Visiting Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze

2020. Corona. Travelling is a different game. Yet our Fernweh acted up too often. So we arranged a train trip to Germany and Austria. Specifically to Leipzig in Saxony, several spots in Bavaria and returning home with ÖBB‘s Nightjet from Innsbruck in Tyrol to Brussels in Belgium.

When in Garmisch-Partenkirchen there is one absolute must to see and do, take a train up to Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. It has a height of 2962 metres and is located in the Alps on the border between Germany and Austria. To open up the mountain for tourism they constructed a rack railway from the railway station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen towards the summit of the mountain in 1928-1930.

To celebrate their 90th birthday this year they decided to rebuild their valley station at Garmisch-Partenkirchen completely to replace the old, small original 1930 station. As we visited during the construction works the trains departed one station down the line and we used a replacement bus service between the railway station and the temporary start station.

The first part of the railway still uses adhesion and the train can travel at about 70 km/h until Grainau. Grainau is also the place where the maintenance facilities of the line are located and all trains stabled that are not in use.

In the beginning this used to be the spot where the passengers had to switch from the adhesion hauled ‘valley’ trains onto the rack rail “mountain” trains. I still had to do this manoeuvre when I visited the Zugspitze with my parents in the 1990’s.

Nowadays the railway employs more modern electric units capable of both adhesion and rack rail running, meaning trains just continue onwards on the while route without changing trains.

Using a rack rail the train climbs at a steeper rate but a slower speeds further up the mountain. Until Riffelriss the railway is still out in the open but after passing the passing loop the train enters a tunnel all the way up until the summit of the line at Zugspitzplatt at 2588 metres. Here we exited the train and went outside to look at the mountain and the view.

Upon leaving the protection of the building we made a synchronised shoutout out of joy due to some fresh snow blowing onto us. After walking around some more and taking pictures we continued onto the Gletscherbahn cable car taking us to the even higher summit of the Zugspitze itself across the glacier.

The Zugspitze summit can be reached from both the Austrian and the German side of the mountain, however due to Corona measures in place at the time of visiting the door forming the border between Austria and Germany was firmly shut and locked, disabling us to cross the border up on the mountain.

After our walk around and picture taking we enjoyed a small lunch with a scenic view. Afterwards we returned down again on the Seilbahn Zugspitze cable car, taking us from the summit back down to Eibsee. This was another spectacular ride, and thanks to not being covered in a tunnel we had some magnificent scenic views.

At Eibsee it was only a short walk back to the station where we would be taking a train further down to the next stop of the day, more about that in the next instalment.

Have you visited the Zugspitze? How did you experience it? Lt us know in the comments below!

Previously on this adventure

  1. The delicious German state secret: dining onboard Deutsche Bahn.
  2. VIDEO | Leipzig Hauptbahnhof.
  3. Leipzig Bayerischer Bahnhof.
  4. EAST GERMANY | Zeitgeschichtliches Forum, Leipzig’s GDR museum.
  5. Hyperion Leipzig.
  6. Leipzig.
  7. By ICE from Leipzig to Nuremberg.
  8. Nuremberg Transport Museum / DB Museum.
  9. Novotel Nuremberg City Centre.
  10. Documentation Center NS Party Rallying Grounds in Nuremberg.
  11. Nuremberg’s Zeppelin Field with the Norisring.
  12. Memorium Nuremberg Trials.
  13. Nuremberg’s real-life Playmobil Imperial Castle.
  14. You need at least two full days in Nuremberg.
  15. DB Regio from Nuremberg to Regensburg.
  16. Thurn und Taxis princely palace museum in Regensburg.
  17. Eurostars Park Hotel Maximilian Regensburg.
  18. Regensburg.
  19. With Alex from Regensburg to Munich.
  20. BMW Museum & BMW Welt in Munich.
  21. Munich’s Olympiapark.
  22. Sofitel Munich Bayerpost.
  23. Deutsches Museum’s Verkehrszentrum or Transport Centre in Munich.
  24. Deutsches Museum’s main site on Munich’s Museuminsel.
  25. By train to Neuschwanstein.
  26. Only 15 Minutes and No Photos in Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle.
  27. Museum of the Bavarian Kings in Schwangau near Neuschwanstein.
  28. Füssen in Bavaria, the gateway to Neuschwanstein.
  29. Münchner Stadtmuseum – Munich City Museum.
  30. MUNICH | Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum / Pinakothek der Moderne.
  31. Five days and four nights in Munich, including Neuschwanstein.
  32. By train to Lindau and Lake Constance.
  33. Lindau at or in Lake Constance.
  34. Hotel Bayerischer Hof Lindau.
  35. Trainspotting at Lindau.
  36. By train from Lindau to Garmisch-Partenkirchen via the Ausserfern railway.
  37. Staying firmly on the ground in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
  38. Mercure Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
  39. Nightjet Vienna/Innsbruck to Brussels, or how we got thrown off the train in Aachen.

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