Mittenwald, Germany & the Leutasch Gorge

There was a time, shortly after we moved to Munich, where I genuinely (and naively) thought that we jussst might get to take a weekend trip for our anniversary. But, ya know, life happens. Instead of a weekend trip, we hopped a train south, to Mittenwald, Germany, for a hike I’d been eyeballing – the Leutaschklamm!

Mittenwald itself is a terribly cute town nestled in the Karwendel mountain range, just 20 minutes by train past Garmisch-Partenkirchen – home to Germany’s tallest peak. Mittenwald is famous for violin making, frescoes, and hiking and is the headwater of the Isar River (that runs through Munich).

Mittenwald Bahnhof (main train station).
Mittenwald center.
A nod to it’s violin heritage.
Mittenwald, Germany

The outdoor possibilities from Mittenwald are extensive, but we came for one thing – the Leutaschklamm (Leutasch Gorge)!

There are 3 routes through the gorge – the Red, Blue, and Green. The Red Route (the Koboldpfad, or Leprechaun Path) takes you to your first photo spot – the Panoramic Bridge, which straddles the gorge below. It’s obviously a very Instagrammable spot, as evidenced by the line of guys waiting to take pictures of their significant others on the bridge… including Shane. Hey, it was our anniversary – he indulged me!

The Blue Route (the Klammgeistweg) takes you deeper into the gorge. Afraid of heights? Perhaps this isn’t for you. A majority of the path is this see-through metal grate walkway above the gorge! Slightly unnerving at first, but really cool once you get used to it. You’ll also get to hop across the German / Austrian border along the way.

It’s all fun and games until you see a dent in the walkway…
See Shane in the distance?
Germany to the left, Austria to the right!

The final route is the Green Route (the Wasserfallsteig), which takes you into the gorge. The pathway ends at a 23 m (75 ft) waterfall that was loud, but hard to see. Regardless, the walkway to the waterfall was worth it!

The entrance to the waterfall. It’s a one way, narrow path so, right now, masks are required.

And, a day in the German / Austrian mountains wouldn’t be complete without a beer hut. Mittenwald has it’s own brewery – notice the mountain on the beer bottle is the same as the mountain in the background!


Practical Info:

How to get there (Mittenwald): Easy – by train! There is a regional DB train from Munich to Mittenwald. Bonus: this route qualifies for the Bayern Ticket, so it only cost us €32 euros round trip for 2 people. You can travel with up to 5 people on one ticket, which drops the price to only €10.60 per person for a day of unlimited travel in Bavaria.

Distance from Munich: ~1 h 45 min by train and ~1.5 h by car.

Hike Direction: From the train station, follow the brown signs for the Leutaschklaam. You can’t miss it!

Difficulty: Easy. It’s really more of a walk than a hike, and very family friendly with interactive information signs along the way.

Time: All routes, ~2 – 2.5 hours.

Tip: The waterfall path costs €3 per person. Bring cash.

Rating: ✅ Highly Recommended*!

*unless you’re looking for a challenge.

Based on the easy access & cool views, I definitely recommend this trip – especially if you’re looking for an easy day outside of Munich. And, since the walk doesn’t take up you’re entire day, you have the added bonus of exploring Mittenwald. If you’re looking for a more challenging adventure, perhaps the Leutaschklaam isn’t for you, but Mittenwald is the starting point for a number of other hikes, including a via ferrata.


All in all, I’d say it was a successful 4-year anniversary!

Tscüss,

Whitney

Kranzhorn Mountain Hike, Germany (& Austria!)

We may not get to *actually* travel much this year, but I can at least say I’ve been to Austria twice! ANNDDD technically I’ve walked across the border, so if that’s not an adventure then I don’t know what is.

View over the Kranzhorn Alm. Not quite the summit.

We’re pretty lucky to have two friends from Groningen also living in the Munich area, so when Theresa invited us for a weekend hike, we obviously said yes. This week’s trip was unique because the mountain straddles the border of Germany and Austria. At the summit, if you look to the left, you’ll see Schieben, Austria. If you look right, you’ll see Windshausen, Germany.

The summit (1366 m), looking left over Austria.
The summit, looking right over Germany.

Technically speaking, this was an easier hike than our Ehrwald adventure. Wide, clearly marked paths, no bolted metal cables required. It lulls you into a sense of hiking security… but be prepared for a sore butt the next day. The first ~1.5 hours are nothing but up!

The mountain can be approached from either side, but we started our adventure in Nussdorf (aka ‘nut village’), Germany. This (less traveled) route starts directly from the small (free) parking lot towards the Kranzhorn Alm. The more popular route begins on the Austrian side, in Erleberg (with paid parking). The path is mostly through the woods, and although you’re constantly going up, it’s never too steep. We were even passed by several mountain bikers and power-hikers.

