I love love love snow and snow-capped mountains. I simply adore gorgeous views from high up in the sky, even though I’m scared of getting there. But somehow, time after time, year after year, my desire to get a picture prefect view from a mountain top is thwarted, by clouds and rain. “This is because you are the cloud goddess,” said the kid. Hmmmpphhh.

This year, I had 2 mountains lined up on my trip, in the quest for the perfect views of the Alps, Zugspitze in Germany and Kitzsteinhorn in Austria. We’d allotted a full day from Mittenwald for the Zugspitze (tallest mountain of Germany, right at Germany Austria border), so the hubby was very keen on going that very day even though the webcam pictures showed only 10 meters visibility. Hence, we waited till almost noon to set off, in the hope that the clouds would clear out.

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Waiting for the regional train to cross

It was a fairly long and very scenic drive to Zugspitze over quite a few curves and hills. After all, we were getting even closer to the Alps. I was thoroughly enjoying the lovely breeze and the approaching snow and cloud capped mountains and was happily in dreamworld when the hubby suddenly said that driving was so stressful. “What?” I spluttered, shaken out of my reverie. “It’s so stressful,” he repeated, “All the cars come towards you at such great speeds and the turn offs are very sharp.” Now the drive was much less enchanting.

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We (finally, whew) reached the base of the mountain where the brand new cable car till the top had just been constructed and opened 1 month ago. A mammoth piece of engineering (isn’t that what the Germans are famous for), this cable car that ascends to 3000m above sea level is a single cable car with only three poles, the two ends and one about one-fourth of the way up.

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It was very cold and chilly at the base where icy winds were blowing down to us.  We hurriedly covered up in loads of layers. I looked up at the cables and saw the thick clouds surrounding it and felt a stab of disappointment.

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Even the webcam pictures at the ticket window showed a complete white-out, so I suggested going to the lake Eibsee, the lake at the base of the Zugspitze mountain, instead and waiting it out further, much against the wishes of the other two.

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It was spectacularly beautiful, very quiet and peaceful. There were very few people here. Ducks swam about, quacking away merrily.

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The kid merrily quacked back to the ducks and tried running after them till I told her that I wouldn’t jump into the freezing cold waters to save her if she fell in. Then she behaved herself. We walked about for a while, thoroughly enjoying the solitude.

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The lake itself had a myriad different colors, with my most beloved shades of blue and green.

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I would have walked around the entire lake, but the hubby and kid were now desperate to get to the mountain. So we got back to the cable car and stared at the webcam. Still a white out. “Let’s just drop it,” I said, “we go to Kitzsteinhorn instead.” Tremendous disappointment filled the kid’s eyes, though she said nothing. I got the point and we went up the cable car to the top of Germany, if nothing, to play in the snow.

However, I wasn’t in the best of moods. The dull gray weather on the one day it needed to be cloudless and sunny had gotten to me. It didn’t help that I’m petrified of heights and cable cars. My sister will remember my terror at the Hongkong Ocean Park cable car. This one (fortunately) was a cake walk though.

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While we ascended, we got a gorgeous aerial view of the beautiful lake Eibsee that we’d walked around.

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As the lone supporting pillar came up, I braced myself for the usual swing and lurch that happens at all pillars, it was minimal on this one. And it was the only one, I thought happily. From this elevation,  the stunning patches of green surrounding the islands on the lake were very well seen.

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From the pillar, the car ascended swiftly, hugging the side of the mountain. The first traces of snow started coming up, making tourists and skiers rush to the windows.

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The numbers of skiers was astonishing, and the numbers of little kids skiing even more so. They looked so cute in their gear, clinging onto their parents’ legs. Soon, we climbed through the clouds that I’d seen from below.

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Suddenly we could see nothing around us. It was all white. With difficulty, we could see a little of the cliff face we were ascending along but even that was barely seen. It was both terrifying and exhilarating.

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Above this point, we could see nothing. We were enveloped by the fog. In a way, this was beneficial so that I couldn’t see how high up we were getting. The huge car was so stable that it didn’t swing at all and so we swiftly reached the summit in the most comfortable cable car ride of my life and climbed out to see……… nothing. Visibility was minimal. That wasnt the only disappointment. The terrace where normally one could easily cross over to the Austrian side was closed because of repair work. Here on the German side, there were only cranes, boxes, girders and clouds.

