The ultimate paramount – Zugspitze

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Zugspitze - the highest peak in Germany
Zugspitze – the highest peak in Germany
Better than mountains are only the mountains you have never visited
 – from a song of Vladimir Vysotsky, Soviet singer
The highest mountain in Germany, the ultimate paramount which borders with Austria on the other side reaches 2962 meters above sea level. It is also the highest ski resort in Germany and on a clear day from top of the mountain a great panorama is opening, where one can see about 400 other peaks in Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

How to get to Zugspitze

The starting point is town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the famous mountain resort and a holder of 1936 winter Olympic games. These towns Garmisch and Partenkirchen were separate for a lot of centuries, and even now they still maintain some distinction. Trains from Munich depart almost every half an hour and a ride to Garmisch-Partenkirchen will take approximately 1,5 hour.
On leaving the station you will proceed to the tickets office, where the tickets could be bought. As for my case the cashier convinced me that the only way to get on top of the mountain is to buy a daily ticket for 42,5 EUR that also covers al the lifts in Garmish-Classic and Zugspitzplatt area.
There must be a cheaper way to get to the top, however not very legal. Tickets are not checked (only at the turnstile to the mountain tram at the bottom) and theoretically you can buy a cheaper one to Garmish-Classic ski area and not leave the train and ascend to Zugspitzplatt. At the Zugspitzplatt one will find a cogwheel train that will take you to the summit, but I have not seen any turnstile to submit a ticket. The same applies for the skiing lifts at Zugspitzplatt – there are no turnstiles at all. But still I advice to pay the full price for the ticket and not be caught up. Still on a way back from Zugspitzplatt to the tram one should pass a turnstile.
So the adventure begins in a Bayerische Zugspitzbahn, a cozy and warm carriage that will take you up to the top. The carriage passes several stops and one can ascend Alpspitze – another, much lower mountain and have a walk around Eibsee – a mountain lake. After a stop the tram will go in the tunnel under the mountain and will reach Zugspitzplatt. There you should take a cogwheel train that will cover additional 400 meters to the summit. Below is a scheme of a ride and slopes with nearby peaks.
The weather was cloudy and misty, so unfortunately the panorama was not wide open to me. It is said that in a clear day one can see almost 400 kilometers far and a dozens of peaks looming in a distance. On the top of the mountain there is a weather station, opened in 1900, and the research station that are mainly used to conduct climate research.
The Münchner Haus is lodging for hikers and at a height of 2,959 meters and is thus the highest refuge hut in the German Alps. It is managed by Hansjörg Barth whose family has run the hut for three generations since 1925.It is remarkable that foundation stone for the Münchner Haus was laid in 1894 and now it belongs to the Munich Section of the German Alpine Club (DAV).
Since 1851 a summit cross is installed to mark the highest point of the mountain. The mountain however was first climbed on 27 August 1820 by Josef Naus. The ideologist of a cross erection, a priest Christoph Ott was a keen meteorologist and he organized an expedition in from 11 to 13 August 1851 with the goal of erecting a summit cross on the Zugspitze.
Visit Austria in one day!
Quite unexpected a traveler can cross the bridge at the mountain and appear on Austrian side of the mountain, in Tirol region. There used to be a border a long time ago, but since Austria and Germany are in Schengen zone it no longer exists. As for me I did not know that fact and was quite surprised when cashier at the museum told me that I am in Austria now. A very interesting museum about the ascending the summit and erection of Austrian cable car to the Zugspitze is inside, featuring documentaries and old photos with stories.

Should be noted that mountain was first climbed by lieutenant Josef Naus with his team from the second shot. However some historians argue that local people had conquered the peak over 50 years earlier, according to a 1770 map discovered by the Alpenverein.

In 1854, the northern part of the Zugspitze was given to Bavaria as a present by Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary Franz Joseph I as a marriage present to his wife Princess Elisabeth (“Sissi”). Since then the Zugspitze is the highest mountain of Bavaria and later of Germany.

Construction of the cable car system from Austrian side
The technical conquest of the Zugspitze was tackled from the Austrain side of the mountain in 1924 and it took only 14 month and up to 400 construction workers to complete the cable railway in 1926.

On 5th July 1926 the Tyrolean cable car system from Ehwald to the summit was officially opened. This masterpiece of technology at the time spanned a difference in altitude of 1581m from the lower station to the summit and took from 16 to 18 minutes, carrying up to 19 passengers.

Between 1952 and 1964 constant renovations were done. New cabins made of very light metal could accommodate 23 persons and increased the speed of travel from 3,5 m per second to 5 m per second. In 1953 the Tyrolean Zugspitzbahn carried almost 165,000 passengers.

However from the Austrian side the summit was reached only in 1964, when a cable car was built. Before that people used a tunnel that led to the Zugspitzplatt and took a German cable car to reach the top. On 15th May 1964, an Austrian cable car to the summit commenced operation.

The museum, an entrance fee to which costs only 2,5 EUR has two rooms for documentaries and an installation of a cable car carriage as well as a lot of information about the mountain.

As for sharing my experience I thought that 42 EUR for a ride to the mountain is quite expensive and as I still had a lot of time so I decided to rent a snowboard and use my daily ski-pass fully. However not ever dressed for ski sports I managed to rent overall, snowboard and boots for 40 EUR for one day. In the rental place at Zugspitzplatt you can rent everything – starting from skies and snowboards to helmets. Despite the ugly weather I could barely see anything and was navigating only by signs alongside the slope, lacking proper gauntlets I managed to slide around 12 times.

If you are in Munich for a several days do not miss a chance to visit the highest top in Germany. A gorgeous view that opens in a clear day is breathtaking and I wish I could have been luckier to see that stunning beauty.