The two best parts?

You walk between Germany and Austria!

As I said before – walking across country borders makes me feel cool. The borders are marked by these painted rocks, so keep an eye out!

Blue and white for Bavaria, red for Tirol.
The beer hut, Kranzhorn Alm, has a petting zoo with the fluffiest chickens I’ve ever seen.
Black and white fluffy chickens!

One thing you can’t miss – the summit crosses.

You’ll find a cross on almost every summit peak in Bavaria (and Tirol), which are predominately Catholic states. The summit crosses started in the 1400s but picked up steam in the 19th century when mountaineering became more popular. The cross was obviously a religious symbol (as the mountain peak is closer to Heaven), but also a sign that the mountain itself had been summited. For some, a picture next to the cross is proof you made it all the way up.

We may not be religious, but I certainly think they make for lovely photos.

A third cross, on the Austrian side, for a smaller peak.

Since the Kranzhorn straddles the border, the summit actually has two crosses – one for Germany (the wooden one) and one for Austria (the metal one). Unfortunately, a picture of both at the same time was practically impossible, given the small summit area.

The Austrian summit cross.

And don’t worry. If all that hiking makes you hungry, the Kranzhorn Alm has got ya covered.


Practical Info

How to get there: Check out here (for Windshausen) and here (for Erlerberg) parking / starting info. Windshausen was only ~ 1 hour drive from Munich.

Distance from Munich: By car, ~1 hour. ~2 hours with public transportation (train + bus) .

Hike Direction: Head for Kranzhorn Alm (follow the fork/food symbol!)

Difficulty: Easy. Suitable for beginners or families – nothing special required!

Time: 3 – 4 hours, depending on your speed and how long you linger at the top.

Rating: 🧡 (if there’s time)

Not ‘highly recommended’ simply because there’s no convenient public transportation option. If you have a car and are looking for an easy day trip to the mountains, then definitely check it out!


Wednesday is our 4 year anniversary (!) and the mountains are calling us! So, until then…

Tshüss,

Whitney

Hiking in Ehrwald, Austria

If I could insert googly-eyes, I’d do it.

I know we’ve only been in Munich for 2 months, but I’ve been dying to get to the mountains. So, when a soon-to-be-whenever-Germany-lets-Shane-finally-work (ugh) colleague invited us to tag along on a day trip to the Alps, we jumped at the chance. So, last Friday we headed (only) an hour and a half south to Ehrwald, Austria.

The hike starts at the Ehrwalder Almbahn – the village’s cable car – and loops around the mountain, following signs to the Seebensee (Seeben Lake). Head around the lake and take the path straight ahead (and up) to the Coburger Hütte (hut) for some refreshments and a nice view of the next lake, the Drachensee. To return, backtrack past the Seebensee and keep right following the signs for the Almbahn. Finally, a left on to the Immensteig Trail cuts down the mountain and back to the parking lot.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Wrong.

Can you spot me? (Photo thanks to Justin & Alice)

“It’s rated as difficult, but it’s only 800 m of elevation gain, so it can’t be that hard!”

From the 800 m elevation gain (~2600 ft), 12.5 km distance (~7.5 mi), some scrambling, and some “oh shit” moments – this route earns it’s difficult rating, but man, it was worth it!

Ehrwald village in the background.

The hike itself started out easy enough. Were my quads already burning? Sure. Was I embarrassingly out of breath after a whole 5 minutes? Absolutely. Regardless, we trudged on, my lungs figured out this whole ‘altitude’ thing, and we headed for the Seebensee.

The start.
Up we go!

It may have “only” been a total of 800 m in elevation gain, but I swear the first half of the hike was nothing but up. It was one of those experiences where you can SEE the top, but the top never seems to get any closer. Luckily, there were some built in break spots with phenomenal views – which you needed to start the next portion of our “probably not that difficult” adventure. The scrambling. At least there were cables, right?

Started from the bottom now we’re here. -Drake. (Literally, we started at the parking lot in the photo.)
Mountain-mounted handrail cables.

After about 3 hours (from the start) we arrived at the first lake – the Seebensee! The water was incredibly clear and there were lots of people – families with small children included – sunbathing and swimming. Obviously, there was an alternate route to the Seebensee…

Seebensee – Coburger Hütte straight ahead!