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The “views” from the top of Germany

Oh and a spattering of snow on the boxes and barricades that the hubby and the kid promptly threw on each other and had a blast with, while I was busy feeling totally let down and cheated. This was worse than anything I could expect. We walked over to where we could see the golden cross on top of the Zugspitze (the actual highest point that can only be accessed by climbing up the rock face) and we could just about barely make it out.

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The webcam that takes pictures against the cross didn’t work either, adding to my ire. Not like there was anything to photograph. Normally at this terrace, one can have a panoramic view of the entire Alps on the German and Austrian sides. That’s what I had come for, and didn’t get.

Once the hubby and kid were done monkeying around, we took a cable car down to the glacier level, where the ski pistes are and where it’s possible to play in the snow. Once again, it was totally foggy around us and none of the famed views were to be seen. The hubby and the kid, with no expectations, squealed in delight at the sight of snow, but I still felt grumpy.

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The two of them promptly rushed off in the snow and started pelting each other with snowballs. Within ten minutes of playing, the fog rolled in even more. Now the visibility dropped even further. It became bitterly cold. The skiers came back up to this level as they couldn’t see anything. We grabbed onto each other so as not to lose one another.

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I think the hubby was scared of falling off the side so he got off the snow and we rushed into the restaurant to warm up. Delicious fries with mayo and ketchup, pizza and mugs of hot chocolate in a warm restaurant with snow around can cheer up anyone.

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No vision at all with all that fog

By the time we were done eating, snow was gently falling, and we were thrilled to bits, especially the kid. She’d keep staring at the snow flakes and trying to decipher the patterns.  This was the most exciting moment for us. Slowly, the fog lifted a little and we stepped out, suddenly being able to see about 200 meters ahead. We saw a tiny hill with a church on it from where people were sledding down on plastic sledges.

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 The kid and hubby proceeded to pelt each other and then we climbed up to a small look out. I was the one with the waterproof hiking shoes and yet was the most unsteady of the three. From there, we could just about make out the ski pistes.

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And see the restaurant and biergarten where we’d had lunch and shelter.

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Inspired by the happy shrieks of those sledding, we acquired a sledge for ourselves. The kid and I took turns sledding down. Initially we just went up half the hill, but we got braver as time went by. It was tough to climb up with the sledge, but great fun to come tearing down at full speed and then finally brake with your feet. Of course, the kid came down braking all the way. The hubby didn’t even try it. He said that he couldn’t afford to injure himself any more. His loss, our gain.

 

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I came screaming down the slope the first time!

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Poor man had to be content with just observation

We were just tiring of the sledding when suddenly, things got a lot clearer. The clouds moved away slowly and we could start seeing the snow-covered mountains.

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Excitedly we ran to where we could see them. The visibility kept improving and we were thrilled.

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The skiers set off in a big rush and we could see the ski lifts as well.

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We could see the lookout so clearly suddenly!

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We could actually see the mounds of snow we’d played in.

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And part of the Zugspitzplatt glacier bowl.

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There was even a maypole!

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“Happy now?” hubby asked me, “Are you satisfied? Did you get your views?” “Uh huh,” I nodded, barely able to speak. More than satisfied, was actually how I felt, and grateful was I to both of them for insisting on coming despite the poor visibility. 

 It was getting late and  the cable car closed in half an hour. So we quickly returned the sledge and caught the cable car back up to the terrace at the top of Germany. Here, we had wonderful sweeping views of the glacier.

 

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And of the hill we’d sledded on, the restaurant we ate at and the ski slopes.

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The clouds looked like fluffy bits of cotton on the snow studded mountains.

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We could even see the famed golden cross clearly.

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We got into the long cable car to go all the way down and found ourselves descending through a sea of clouds.

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There were truly happy faces that day!

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It had been a long and chaotic day, made worse by my stubbornness and high expectations. The hubby and the kid had a blast and taught me something very important, that we must make the best of what we have. Every day can’t be perfect, so its up to us to make it so.

 

P.S. Please forgive the truckloads of pictures. They are for Ritu Khare specifically. I hope you like them Ritu.

 

3 thoughts on “Germany Austria May 2018: Zugspitze, the top of Germany

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