‘Why did you even come here?’

You will have to forgive this blog entry. We’ve been moving fairly quickly of late and my head is too full to sit down and write a proper story. I feel like that kid in the Far Side comic that has his hand up in class and says, ‘Excuse me, can I go now, my head is full’. So here’s the ‘brain dump’ version of what happened after Bavaria.

After purchasing an Austrian driving vignette at a petrol station in Berchtesgaden we drove for about four hours through Austria (because we could) to get to Garmisch, back in Germany. We went to Garmisch because we wanted to visit the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.

On the drive through Austria

When we got to Garmisch I discovered my credit card was missing. Much turmoil and car searching ensued. The card wasn’t there despite my being sure that if I looked hard or often enough it would appear. I did however find a receipt from the last purchase I made with it which also had a phone number so we made a phone call and discovered the card was back in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria. Bugger.

The next morning, we decided to temporarily ignore the lost card and go up the Zugspitze. The summit was a complete whiteout which had Emma and I feeling moody. Amy and Oliver however were loving it because of all the snow and ice. It was cold. One degree, but no wind.

Check out the view beyond the sign!
That is the summit!
Hooray a pile of snow!
Snow soccer

After lingering as long as possible in vain hope that the weather would clear, we caught a cable car a short way down the other side of the mountain to a lower station and discovered free toboggans on offer. Hooray! We couldn’t see a thing, but had hours of fun sliding down the hill in the mist.

Great toboggans

The mist broke up after lunch and there were glorious views of the immediate amphitheatre of the Zugspitze though the summit itself was still heavily shrouded. More tobogganing ensued.

Lunch in the cloud
It started to lift
And look there was blue sky!!!
We could see where we were tobogganing!

By 2.30pm we were exhausted and caught the cog railway back to the base of the mountain where we took a free boat ride provided by the overpriced Garmisch campground we were staying at. Paddling on an alpine lake was just glorious. I went swimming in my undies. I couldn’t help myself and I didn’t want to get out but eventually had to.

Paddling on Lake Eibsee
What a lucky girl!

Emma and I woke up at 5.30 the next morning and I drove all the way back to Bavaria. Penance for stupidity, but considering that we have made 1264 financial transactions since leaving home (I’m a nerd so I record every single one), I eventually came to the view that forgetting to pick my card up once was forgivable. After successfully retrieving the all-important piece of plastic I drove back to Garmisch. It was 1pm by the time I arrived.

Where the rest of the family waited while Greg drove

We all piled in the car. Emma’s phone started playing Ed Sheeran’s ‘A-Team’ again because there is a setting that plays all her music in alphabetical order and we all cried ‘Nooo!’ in unison. This has been happening since Scotland and we were over it. We drove on to Liechtenstein, because it was more or less on route and we figured why not visit one more country on our way?

We camped for one night in lovely Liechtenstein and paid our respects to the Royal family by visiting their scenic castle on a hill the next morning. After that we all piled back into the car, cursed Ed Sheeran again, and drove on to Zermatt at the base of the Matterhorn in Switzerland, also on route.

Liechtenstein’s royal castle

The drive through Switzerland was glorious. Twisty roads, mountain passes, mountains everywhere and sunshine all the while. When we finally checked in to a campground near Zermatt the campground man got grumpy with me for only staying one night. ‘There is so much to do! Why did you even come here?’ he demanded. I apologised and slunk away to the tent to reflect on our foolishness and lack of ambition.

Swiss driving – spectacular!

The next morning, we decided to try and go up the Matterhorn before we drove on to France. This was perhaps because of the campground man and perhaps because there was not a cloud in the sky and perhaps because we figured it would be a while before we were at the base of the Matterhorn again. The cable car took 50 minutes to climb the 2,500 vertical meters. There were stunning views of the Matterhorn, glaciers and the Swiss Alps everywhere we looked.