At this point, we were hot & had been promised a hut with beer. We didn’t realize it yet, but we could literally see our destination. We had a little more work to do first…

An unexpected bonus? COWS! Free-range cows with giant bells! Apparently this is a ‘thing’ in the Alps. Sheep & cows are put out to graze wearing bells so their owners can find them again later. Too bad for you if you’re a sleepy cow – in this area, the bells were constantly ringing. For a while, you could only hear them, but we did eventually get close enough for a cow-photoshoot. They obviously see humans all the time because they didn’t give two shits about us.

Can I pet dat cowwww?
Caught in action.
My masterpiece. What a beauty.

I digress. Onwards and upwards to the hut! Thanks to my one track mind (nooo… not beer. Fanta, actually, with a beer accouterment. Does that make it a two-track mind?), I forgot to take a proper picture of the Coburger Hut. From above you could see the second lake, Drachensee. We intended to go swimming, but honestly it was kind of chilly up there! By the time we were properly refreshed we were also properly cold, so we skipped the swimming.

The hut from below.
The Drachensee from the hut.
View over the Seebensee from the Coburger Hütte (1910m, ~6250 ft).

After that, it was time to turn around! It was another ~2 hours back to the car. I think at this point, everyone was happy to be on flat ground for a while… little did we know we were going to be scrambling straight down the side of the mountain with those cables again.

Photo thanks to Alice.

So, note-to-self: Trust the hike ratings. It was certainly a difficult hike, but if you’re feeling fit and confident in your feet then it’s by no means unmanageable. Honestly, going up and down with the cables felt a little sketchy at first (especially going down), but you get the hang of it and it’s really fun! I would absolutely recommend this hike, and do it again.

Here’s a link to the hike on Komoot. And if you’re considering it, here’s what you can expect on the Immensteig Trail (at the end of the hike). Conversely, you can just be surprised, like we were. 😜

If you’re interested in the Seebeensea and the Coburger Hütte but a difficult hike isn’t for you, then I recommend checking out the official tourism website. They list all the trails and their difficulty.

Our group – Us, Josh, Alice, & Justin.
Drachensee.

Until our next mountain adventure –

Tschüss,

Whitney

Innsbruck/Ischgl, Austria

After nearly 3 years of living in Europe, we FINALLY went snowboarding in the Alps! 

It’s ironic that it has taken us this long as snowboarding was one of the opportunities we were most excited about when first moving – it’s the Alps after all! Luckily, the Sufrinkos wanted to come back for another taste of Europe and so we had no excuse to put it off any longer.  So, without further delay, I give you (as Whitney has so aptly named it)…

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The Shwitfrinko Snowboarding Adventure!


Innsbruck

Our adventure begins in Innsbruck, Austria.  For a quick back story, if you are going skiing in the Alps, you have multiple countries to choose from – Switzerland, France, and Austria are among the most popular.  We chose Austria for no other reason than we had yet to visit that country.  So, as I was saying, we began in Innsbruck.  For Whitney and I, it was a short one hour flight from The Netherlands.  For the Sufrinkos, not so much.  So the first day was just causal exploring of Innsbruck and jet lag recovery.

We stayed in Innsbruck for two more days, exploring more of the city,

completing an escape room,

alicia-sufrinko

and of course ringing in 2017/celebrating Whitney’s birthday!

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January 2 saw the end of our Innsbruck stay (we would return again at the end of the trip) and on to Ischgl for snowboarding!


Ischgl

For the next 5 days, we stayed in Ischgl.  When we arrived, the entire area had snow, but it was all man-made.  However, by day 2, the real snow started and we ended up with nearly a meter of fresh powder (2-3 ft).  The view from our room really shows the difference: from no snow to dog sleds in the period of 4 days!

Speaking of rooms, if you happen to travel to the Ischgl area, we cannot recommend Hotel Verwall enough.  Great family-run hotel with amazing food!

…conveniently located on the border of Ischgl, not-Ischgl.

The views from any given piste/gondala/mountain top in the area were spectacular! Photo credit to Brian for many of the snowboarding and scenery pictures, as he manned our camera for a large portion of the trip.

He also commandeered my phone…

As an added bonus, you can ski into Switzerland as part of the “Smuggler’s Run” challenge.  Two countries in one trip! Now Whitney can claim that she has been to Switzerland as well.

All-in-all, a fantastic snowboarding trip! Aside from the pictures posted here, I’ve also put together a video of the GoPro footage shot throughout.

Check it out!


Innsbruck – pt. 2

As I said before, we returned to Innsbruck after snowboarding for one more day before our flights the next morning.  Despite the fact that we had already spent three days there, it was a completely different experience – no more holiday festivities and lots of snow!  Naturally, we spent the day indoors, relaxing in the hotel sauna and getting massages. The perfect end to a vacation!

Until next time,

Shane