the new Casino in town, which only a few locals have permits to go to. The slot machine area was smoky, but upstairs, where we had to present passports to enter, was much more formal and sedate. Later we found a thriving bier garten in the town center, with people sitting out enjoying fellowship, beer, guitar and accordion seranades by local men in their traditional Alpine outfits. In store windows we saw many traditional clothes displayed beside modern fashions.
We were fortunate to stay at the oldest and most elaborate hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirtchen, Reindl’s Partenkirchner Hof . Phone: 08821-943870 , Reindl’s Partenkirchner Hof, Bavaria, Germany Our roomy suite had a living room of orange and green plaid decor and paneled walls. Our very large bedroom had a big bed and fluffy, down duvets, a large marble bathroom, and a beautiful private patio on an enclosed garden. It was very lovely with the rustic feel of a ski lodge. We had to take a long, circuitous series of halls to find our suite and got lost on the way out again! This hotel has mainly English visitors, and the decor throughout is reminiscent of hunting lodges for European aristocracy. Rendl Hotel in PartenkirtchenOur delicious breakfast was served in the glassed patio dining room by the excellent staff.This five star hotel is in a great location for easy walking and sight-seeing. It is a popular ski hotel for the most famous slope in Europe, which is just up the mountain. The mountains are beautiful, similar to the Cascades in the United States. The Alpine Road has so many gorgeous views I felt like someone on a strict diet at a dessert buffet, because around each curve I saw a perfect photo-op, but we could not stop because of traffic behind us, and there were few pull-off places. It made me so tense I just had to put the camera away, so you’ll just have to go to see for yourself the wonder of Bavaria!