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Photo of modern Garmisch.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a twin town in southern Germany with a population of 26,351. Garmisch-Partenkirchen lies within the state of Bavaria, and is the primary city of the administrative district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Garmisch-Partenkirchen's most notable natural landmark is the Zugspitze, although many others, such as the Partnach Gorge and the Alpspitze exist as well.


Garmisch-Partenkirchen is located in the Bavarian Alps, just below the Zugspitze which at 2962 meters is Germany's highest point. The city lies within the Loisach river valley between three mountain ranges, the Wetterstein Alps to the south, the Estergebirge, also known as the Bavarian Pre-Alps in the west, and the Ammergau Alps to the north. Following the Loisach river upstream leads to the Ehrwald valley in Austria.


Garmisch-Partenkirchen, commonly known as Garmisch, often to the chagrin of residents of the Partenkirchen half of the city, is well known as a sport and resort town, and a member of the Best of the Alps organization. Garmisch and Partenkirchen were two separate towns, separated by the Partnach River, until 1935, when they were joined (against the will of the people) by Adolf Hitler to create a single economy large enough to host the 4th Winter Olympics in 1936. Garmisch-Partenkirchen was also slated to host the 5th Winter Olympics in 1940, but these games were cancelled due to World War II. During the early middle ages both towns were part of an area ruled by Henry the Lion, the founder of Munich. After Henry the Lion fell out with the Holy Roman Emperor, Fredrick Barbarossa, the area, now called the Werdenfelserland, passed to Henry's successor, Otto von Wittelsbach. In 1294 all of Werdenfelserland came under the control of the Bishop of Freising who ruled until the Bavarian secularization in 1802, when it became part of Bavaria. To this day the residents of Garmisch-Partenkirchen carry on a friendly rivalry, maintaining separate ski clubs, yodel clubs, fire brigades, and festival weeks. The position of mayor is held jointly by a resident of Garmisch and a resident of Partenkirchen. The current co-mayors are Thomas Schmid of Garmisch and Wolfgang Bauer of Partenkirchen. Both are members of the Christian Social Union, the dominant political party in Bavaria.

History of Partenkirchen

By 15 BC, the Roman Empire controlled the Loisach river valley. When the Romans built a road, the Via Raetia, from Venice to Augsburg through Brenner Pass, they built a waystop about 1 days march north of Mittenwald which eventually became the town of Partenkirchen. The first documentation of the name Partenkirchen dates to 1130 when the city was labeled as Barthinchirchen. During the middle ages, Partenkirchen became a regional center of commerce and craftsmanship, and received the right to hold a market in 1361. When overland commerce declined in the late 15th century the entire area suffered serious economic downturns. These were reversed in 1889 when the train line to Munich was completed, and both Garmisch and Partenkirchen received interest from artists and vacationers. The early 20th century saw an increase in sport and recreational tourism, culminating in the 1936 Winter Olympics and the forced integration with neighboring Garmisch.

History of Garmisch

First documented in 802 as Germareskauue, the village of Garmisch was a farming community of the Bajuwaren tribes, who later became the stereotypical Bavarians, and the seat of the local Earl. Even while neighboring Partenkirchen flourished economically, the village of Garmisch maintained its rural feel, although it was granted the status of a market town in 1455. During the Olympic and Postwar years, Garmisch received most of the attention, with the Partenkirchen half of the city becoming an afterthought. Many people refer to the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen as simply Garmisch, and many autobahn directional signs simply say Garmisch-P. The majority of the tourist facilities are located within the Garmisch city limits, including the ice stadium, ski area, train depot, casino, convention center, spa, and all the United States Army Garrison locations. Garmisch maintains its farming identity, with many cattle barns located close to the center of town. Every day cattle are driven through town from the pastures to the barns for milking.


The primary industries of the region are dairy farming and recreation. Garmisch-Partenkirchen hosts one of the four jumps in the Four Hills Tournament every year on New Years Day at the Olympic Ski Stadium, and FIS ski races on the Kandahar ski trail. Other Olympic sites remain, including the Ice Stadium, the natural bobsled track, and Reissersee, upon which the speed-skating and ice hockey events were held. Although the bobsled track is overgrown, an effort is underway to reclaim the track from years of growth. Garmisch-Partenkirchen will host the 2011 FIS Ski Championships.

