By Bob Bestor
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany's most popular resort, offers excellent accommodations in all price categories, a scenic setting, lots to see and do and, at night, the fantastic Fraundorfer.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a natural headquarters when visiting southern Bavarian. From it, most of the region's main attractions are accessible on daytrips: the Royal Castles of Linderhof, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau; the Wieskirche; the wood carving village of Oberammergau, famous for its Passion Play performances every 10 years (next: 2000); the Benedictine Abbey at Ettal and the violin-making village of Mittenwald. Even Innsbruck, in Austria, is less than an hours drive.
There is also plenty to see and do in and near the city itself: the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, can be reached from the railway station via cogwheel train and then cable car; there are miles of walking and hiking trails; a casino; good shopping and two towns with different personalities simple, country Partenkirchen and more fashionable Garmisch.
The setting, in a flat basin with mountains all round, is gorgeous. Among the most impressive peaks are the Zugspitze, the Alpspitze, the Wank and the Kramer.
For an easy hike, park at the Olympic ski stadium and walk the flat road about a mile to the Graseck cable car. Take the approximately three-minute ride (5 DM/$3.33) up to the Forsthaus Graseck, where you may wish to stop for a lunch or a beverage on the terrace and enjoy a fine view of the Wetterstein range. Afterward, walk down the marked trail to the Partnachklamm, a gorge through which thunders a small river. The path is alongside the surging torrent and the gorge is very narrow. Wear shoes you don't mind getting muddy and expect to get a little wet. The roundtrip will take a little less than two hours.
For those who would rather drive than walk, there are a number of notably scenic roads which can easily be explored from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Try driving north around the Walchensee and the Kochelsee or take the toll road east off Red Road #11 just north of Wallgau. Or try this loop: Head west on Red Road #24 along the Loisach river, swing down into Austria, come back up into Reutte, then take the Yellow Road along the north shore of Plannsee, past Linderhof, through Ettal and back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. For these you will need Die Generalkarte #25 and possibly #26.
For a somewhat tricky but immensely rewarding drive over some very remote back roads, we refer you to our September, 1992 issue, and the forest drive from Füssen to Mittenwald.
In winter, of course, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is Germany's most popular ski resort, with nearly 50 cable cars and lifts, dozens of downhill runs and several cross-country routes.
A major Garmisch-Partenkirchen selling point is its affordability. Hotels in all categories offer good value and apartments are even better. Two persons, for example, could spend a week in one of Garmisch-Partenkirchen's excellent Ferienwohnungen for under $500. Combine that with another one-week apartment rental in, say, the Austrian lakeside resort of Attersee; add an inexpensive rental car, and you have a very relaxing two-week European vacation for less than $1,300, not including airfare or food.
Here are a some options regarding accommodations and restaurants:
This month we introduce a new value rating system on the 0-20 scale. A 10/20 value rating means the hotel or restaurant offers average value when compared with similarly priced establishments throughout Germany, Austria & Switzerland. Value ratings above 10/20 offer comparatively better value and those below 10/20 offer less. In other words, a hotel we rate at 15/20 is a very good value. One we score 5/20 is a poor value.
Unless otherwise noted, assume all hotels include breakfast in the price of the room and have direct dial telephone, cable TV, lift, en suite bathrooms and accept most major credit cards.
Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl
The Sonnenbichl adds the flavor of Bavaria primarily to its friendly service. Otherwise it is, for the most part, a traditional, rather formal, five-star hotel, located on a slight rise less than two kilometers north of the city center.
Here the live music is classical or jazz instead of oompah and you'll feel more comfortable in a tie when bellying up to the Peacock Bar. High rollers who travel in grand style will want to reserve the Richard Strauss suite at 950 DM ($633) in low season. For medium rollers a standard double rents for about 280 DM ($187).
Of course, the Sonnenbichl offers a wide array of services: beauty farm, the usual solarium-sauna-fitness facilities, an indoor pool, bikes to rent, nearby tennis and golf, organized tours and, for a small charge, a shuttle into town.
The formal Blue Room serves "German specialties" but the Zirbelstube, with local dishes, is Bavarian all the way.
The hotel offers a number of weekend and holiday packages beginning at 222 DM ($148) per person.
• Daily Rates: Singles 165 to 215 DM ($110-$143), doubles 230 DM to 330 DM ($153-$220). 93 rooms, usual services (see above) plus balconies, free parking, no smoking rooms, limited disabled access.
Contact: Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl, Christian & Petra Weiss, Burgstrasse 97, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/70 20, fax 08821/702131.
