Free Thursdays and a Hike in Mittenwald

by Heidi Obermeyer

Germans don’t tend to be very religious in practice, but as far as days off go, they like to skip work for religious holidays like nobody’s business! We’ve had at least 3 Thursdays off this semester, as well as a Monday and Tuesday thrown in there at some points. Last Thursday was one of those random religious holidays, and since the weather was supposed to be sunny (it’s been drizzling throughout the day every day for a little over a week now) it was time for me to get to the mountains! There’s 8 weeks left (!) of my 10 month adventure, and I hope to get in as much hiking as I possibly can before I head home and move somewhere with insignificant mountain coverage (I mean, I’ve always lived right next door to the Rockies or the Alps. There’s just no way the Appalachians could stand a fighting chance in this situation. The truth can hurt!)

It’s been a bit stressful organizing grad school stuff from abroad, but other students on my program aren’t the States yet either, so UNC and TAM itself are very helpful with everything. My big problem right now is navigating getting transfer syllabi (in German) evaluated in the endless bureaucracy of a large school. I haven’t heard back from CU’s academic advising in a while, and until they approve these credits, I’m not able to get a hold lifted on my account for UNC. If the worst case scenario should come to pass and they don’t approve the credits, I’m…. I don’t even want to consider that option. Let’s not talk about it.

So back to the hiking! So since we had a Thursday off, a big group got together and headed up to Mittenwald and the area around Garmisch Partenkirchen to wander around for the day. We caught the train at a brisk 7:30 am and got going around 10. Southern Germany in the summer my friends… it’s glorious.

Mittenwald, Germany

We took a bit of a roundabout route to the same peak that I climbed with my program in October, which is where this photo is taken from. The town is Mittenwald, which is where we got off the train and ended up at the end of the day. Hiking in Germany is easy even if you’re unfamiliar with the area because the signs directing you along various trails or to other towns estimate the distance in time- instead of telling you you have 3.4 km left until Garmisch, it will say 1 hour 20 minutes.

Mittenwald, Germany

The wildflowers here are absolutely stunning, and are all over the place! These mountains are at a much lower elevation than the Rockies, and get a lot more moisture, leading to a much greener overall look. There’s more blooming color than you can shake a stick at!

Mittenwald, Germany

We actually ended up hiking all the way over to an area called Elmau, where we promptly tried to get a drink and were kicked out of this five-star hotel. The hotel was gorgeous, and the manager, who was actually quite courteous about the restaurant being for guests only, even brought us all water bottles and a map of how to best get back to the train. After he shared the fact that the Zugspitze (Germany’s highest peak) is actually lower in altitude than Denver, my Coloradoan senses were tingling. Turns out, he was American and had gone to CU! What a small world.

We then proceeded to walk another hour to the Ferchensee, where it was determined that a swim was in order. The water was (of course) freezing and refreshing, and the view was incredible. It was one of those “This is why I love Germany and being in the mountains” moments.

Ferchensee, Germany

Swimming required removing our hiking boots, which felt extraordinarily satisfying after hours of tromping through the forest.

Ferchensee, Germany

Here’s another picturesque view of the Ferchensee:


We finished off our lake break with a beer and some soup/apfelstrudel before returning to Mittenwald and catching the train home around 6:30 pm. It was quite the day!

Ferchensee, Germany

In all, we probably covered around 16 km over the course of our trip, since our final, pretty direct stretch back to Mittenwald from the Elmau hotel alone was 8 km. I’m so glad that I got a mountain-y break in in the middle of the week, and it was a good reminder of why I like this part of Europe so much. Here’s to many more alpine hikes before I head home! 🙂