Bundled up and dizzy with excitement over the pristine Bavarian wonderland, we tackled the Partnachklamm hike on our first full day in Garmisch. Just a short distance from our hotel, we parked at the Olympic Ice Stadium, built for the 1936 Olympics and home to an annual ski jumping competition. We followed the river on a cleared trail past vast fields of unspoilt snow, postcard-perfect log homes with lace curtains and antlers over the doorway, fence posts capped with tall snowy towers, and evergreens powdered white. Occasionally, a branch would shake off its load, sprinkling us with snow (sometimes with a little help from Mike).
In the stadium.
Walking to the gorge.
After about half an hour, we reached the Partnach Gorge.
The gorge, carved by a mountain stream, is about 70 meters (230 feet) long and up to 80 meters (260 feet) deep. A path carved into the rock weaves up and down, in and out of tunnels, along the sheer rock faces dripping with icicles. We could imagine the danger faced by 18th-century residents of the valley who sent firewood through the gorge on timber rafts down to the town of Partenkirchen. In fact, a crucifix marks a memorial for men who lost their lives in the river. In 1912, the gorge was designated a natural monument.
Summer escorted Mom back through the gorge to catch a gondola to the top, while the rest of us continued the hike. The gorge trail emerged in a beautiful forest, where a steep track led to several guesthouses.
We ultimately reached an altitude of 888 meters (almost 3,000 feet) for lunch at Forsthaus Graseck, a gorgeous guesthouse decked out like my parents’ basement (lots of pelts and antlers). After warming up with gulasch soup and gluhwein, we caught the gondola back down the mountain.
Tony’s birthday is December 8. There are several reasons why this is a bad time to have a birthday, especially when you’re a teacher: (a) It’s too close to Christmas, so holiday celebrations often overshadow your big day, and inevitably you get those combo birthday-Christmas presents. (b) It falls right in the middle of the high school exam schedule/reporting, so you’re frantically busy marking tests and writing report card comments. (c) Your friends (also teachers) are feeling exhausted and burnt out and can only think about the upcoming vacation.
Overall, it’s hard to find the time and energy to celebrate TONY. Nevertheless, I enjoy forcing a little birthday cheer into his school-obsessed life every year. He doesn’t seem to mind the timing, so Christmas and birthday traditions have gone hand-in-hand for the last 18 years.
Historically, with a few exceptions, we put up our Christmas tree on Tony’s birthday. This year, we turned it into a little dinner party. I ordered lasagna from another teacher’s maybon, who does some catering on the side, and a chocolate cake from our friend, Moe Moe, the school nurse and resident baker extraordinaire. Nikki made a nice salad and yummy garlic bread.
You may recognize the attendees from previous blog posts: Carol (Canadian science teacher), Nikki (Canadian counselor), Whetu (Kiwi English teacher) and Regina (Swiss German teacher).
As the lasagna heated up in the oven, I shared stories about our Christmas ornaments. The ladies mostly did a good job of feigning interest as they decorated the tree.
As for the gift giving, we nailed it. Tony received presents that reflect some of his favorite past-times: a DVD of “The Hangover,” gift certificates for a massage and for a local western restaurant, and a waffle maker with a box of waffle mix.