Thursday, June 26, 2008


The clouds parted briefly in the morning of our third day in Achensee, and we took advantage of it to make our escape from Austria. We followed the river channel downstream from Sylvensteinsee, a flood control reservoir just north of the German-Austria border. From what we experienced, excessive water is a common occurence in these parts. After kilometers of gradual downhill we camped just east of the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Known for ski jumping, hosting the 1936 Winter Olympics, and a ski lift on Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany, we stayed and extra day to walk around and explore. We walked up the Partnachklamm, a narrow gorge with a trail that goes alongside the churning river. Not a wilderness experience -- a biergarten at the entrance found hikers hydrating for the hike with half-liter glasses of local beer at 11am.

With the weather holding for another day, we biked up to the town of Oberammergau. It was a short day, and we arrived soon enough to do some internet business in the afternoon. The town is most famous for the Passion Play, a religious play put on every 10 years (next showing 2010). The town was small and quaint and set up for busloads of tourists, but we found it charming. And a good place to wait out rain, rain, and more rain. It began to rain the evening of our arrival, and continued for the next two days. The campground was a haven -- the tent area had a small shelter where we could keep our bikes next to the tent, and the bathroom area had a nice lobby with a couch and a kitchen with hot plate for cooking. We made ourselves at home.

Linderhof, one of King Ludwg II´s palaces, was a short bus ride away, and we spent the morning walking the grounds in the relentless drizzle.

Oberammergau is known for the local craft of wood carving. Shops all over town have window displays bursting with religous carvings, whimsical toys, and nativity scenes. Additionally, beautiful frescoes decorate many buildings. The one shown above is a series of panels with the story of Hansel and Gretel. Below is a detail of the evil witch being put in the oven to be made into gingerbread.

Once again, the rain stopped and we made a break to continue on our ride through the countryside. We had seen throughout the region wooden crosses stacked neatly on the edge of pastures. We finally figured out what they were for -- stacking hay to dry in the sun, when it finally does shine.

Also unique to the area were stacks of perfectly trimmed wood stacked neatly adjacent to barns and homes. Although we were in a heavily forested area, wood of any type is valued and not wasted. We saw stacks that were obviously created over a period of years, with the oldest pieces gray and weathered at the bottom, and transitioning to fresh pieces on top. The pile against this barn left just enough for the cows to be able to peek out the window.

We made a count, and we had rain every day for the last two weeks since we entered Austria. Some days it was all day, some just in the afternoon as the thunderclouds built up. The lush landscape comes at a price for those of us traveling by bicycle.
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