Yesterday (Thursday) dawned clear and cold, with a low the previous night of close to 0 degrees celsius. At one point, as we sat in our room after breakfast, I looked out and saw the sight pictured below. I've never seen anything like it: a giant cloud of moisture retreating ever so slowly in the morning sun.
It was Mark's turn to drive yesterday, and he decided he wanted to put the top down on our rental car. I thought he was crazy, given the temperature. But he persevered. "It'll be fine," he said. "You'll see; once we get the heat cranked up, you'll be surprised how warm it'll be." It wasn't exactly warm, but it wasn't too bad. Mark was in his element, as the lead photograph above shows.
We were driving first to Oberammergau, the site of the the famed passion play that is performed every 10 years to commemorate the town being saved from the plague centuries ago. The sky and landscape were unbelievably beautiful as we motored through forests as well as open farmland, up and down and around hills. The scenery was so quaint and picturesque that Mark at one point exclaimed, "It's hard to believe it's real!" I had to agree.
Oberammergau was quiet when we first arrived. We didn't have anything in particular we wanted to see, so we just ambled through the streets, looking at the frescoed buildings and browsing through a few shops. We went into a Käthe Wohlfahrt "Christkindlmarkt"store. I had heard of this famed chain of Christmas ornament shops. Their own website states that their shops have an "overwhelming" selection of ornaments, and that's precisely how I felt as we walked through the store.
It wasn't, however, a good feeling. Though I collect ornaments from our travels, this place was suffocating. I was hard-pressed to see one that I actually liked. As for Mark, well, the above picture pretty much expresses how he felt.
Our other purchase in Oberammergau was a new jacket for me to replace the one that I had left in a cab in London after returning from our trip to Stonehenge. It's German (Vaude) and I love it. Thank you, Mark, for this wonderful birthday present.
Our next stop was Garmisch, where we had a delicious lunch/dinner of cranberry-topped Wiener schnitzel, spaetzle (noodles) and rosé with the best-yet apple strudel with both ice cream and whipped cream. I'm seriously going to have to cut back on the spaetzle.
Next up was an unplanned stop that turned out to be a fantastic experience: a journey to the top of Germany's highest peak: the Zugspitze. We could not possibly have asked for a better day for this excursion. The official Zugspitze website states that over 400 mountain peaks in four countries can be seen from the summit (presumably Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland). I believe it.
This graphic shows how we approached and ascended the mountain. Driving out of Garmisch, we turned left and drove to the base, then took a tram up almost 2000 meters. The views were amazing, and because the tram traveled at a good clip, I didn't have time to lose my lunch by looking down at the front of the tram. Once at the top, the views were absolutely breathtaking. 360 degrees. Once again, I marveled at our good luck with the weather.
This picture was taken in Austria on our way back to our hotel near Fussen. The top on the car was down, and I took the photo by holding my iPhone up through the (non-existent) roof of the car and taking several shots in rapid succession as we sped by. When I saw it, I couldn't believe it. It is one of the most - if not the most - amazing pictures I have ever taken.
We leave this beautiful area today (Friday) and head to Nuremberg for the last leg of our trip: a river cruise on the Main and Rhein rivers back to Amsterdam.