Towering at 2,967 meters (over 9700 feet) above sea level, Zugspitze Mountain is Germany’s highest peak. According to the weather forecast, it would be a sunny and clear day. This was the prime opportunity we had been waiting for. The temperature outside at the cabin was -10.5 degrees Celsius or about 13 degrees Fahrenheit. It was cold and I knew at the higher elevation it would be even colder. We purchased our tickets at the main Edelweiss Lodge. There are several options available to a tourist to visit the summit of Zugspitze to include riding a train, cable car, or for the hardy enthusiasts hiking to the top. We quickly ruled out the 8 hour hiking option and felt this would be more suited for the summer
than in the winter. The locals recommended taking the train up and then descending in the cable car. The ticket we purchased cost $110 for two and was good for all day. It entitled us to unlimited trips up and down and any combination, i.e. train, cable car until 1645 hours when the last cable car leaves.
We parked our car at the
train station. Just below the parking lot was the cable car entrance. It seemed quite crowded with ardent skiers crowding into the gondola car. Every 10 minutes a cable car was departing with 2 dozen people ascending to the top. From ground level the mountain looked ominous and at the very top, wispy clouds could be seen swirling around the pinnacle. We opted to take the advice of the locals and rode the train. The train is cog wheel powered meaning a large cog wheel follows the spaced grooves in the track and as the cog turns, the teeth grips these slots and propels the train forward.
It took about 40 minutes of chugging along to reach the summit. It wasn’t quite the summit because we had to
ride another cable car to reach the peak. The view from the train was spectacular. We were fortunate to find seats rather than stand. I was even luckier and sat on the right-hand side of the train in the back and was able to view the mountains and lake from behind and to my side. It was so cold; the windows were still freezing from the inside. I kept
scraping them off with my credit card so I could take pictures and enjoy the scenery.
We got off the train and waited in line for the short cable car ride to the top. The wind was biting cold, but this didn’t deter the skiers who were racing down the face of the mountain. While we waited for the cable car we were greeted by a friendly dog. She had beautiful blue eyes and seemed to be posing for my camera. Unlike the United States, dogs are welcomed in Germany and allowed into public buildings, restaurants, and just about anywhere. Being a dog lover, this was a welcoming sight.
Liisa has a small fear of heights but she
boarded the cable car with me and hung on to me tight. I’m unsure if she ever looked out the gondola windows, but I took it all in and tried to take photographs of the skiers and the surrounding natural landscape. You could see other mountains in the distance too. But Zugspitze is the grand-daddy of them all and before long our view
was blocked by a low flying cloud. The temperature outside was a bone-chilling -19 degrees Celsius. Our Tampa friends were freezing and despite the multi-layers of clothing, the wind was chilling our exposed skin. The Zugspitze not only serves as an infamous tourist attraction, they also have an active meteorological weather station that has been in existence for 100 years.
We stayed for awhile and enjoyed a hot gluhwein in attempt to increase our internal temperature. Truth be told, this hot wine really hits the spot and the cold weather is just an excuse to indulge. Our friends were hoping the clouds would clear up, so they could see the peaks of other mountains in the
distance. The cross in the picture marks the highest peak of Zugspitze. I was shocked to see footprints in the snow leading to a metal chain ladder that scales the final peak to the cross. Liisa didn’t want me to go there. I guess the thousand foot drop off scared her. Even if I wanted too, it was closed off to the public.
After 2 hours at the summit, Liisa and I started our descent in the gondola car. This time we wouldn’t stop until we reached the base of the mountain. The 10 minute decline was breathtaking. As soon as we dropped below the cloud level, it was crystal clear. We could see the mountains in Austria and Germany. In fact, the border line is evident and
splits the Zugspitze Mountain. While touring through the facility and small museums, we accidentally walked over to the Austrian side.
We drove back to the cabin and later returned to pick up our friends. The sun was setting and the mountain took on a menacing appearance. It was already cold, but the temperature was noticeably dropping. Our friends took the last train and we returned to the Edelweiss resort cabin to pack our suitcases. Tomorrow we would drive to Munich and explore the city’s Crown Jewels. Only a few more days and this winter wonderland vacation will be over and I will return to Afghanistan. I try not to think about it too much and enjoy the time I have here.