The Matterhorn from the bottom
The Matterhorn behind us (from up the top)
Another peak – there are people climbing it
So many mountains

We rushed back down again because we still had to drive to Megève, two to three hours away, to meet up with our good friends from home, Belinda, Jase, Abbey and Zoe. The drive actually took much longer than that because our intended route was closed for the Tour de France and because we got stuck in a 40-kilometre-long traffic jam around Lausanne. I fought grumpiness and remarkably I won! For the most part anyway. I may have muttered the odd word of annoyance here and there. We made Megève by 8.30pm. Yay! We were very happy. Jase had beer and the beer was good.

Later that evening several large trucks rumbled past our little balcony at walking pace as we sat happily chatting. The barricades were going up for the Tour de France’s individual time trial which whizzed right past our front door the following morning. More on that to come.

The TDF barricades going up


Pomme fritz mit mayo

‘Pomme fritz mit mayo’. It’s German for ‘french fries with mayonnaise’ and it was a key culinary requirement for our visit to Germany. It’s a German delicacy. Or so I told Emma, Amy and Oliver. German fast food is probably a more accurate description and who eats fries with mayo anyway? I tried it when I was in Bonn for work years ago and had been waffling on about it for some time before we actually reached Germany. You know, as you do.

We eventually tracked some down at a curb side kebab caravan in a little town near Bad Feilnbach where we had set up camp for a few nights. I studied German for three years in high school, and was revelling in the fact that I could actually understand the occasional spoken word. I got really into it at the kebab shop by placing our order, one French fries with mayo and two vegetarian falafels, in German.

Waiting for our German fast food

‘Ein pomme fritz mit mayo und zwei falafel vegetarianish bitte’, I asked stiltedly but confidently. I was clearly understood because the friendly fellow smiled before responding with an onslaught that made it plain my German language ambition exceeded my ability. He was probably just clarifying my order, but I stared back at him blankly as it dawned on me that there is a downside to pretending you can communicate in another tongue. We got our pomme fritz, but we also got three falafels rather than two and one of them wasn’t vegetarian.


Germany, and Bavaria in particular, had other culinary ambitions to be realised as well. Bavaria is after all the home of strudel! Am I right? I was so sure. I had been telling Amy and Oliver about Bavarian apple strudel for even longer than the pomme fritz mit mayo. I’d been going on about it so long I think it may even have played a hand in our choice of Bavaria as the second of our German destinations. That and the reputed mountain scenery of course.

You can imagine then my relief when my eyes latched upon two fine looking apple strudels at a bakery in the idyllic little town on Ramsau near Berechtsgaden. It was too good to be true and proof positive of my assertions re the culinary delights of the region. I would have gloated, but I’m better than that. Nah I’m not. I gloated.

There was nothing to be gained here by botching up the order with poor German so I pointed and stuck up two fingers in time honoured, universally accepted sign language. The lovely lady new exactly what I wanted and strudel was exactly what we got. It was good too, served with healthy lashings of unhealthy cream and wolfed down in the warmth of our little Bavarian apartment on the mountain foothills.

Proper Bavarian apple strudel

We ended up in said apartment because the weather in Bavaria seemed determined to do all it could to make us miserable. Here we were with four days in one of the prettiest parts of the country and it was forecast to rain without relief. It was sunny when we picked up our rental car in Munich, so Emma and I weren’t really worried. Since when has the forecast ever been right four days out?

Turns out the German bureau of meteorology really know their stuff and it did rain for more or less four days straight. Which was no good for us. There is only so long before clambering out of a wet tent in the middle of the night and walking through the rain to go to the loo starts to wear a little thin. So after two days of that, hiding in the cooking shelter and reading in the car we gave up and Emma found us a roof on Airbnb.