Rating: 17/20 Value: 14/20
In a pleasant country location, about two kilometers from the city center, the Ramada Sporthotel (not part of Ramada USA) is for those who crave large resort hotels with all the services. This one has a beauty farm, indoor pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, fitness center, even squash courts.
Public rooms are decorated in a 90s Bavarian style that emphasizes polished wood, recessed halogen lighting and lots of windows. The hotel's sprawling Café Terrace, a modern 'winter garden,' with bright, contemporary furniture, is virtually glass-enclosed.
The spacious guestrooms are similarly decorated with an emphasis on wood and modern furnishings.
• Daily Rates: Singles 260 DM ($173), doubles 360 DM ($240). 155 rooms, all usual services (see above) plus balconies, free parking, no smoking rooms, one guest room equipped for disabled.
Contact: Ramada Sporthotel, Andreas Bisson, Am Riess 5, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/75 80, fax 08821/3811.
Rating: 16/20 Value: 11/20
Clausings Romantik Posthotel
Those who seek the epitome of kitschy Bavarian charm might just find it at the lively Clausings Romantik Posthotel. The busy, complicated decor of its public rooms is as Bavarian as it gets: vaulted ceilings, baroque statues, religious icons, low hanging lamps, forests of dark wood paneling, intricately carved antique furniture, dried flowers, old pictures and other quaint paraphernalia. The effect is a kind of warm, country-cozy elegance that makes one feel like staying for a while.
Those who do will be in the very center of Garmisch, both physically and socially. In fair weather, Clausings vast streetside outdoor café is jammed with an international crowd, and every night there is live music.
Some of the older guest rooms, though spacious and comfortable enough, are a jumble of colors and fabric patterns and there are also some strange furniture choices.
Rooms on the top floor, however, have been redone in a more restrained, though unmistakably Bavarian, style and are the ones to ask for. We especially like #41, #42, #49 and #51. All have slanting beam ceilings; spacious, well-lit, luxurious bathrooms and rent for from 256 to 286 DM ($171-$191).
• Daily Rates: Singles 100 to 200 DM ($67-$134), doubles 160 to 300 DM ($107-$200). 45 rooms, beer garden, outdoor restaurant, no access for disabled, free public parking 100 meters from hotel.
Contact: Clausings Romantik Posthotel, Fam. Weinfurtner/E. Löcher, Marienplatz 12, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/70 90, fax 08821/709205.
Rating: 16/20 Value: 14/20
For many years, Michelin ranked the Posthotel Partenkirchen number one in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Then bigger and grander hotels came along and the Post fell a notch or two. But those who supplanted it do not match the Post's elegant Bavarian interior public and guest rooms. The richness of its carved-wood ceilings and walls and splendid old furnishings is extraordinary.
Guestrooms in the main building are in the same style, woody and Bavarian almost to a fault. Lighter, airier and of greater appeal to us are the more modern accommodations in a separate annex.
During the late 80s, the Post's once highly-regarded restaurant fell on hard times, but apparently things have improved. Gault Millau gives it one chef's toque and a rating of 14/20, tied for the highest rating of any Garmisch-Partenkirchen restaurant.
A recent, popular addition in the hotel is the Post-Taverne, a bistro-style restaurant and bar with a small open kitchen which offers lighter dishes, mainly pasta, and serves from late afternoon to 11:30 p.m.
The Posthotel offers a special rate to Gemütlichkeit subscribers of 95 DM ($62.50) single and 190 DM ($125) double except during the periods September 15 to October 15 and December 20 to January 15, 1997. Our value rating, however, is based on the rack rates listed below.
• Daily Rates: Singles 100 to 170 DM ($67-$113), doubles 200 DM to 280 DM ($134-$187). 60 rooms, some balconies, free parking, limited disabled access.
Contact: Posthotel Partenkirchen, Familie Stahl, Ludwigstrasse 49, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/5 10 67, fax 08821/78568.
Rating: 15/20 Value: 14/20
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. The Fraundorfer has buckets of it. The location, in the center of less touristy and more authentic Partenkirchen, is perfect. Much of its intricately painted façade on Ludwigstrasse, the town's main street, is a scene of happy Bavarians around a table, eating, drinking, singing and dancing - and an apt symbol of what goes on inside.
The Fraundorfer's principal fame is as a restaurant and six nights each week (Tuesday is Ruhetag - a rest day) the cast assembles - the Fraundorfer family, Friedl the singer/accordionist, the Bavarian dancers, the cooks and the servers and the show goes on. There is live music, dancing, much beer and staggering helpings of hearty, regional dishes ordered from a huge menu.
