Der Plansee, Germany

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I have a tendency to over plan trips when it comes to the weather, resulting in us lugging around umbrellas and boots and layering sweaters. For our Bavarian winter wonderland roadtrip I was taking no precautions, loading our car up with furry boots, warm winter coats, and blankets. We quizzed the rental agency on whether we had snow tires and if we needed snow chains as we planned to drive through Germany’s highest mountain pass, st2060. Turns out, like usual, our preparations were for naught as the pass was nearly snow-free.

Upon leaving Neuschwanstein, we headed to our lunch spot, Waldwirtschaft am Mittersee, a lovely restaurant situated on the banks of the pedestrian-only Mittersee area where trail heads start and tiny skating ponds abound. At each little lake a red pole with a hook rests, a sign depicting its us to fish out skaters who have fallen through the ice, apparently a frequent occurrence. In an area of otherwise overpriced, tourist-heavy restaurants below the castles, Waldwirtschaft am Mittersee lived up to its best-in-the-region reputation with its attention to taste and presentation.

As we curved along the pathways around the lakes back to our car, I was convinced that we would meet snow on our afternoon drive through the mountains. After all, though there was no ice on the little lakes, the area was certainly prepared for winter weather. Sprits high and flu symptoms fading as a result of our warm meal we set out towards Austria where the road continues for a bit before curving back into Germany and past the Plansee lake.

By the time we reached the transparent waters of the Plansee we were sweating and stripping off our coats. What looked like snow on the distant Alpine mountain-tops was surely nothing more than rockslides. The Frenchman eyed my boots resting in the trunk, surely recalling the extra trips he had to make down the stairs to load the car with our winter gear.

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Driving further still snow finally began to appear near the castle of Linderhof, another of Ludwig’s follies. A few kilometers later, however, and it had all but disappeared. In the days following our drive the snow would cover this quiet mountain pass.

Though Schloss Linderhof is the most complete of Ludwig’s castles and the only one he saw to finish, we chose to forgo a visit to the castle itself. Someday we hope to come back to the area and make the two-day hike on the Via Alpina (E4) trail from Neuschwanstein to Linderhof, in the summer, of course, when we can be assured trading hiking boots for furry ones is a sure decision.

Further along the pass we came to the village of Ettal. Here, in the remotest part of Germany, where the country’s highest peak, Zugspitze, rises in the distance, is the castle-like Ettal Monastery where more than fifty Benedictine monks continue to live and, seemingly like all monks, distill liquor. It may be that churches, like castles, seem to largely be remnants of bygone centuries, but we always find ourselves popping in and out of them on our travels. The monastery’s white and gold baroque chapel left us speechless as we sank into pews, necks craned back to regard the ceiling frescos.

It is in the village of Ettal that the st2060 mountain pass ends, joining up with the larger, Bundestrasse 23, fondly known as Germany’s Alpine Road, as it continues towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Olympic ski town with allegedly Germany’s best slopes. As we passed through we agreed that we were glad we had not set our hearts on a day of skiing (it had been considered) given the snow-free early-season peaks.

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Read part 1 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.

Read part 2 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.

Read part 3 of our five-day Bavarian roadtrip here.

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