Tourism and Sightseeing

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is used by many tourists as a base for their travels in and around the Bavarian Alps. Locations within an hours travel include Munich, Innsbruck, the ski areas, both at Garmisch-Partenkirchen and at Lermoos, Ehrwald, Bieberwier, Seefeld, and Bichlbach, the royal castles of Ludwig II at Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, The Wieskirche, The Kloister at Ettal, and the village of Oberammergau with it's famous Passion Play. To meet the needs of visitors to the area, over 1,000 lodging areas exist within the city limits.


Populated since the Roman times, by multiple ethnic groups, there are examples of many different styles of art, city layout, and architectural design in both halves of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Ludwigstrasse in Partenkirchen is well known for the historical luftmalerei (frescos) upon its buildings. In addition to the age of the paintings, they have educational value as well, showing important events from the citys history. The older sections of Garmisch contain many examples of the farming roots of the city with dual purpose house/barns, and fountains for the cows to drink from during their daily return from the mountain pastures.

Old Parish Church

The Altekirche was the original parish church in Garmisch. The first documentation of the church is of its reconstruction in 1280. It assumed its present gothic style in 1522. In present times the church is used only for important gatherings and holidays, although before the construction of St. Martin's Church the people from the surrounding communities were required by the Bishop of Freising to make the pilgrimage to Garmisch a minimum of 10 times a year. The church is decorated in the Gothic style, and is noted for many 15th century works of art. The church cemetery holds the remains of the wife of Caspar Poysl, the "judge" at the witch trials that were held at the Werdenfelser Castle on the mountain above town.

Parish Church of Ascended Mary

The first documentation of the Parish Church Maria Himmelfahrt dates to 1347, and describes a gothic church at this location on Ludwigstrasse in Partenkirchen. The church, and 76 nearby houses, burned to the ground in 1865, after having been rebuilt in the baroque style. Reopened in 1871, this time as a neo-Gothic building, the church still houses relics dating from the early 15th century which were saved from the fire. The interior of the parish church is currently under renovation.

Saint Anton's Church

Antonskirche is a pilgrimage church, and Fransiscian cloister located on the side of The Wank, overlooking Partenkirchen. Originally constructed in 1708 as a gesture of thanks for the survival of Partenkirchen in the War of Spanish Succession, the church was enlarged in 1734, when the adjoining cloister was constructed. Access to the church is only through hiking The Wank, a short climb of 40 meters from Partenkirchen.

Saint Martin's Church

Martinskirche, the parish church of Garmisch, was built to replace the Saint Nikolaus Chapel, which had gotten too small for the community. The community of Garmisch volunteered many workers and materials for the construction of the church, including stone from the abandoned Werdenfelser Castle, above town on the Kramerspitze. The church was consecrated 23 September 1734, by the Bishop of Freising, who was also the secular ruler of the area. Located in downtown Garmisch, with it's pink spire easily visible from anywhere in town, Martinskirche is often used as a landmark when giving directions.

Saint Sebastians Chapel

Sebastians-Kapelle is a small chapel located in the center of Partenkirchen on the main street of town, Ludwigstrasse. The chapel was built in 1637 at a plague victims cemetery on what was then the edge of town. The chapel was dedicated to Saint Sebastian, and Saint Roch, both well known patron saints of plague sufferers. The cemetery has since been converted to the Partenkirchen World War I memorial.

Olympic and Nazi Era History

Garmisch and Partenkirchen had both been well known ski areas and resort towns since the 1920s. When Germany was selected to host the 1936 Olympics the town quickly received Hitler's nomination for the winter games. As Garmisch and Partenkirchen were two separate entities, having individual municipal governments and economies, the request was initially turned down by the Olympic Committee. To create a larger economy that would meet the requirements of the Committee, Hitler proposed the combination of Garmisch and Partenkirchen into a single entity, Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Due to the different ethnic and historical backgrounds of the two communities, the people of both towns were not interested in a merger between them. In 1935 the question was put to a vote, and was decisively turned down. Regardless of the wishes of the people of Garmisch and Partenkirchen, Hitlers plan was enacted, creating a single entity in 1935. If the wishes of the town come true, Garmisch-Partenkirchen will again host the Winter Olympics in 2018. Official bidding for the right to host the Olympics will begin in 2010, by which time the modernization of the local sports infrastructure should be completed in anticipation of the 2011 World Championships.