Reserve ahead of time and expect to be seated with other diners. It is an experience not to be missed.
Its renown as a restaurant may obscure the fact that the Fraundorfer also has some very pleasant and reasonably priced sleeping accommodations. Though all guestrooms are decorated in a cozy Bavarian style with lots of blond wood and beds with canopies, the best are in Gästehaus Barbara, an annex behind the hotel. The room we occupied there, the first one to the left of the entry on the ground floor, was small but snug, comfortable and immaculate. This annex is in the midst of the family "compound," where several generations of Fraundorfers can be seen coming and going.
The prototype Bavarian inn.
• Daily Rates: Singles 65 DM ($43), doubles 120 DM to 160 DM ($80-$107), apartments 160 DM to 180 DM ($107-$120) two persons, 180 DM to 225 DM ($120-$150) three persons, 220 DM to 280 DM (147-187) four persons and 250 DM to 300 DM ($167-$200) for five persons. Apartment prices include breakfast. 33 rooms, some balconies, sauna, solarium, free parking, no lift, very limited disabled access.
Contact: Gasthof Fraundorfer, Josef & Barbara Fraundorfer, Ludwigstrasse 24, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/21 76, fax 08821/71073.
Rating: 14/20 Value: 18/20
Hotel Berggasthof Panorama
Excellent mountain, valley and city views; a good restaurant; country charm; pleasant guest rooms and reasonable rates make the Panorama an "Editors Choice" and one of Garmisch-Partenkirchen's best hotel values.
It sits part way up the mountain on the Partenkirchen side of town very near the pretty little church of St. Anton.
Guestrooms are not fancy, a bit on the small side, but clean, bright and comfortable. We recommend rooms number one and nine. The former is sort of junior suite; it has a small sitting room in addition to its bedroom and rents for only 150 DM ($100). Number 9, two flights up, is a better than average-size corner double whose balcony offers the best view in the hotel and, at 130 DM ($87), is an outstanding bargain.
For those who don't choose the Panorama as a hotel, we recommend its reasonably-priced homey restaurant. Lunch or dinner on the deck overlooking the valley is an extremely pleasant experience.
Friendly, family management.
• Daily Rates: Singles 80 to 95 DM ($53-63), doubles 120 DM to 150 DM ($80-$100), apartments 150 to 160 DM ($100-$107) for two persons, add 30 DM ($20) for each additional adult, less for children. Apartment prices include breakfast. 17 rooms, balconies, free parking, no lift, no disabled access.
Contact: Berggasthof Panorama, Volker Neuroth, St. Anton 3, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/25 15, fax 08821/48 84.
Rating: 14/20 Value: 17/20
Queen's Hotel Residence
Though physically only a few blocks from the Fraundorfer, in style and character the Queen's is on a different planet. Once a Holiday Inn, it offers decent guest and public rooms, plenty of parking and all the services anyone could need. For those planning a business conference this may be the place, but independent vacationers will be more content elsewhere.
A better bet is the hotel's Appartment Sonnenberg, also on the Partenkirchen side (see below under Apartments.)
• Daily Rates: Singles 160 to 226 DM ($107-$151), doubles 180 to 360 DM ($120-$240). 117 rooms, free parking, indoor pool, tennis, no smoking rooms, no disabled access.
Contact: Queen's Hotel Residence, Josef Simon, Mittenwalder Strasse 2, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/75 60, fax 08821/74268.
Rating: 12/20 Value: 11/20
Tucked in a little stand of trees, the Hotel Boddenberg is adjacent to the 1936 Winter Olympic's ski stadium.
One imagines it as a very busy place at ski season, particularly when the world's finest ski racers are in town for Garmisch-Partenkirchen's World Cup slalom race, an event whose finish line is a stone's throw from the hotel.
For the rest of the year, however, it's quiet, friendly and off-the-beaten path; a good place to hole up for a few days.
Guest rooms are above average in size and most have views.
We hadn't been to the Boddenberg for several years and, while we found the welcome to be as warm as ever, it's not quite as sparkling as we recall. Nothing major, but let's hope some refurbishment is just around the corner.
• Daily Rates: Singles 80 to 98 DM ($67-$113), doubles 150 DM to 190 DM ($134-$187). 24 rooms, balconies, free parking, no disabled access, no lift, outdoor pool, meals from limited menu served to guests only.
Contact: Hotel Boddenberg, Fam. H. Wettermann, Wildenauerstrasse 31, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/9 32 60, fax 08821/932645.
