We woke up in the morning to a pleasant surprise. My birthday wish came true and it was snowing outside. The towering Bavarian peaks normally seen outside our cabin were masked in clouds and large fluffy snowflakes were falling to the ground. We determined a little bit of snow wouldn’t stop our sight-seeing plans and we
decided to visit the monastery that we had by-passed earlier in the week. Before we left, I had an opportunity to cook and whip up some home-made omelets and coffee. My mother-in-law enjoys my cooking too.
The snow was really pelting down and the higher in elevation we drove, the more snow we saw. The Ettal monastery is
conveniently close to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area. The roads leading up to the basilica are rather curvy and like a meandering stream. Despite growing up in Pennsylvania and accustomed to snowy roads, I took it rather slow so as not to get my mother-in-law excited. She was rather quiet and seemed to trust my driving skills.
We arrived at the monastery in no time and there were no crowds and ample parking space. The snow was accumulating much more in this higher elevation than at our cabin and was an enjoyable sight to see. The surrounding pine trees were being lightly dusted by the snowflakes and the grass was slowly being covered by an inch of snow. Some of the figurines on the outside of the baroque façade were also being blanketed in a layer of snow. I was rather surprised at the size of the basilica, especially the large dome that off-set it from the adjoining complex of buildings. Some of these buildings are being used as a hotel, school, gift shop, brewery, publishing house and workshops for the monks who still take care of the upkeep.
The Ettal Monastery has its origins dating back to 1330. It has undergone many transformations to include being destroyed by a fire in 1744. It’s obvious it has been influenced by a variety of different architectural methods forming the church throughout the centuries and the interior reflects various competing styles as well. At the entrance of the
church is a Gothic portal from around 1350. The small marble statue of the Ettal Madonna on the high altar is the centerpiece of the church and dates back to 1330s, a gift from the Roman Emperor of the German Nation, Kaiser Louis the Fourth. He was called the “Bavarian,” which originally was an abusive name the Pope gave him who was opposed to him. The ceiling dome fresco is painted in brilliant colors and surrounded by large cathedral windows. The pipe organ in the back of the church is baroque and adorned in gold and dates to mid-1700s. There are also several confessionals on the sides of the church, side altars and marble statues depicting the various Benedictine Saints. The Rococo patterns are present around the arches of the windows and the arched panels are ornamented in gold too. It’s truly a sight to see!
We walked around the little retail shops outside the monastery and then drove north to the little German town of Oberammergau. This town has grown notoriety for its world famous wood carvings along with the production of the Passion Play detailing the crucifixion of Christ. Every ten years, the local villagers reenact this Biblical scene. It also
had some unique wall murals painted on the exterior of private homes. We were in search of the famous Hansel and Gretel house. Initially we drove right past it and parked in the center of town. The locals were busy setting up their wares and displays for the daily Weihnachtsdorf market (Christmas market). Typically around 4:00 pm
the streets become alive and the vendors are selling all sorts of Christmas decorations and souvenirs. We haven’t visited any of them yet, but it’s still on our list of things to do.
We drove back out of town and located the Hansel and Gretel house. Across from this home was also a painted caricature of Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. “My what big eyes you have and what big teeth you have,” as I remembered the story from my childhood years.
It was another fun day of traveling, sight-seeing, and spending quality time with my wife and mother-in-law. We returned to the cabin and I braved the cold temperatures to cook some marinated steaks over some charcoal briquettes. Before starting the coals, I had to remove the snow that filled in the metal encasing and thaw out the ice that had formed on the grill. The steaks were mouth-watering delicious and was garnished with some sweet potatoes topped with a drizzle of maple syrup. I recalled they do not have sweet potatoes in Finland and I remembered how much my mother-in-law liked them the last time I cooked them for her back in sunny Florida. She is not fond of the syrup and only likes butter on hers. Oh well, whatever mother-in-law wants she gets…lol.