Gotta love setting up the tent in the rain
The view from the driest place to read or blog
The roof we found – an Airbnb godsend

Rain still wears thin after a while, even with a roof over your head, but far more slowly. You can pee in comfort for a start! After that it’s the dampener it puts on your outdoor ambitions that are a struggle to come to terms with. The Bavarian Alps are stunning. Not so high as those across the border in Austria and Switzerland, but just incredibly beautiful, idyllic even and we longed to see it all lit up in glorious sunshine rather than clouded and grey.

The whole place is so neat and green and all the locals got the memo about how to make their homes fit the relevant Bavarian style. Meanwhile the mountains launch themselves up into the air to dramatic effect. There are walks everywhere an endless supply of valleys, ridges, alpine meadows, peaks and canyons to explore. I wanted to walk them all. Really. I wished I could. I wanted a month in our cozy cabin with a new trail to explore every day. It was exhausting just containing my unrealised enthusiasm.

Sto-op raining!!!

Eventually my desire capitulated to the rain. I reconciled the full Bavarian Alps experience to a future to do list and got down to the business of making the most of the few days we had. Because my family is so wonderful, the 8.5 kilometre walk we took up one of the mountain valleys turned into a solid 18 kilometre roundtrip. They marched on, at least partly just for me I’m sure, sensing my desire to know what was around that next corner.

A beautiful hike
The Wimmbach gorge – lots of water (rain will do that)
Happy hikers

Emma and I had purchased a bit of good will with Amy and Oliver a few days before hand. It was raining so much, we gave up on sightseeing and took them to another high ropes course. They loved the one in Scotland so much they were bursting with excitement at the mere whiff of doing another. This one fortunately ‘was very, very, great’ in Oliver’s words. Emma and I watched on from below, rain jacket and pants on, and wishing we had worn shoes and socks instead of sandals. ‘It’s supposed to be summer!’ is what I wanted to shout to the heavens, but didn’t.

Ready to go up
So many courses to do – we were there for hours

It was still grey the day we had to leave Berechtsgaden and the Bavarian Alps behind. We pulled into a petrol station and purchased an Austrian driving ‘vignette’. Basically an upfront toll. We planned to drive a couple of hundred kilometres through Austria (because we could) to make our way to Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, all the while hoping the weather would improve. Little did I know that would not be last time I saw that petrol station, but that’s the next story.

Pretty church near Berechtsgaden



I love to stand in places where history is made – in case you hadn’t noticed by now. Tucked away down in the Bavarian Alps of Germany is a mountain hideaway of the Nazi regime that was only discovered after the war was over. It’s called the Kehlstein or Eagles Nest, a mountain retreat perched precariously upon a ridge 1800 metres above the valley floor and given to Hitler for his 50th birthday.

The Eagles Nest

The same road that he and his cronies drove was the same we climbed up, in a bus with a bunch of other tourists. The 7 kilometre road is only one lane wide with a single passing point at the centre. Precision driving ensures the busses going up and down meet at the middle at exactly the same time. You gotta love the Germans.

After alighting the bus at the top of the road a tunnel entrance is spotted leading deep into the mountain. After roughly 150 metres the tunnel ends at a small domed chamber which serves as a foyer of sorts for an elevator. The brass lined elevator takes you another 150 metres straight up through the mountain to the heavy set stone building above. It’s the same tunnel and the same lift used by same said persons all those years ago. Isn’t that creepy? It was creepy, but enthralling.

The tunnel – opened 1938
Very orderly yet creepy tunnel

The clouds swirled thick and then thin as we visited, so the views weren’t quite what they would be on a gorgeous sunny day, but we saw enough through gaps in the weather to appreciate what a stunning vista it would present.

Magic views

It’s not a large place, but here is the dining hall and rooms where all the heavies of Nazi Germany met and held council. Today it’s a privately run restaurant with hordes of tourists swarming about like it was any other mountain lodge, sipping latte’s and wolfing down their pomme fritz mit mayo and strudel. I like the idea that a place with such a dark past is now the happy domain of any and all comers.

1938 view
2016 view