Rating: 11/20 Value: 12/20
Gasthof Werdenfelser Hof
To fully understand the value that Garmisch-Partenkirchen apartments represent, one needs only to inspect the rooms at this extremely simple little hotel just down the street from the Fraundorfer in Partenkirchen.
The small, rather dark guestrooms do not have private toilet or bathing facilities, TV or phone. They appear to have had hard use and it has to have been several years since any refurbishment has taken place. For two persons the price is 80 DM ($53). Spend another $10 per night (minimum one week) for the "Wank" or "Kramer" apartments of the Ferienwohnungen Regina (see below), however, and the difference is similar to that between a Motel Six and the Waldorf.
• Daily Rates: Double rooms 80 DM ($53). Live Bavarian music nightly, no in-room toilet/bathing facilities, no access for disabled, no lift, no credit cards, no TV.
Contact: Gasthof Werdenfelser Hof, Herbert Lassnigg, Ludwigstrasse 58, D-82467, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/3621, fax 08821/79614.
Rating: 6/20 Value: 12/20
The Matheisl family offer four rental units, each named after a local mountain peak or range.
We were most impressed by the two top floor apartments - the Wank and the Kramer - on opposite ends of this neat-as-a-pin chalet-style building. Both have marvelous views from their large balconies and each has a high, blond wood beamed ceiling that arches over the sitting room. These units' wood and tile kitchens and baths are snuggled under the sloping beamed ceiling and brightened by skylights. Since the Wank and Kramer have only a kitchen, a bath and a living room with beds that fold out of the wall, they are best suited to two persons. But at prices beginning at 95 DM ($63) per day one week minimum what bargains!
The larger apartments on the ground floor start at 120 DM ($80) for two; add 30 DM ($20) for each additional person.
The decor of all four units emphasizes light wood, white walls and carpeting, drapes, couches and overstuffed chairs in various pastel shades. Each has cable TV with CNN, a radio and direct-dial phone.
The Regina is on the Garmisch side of town in a residential neighborhood, about a 10-minute walk from the Bahnhof.
These are easily the best of the apartments we saw in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
• Daily Rates: 95 DM ($63) for two persons to 240 DM ($160) for six persons, breakfast not included. Four apartments, cable TV, phone, balcony, street parking, no credit cards.
Contact: Ferienwohnungen Regina, Berhard Matheisl, Riffelstrasse 4, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/56159, fax 08821/56159.
Rating: 18/20 Value: 18/20
These rental units in Partenkirchen are operated by the Queens Hotel Residence.
Apartment #1 is quite small but has a separate bedroom, toilet with shower, small kitchen/sitting room and a small balcony. At 80 DM ($53) per night (only a three night minimum) it is a bargain and one has use of the hotel facilities, five to 10 minutes away on foot. Of course, you'll have to find your own breakfast but there is a bakery just across the street.
None of the units is done in a Bavarian style. Walls, ceilings, cabinets, tables and hard chairs are all white and drapes, carpets and overstuffed furniture are done in various shades of lavender.
• Daily Rates: 80 DM ($53) for two persons to 150 DM ($100) for four persons. Three apartments, street parking, cable TV, phone, balcony, breakfast not included.
Contact: Queens Hotel Residence, Josef Simon, Mittenwalder Strasse 2, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/75 60, fax 08821/74268. Appartment Sonnenberg is at Sonnenbergstrasse 27.
Rating: 14/20 Value: 14/20
Frau Mauer's typically Bavarian house is located in a residential Partenkirchen neighborhood about a 20-minute walk to the village center. For couples on a budget there is a two-room apartment kitchen and combo living/sleeping room which rents for 90 DM ($60). The larger, two-bedroom apartments, rent from 140 to 160 DM ($93-$107), depending on the season, and can accommodate up to six persons.
• Daily Rates: 90 DM ($60) for two persons to 200 DM ($133) for six. Five apartments, balcony, street parking, no credit cards, breakfast not included.
Contact: Ferienwohnungen Johannihof, Rosmarie Maurer, Schtzenstrasse 4, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/56159, fax 08821/56159.
Rating: 11/20 Value: 13/20
Reindl's Partenkirchner Hof
Thought to be Garmisch-Partenkirchen's finest restaurant, the Partenkirchner Hof once upon a time rated a Michelin star. A few years ago, however, it was reduced to "red menu" status which is defined as "less elaborate, moderately-priced menus that offer good value for money and serve carefully prepared meals, often of regional cooking."
We had been to this restaurant some years ago and returned based on the Michelin rating and the recommendation of friends.
A bad table, a less than enthusiastic waiter and a reservations mix-up can't affect the taste of food but they can certainly make one more ready to find fault. Thus we may go a little harder on the Partenkirchner Hof than it merits.
When we arrived, there was no record of the reservation we had called in that afternoon. The maître'd suggested that we may have mistakenly reserved a table at the Posthotel Partenkirchen which, he said, has happened before. I don't think we phoned the wrong restaurant but am willing to admit the possibility. As a result we were shown to a table hidden in a tiny alcove near a serving station. From there we couldn't see the room and, after about 30 minutes, were the only diners in this isolated corner of the restaurant.
As we were ushered the length of the main room (an attractive space with lots of indoor greenery and lamps hanging over each table) to be seated, we passed a number of vacant tables for two. Ninety minutes later, when we left, those same tables were still empty.
The relationship we struck up with our waiter is about the same as one has with a bus driver; we were barely aware of each others presence. Though competent enough, he disappeared for long periods and at the end charged us 3 DM ($2) for bread we never touched.
Oh yes, the food. Good but not great. Fairly priced, though. Coq au Riesling Alsatian style (26 DM/$17) - chicken cooked in white instead of red wine as is Coq au Vin - was tasty enough but came covered with a white sauce on a white plate, a bland presentation. The evening's best dish was a frothy, buttery cream of lobster soup (10 DM/$6.67) that came sprinkled with fresh dill, a few shrimp and had an intense lobster taste. Ragout of morel mushrooms and venison (25 DM/$17) came up short, however, with only four little morels and two small pieces of venison filet.
The desserts we chose were ordinary: three small rounds of ice cream in raspberry sauce and, from a tray, four chunks of undistinguished cheese served with one small piece of French baguette.
The meal for two, including salad, one soup, main course and dessert was 94 DM ($63). We paid 4 DM ($2.67) for 0.4 liter glasses of beer and 9.8 DM ($6.5) for a quarter liter of everyday Italian wine (Dolcetta d'Alba).
As bad as we've made it sound, this restaurant is worth another try. The room is very appealing and the prices are reasonable. Perhaps the food will taste better when we have a decent table and a waiter with whom we can do a little "bonding."
• Reindl's Partenkirchner Hof, Bruni & Karl Reindl, Bahnhofstrasse 15, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, tel. 08821/5 80 25, fax 08821/73401.
Rating: 12/20 Value: 13/20
* Population: 28,000
* Elevation: 720 meters - 2,362 feet
Tourist Office: Verkehrsamt, Richard-Strauss-Platz, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Tel. 08821/1806 Fax 08821/18055
Distances from: KM/Miles
* Berlin 700/437
* Frankfurt 480/300
* Hamburg 890/556
* Innsbruck 60/38
* Munich 86/54
* Nürnberg 250/156
* Salzburg 200/125
* Vienna 360/225
Holders of the HAPPYSKICARD are entitled to ski four separate ski areas: Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Seefeld (in Austria) Mittenwald and Schneearena Tiroler Zugspitze. Costs for the three day card range from 136 DM ($91) for adults and 90 DM ($60) for kids under 15 to 552 DM ($368) for adults and 359 DM ($239) for children. Single day lift passes for one of Garmisch-Partenkirchens four ski areas range from 28 DM ($19) and 20 DM ($13) for Eckbauer to 58 DM ($39) and 35 DM ($23) for Zugspitzgebiet.
Ascending the Zugspitze
There are two routes to the Zugspitze from the German side of the mountain. The first is by rack railway to Zugspitzplatt glacier station via Eibsee. The ride takes 75 minutes from the Garmisch rail station, 60 minutes from the village of Grainau and 35 minutes from Eibsee. Trains leave hourly beginning at 0735.
The second is from the lake at Eibsee via the Eibsee cable car, one of the biggest in Europe, which ascends directly to the Zugspitze summit in 10 minutes. Departures from Eibsee are every half hour beginning at 0830. Eibsee is 10 km from Garmisch and can be reached by rack railway, car or by special Eibsee buses.
Roundtrip fares are 58 DM ($39) for adults, 41 DM ($27) for kids 16 to 18 years, and 35 DM ($23) for children 4-15.
The Garmisch-Partenkirchen Casino is open every day and offers roulette, baccara, blackjack and slot machines. Minimum wagers are: blackjack 10 DM ($6.67), baccara 50 DM ($33.33), American roulette 10 DM ($6.67) and slot machines 1 DM (67 cents).