Adolf Hitler Platz

In 1935 a new Rathaus, or Town Hall, was constructed for the combined town at the major intersection in Partenkirchen. The current name of the adjoining plaza is Rathausplatz. During the Nazi Era, the public square was designated Adolf Hitler Platz.

Hall of National Socialism

On the edge of the Marienplatz in downtown Garmisch is a large building complex. During the Nazi Era, the building was the Hall of National Socialism although the present day use of the building is for entertainment. The complex is now known as "Peaches" after the largest establishment it houses, and contains three nightclubs, a restaurant, and facilities for the Bavarian radio station "Radio Oberland". Peaches is home to the best deal in town every tuesday night when it honors American dollars as if they were euros.

Ice Stadium

Constructed for the figure skating events of the 1936 Olympic Games, the ice stadium is still in use today throughout the year. Originally an open air arena, the roof, with its 60 meter span, was added in 1964. An annex to the skating rinks hosts various curling events, while an outdoor skating rink compliments the indoor facilities. The original facility seats 10,000 people and is the home of the local hockey team, SC Reisersee, famous for over 10 national championships. It also hosts a figure skating exhibition every January. The local swimming complex is located on the grounds. The heat for the pools is recycled from the cooling machines that allow the ice rink to operate in the summer.


A short climb of 82 meters, or a five minute drive, brings visitors to the Reissersee, an alpine lake. During the Olympic Games, the ice hockey and speed skating events were held on it's frozen surface. The natural bobsled run terminates at the Reisersee as well. A path around the lake allows people to hike its circumference in about 20 minutes. Swimming and row boating are also available in its waters. The terrace at the Reisersee Cafe provides a view of the Waxenstein mountain. The cafe itself is renowned for its selection of traditional Bavarian desserts.

Ski Stadium

Host of the Olympic ski events, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies, the ski stadium seats 80,000 people. Currently under renovation and modernization, the primary ski jump has been removed and will be replaced before the 2008 Four Hills Tournament. The secondary 70m meter ski jump and 45 m training jump remain and are not slated to be replaced at this time. In 1987, Janez Debalek, a Yugoslavian ski jumper set a world record with a 107 meter jump. For the 2011 World Championship, the slalom race is planned to finish inside the ski stadium, after completion of the course on the neighboring Eckbauer Ski Trail. The '36 Olympics were the first Olympic Games to feature the Combined Alpine Skiing event, and in an exhibition match, the local form of Curling, known as Eisstockschiessen .


The Garmisch-Partenkirchen ski area consists of 2 separate and distinct sections, the Classic Valley and the Zugspitze Glacier. It is possible but not practical to ski both areas on the same day, but they are not connected to each other, either by trails or lifts.

Classic Valley

The Classic Valley ski area features 19 named trails on and between 3 mountains, the Hausberg, Kreuzeck, and Alpspitze. The ski area is serviced by 4 cable cars, 4 chair lifts, and 9 surface lifts. Dining and warming facilities are found in 11 locations on and around the ski area. The ski area contains 6 trails rated least difficult, 11 trails of moderate difficulty and 2 trails marked as most difficult. The most well known trail is the Kandahar, which hosts an FIS Downhill Ski Race at least once a year.


The Zugspitze ski area, located on the Zugspitze Glacier, contains 9 named ski trails, a terrain park, 5 service trails, and the Riffelriss ski trail in the valley above the Eibsee. Access to the Zugspitze Glacier is via cable car from the Eibsee or cogwheel train which runs from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the glacier making stops in Grainau, and at Eibsee before reaching the ski area. Once on the glacier 5 surface lifts and a high speed 6 man chairlift allow access to the different ski trails. The glacier ski area contains 1 least difficult rated trail, 9 trails of moderate difficulty, and a terrain park. Many additional trails exist to connect the various trails, but as additional portions of the named trails, not as individual trails themselves. As the entire area is above the treeline, there are extensive off-piste sections of the glacier that are heavily skied. Hungry visitors can dine at the Sonn-Alpin, or Mountain Sun restaurant which features both indoor and outdoor seating. An igloo village and hotel has been a winter attraction on the Zugspitze for since 2005.


On any given day it is common to see many residents walking in the mountains surrounding town. An extensive network of hiking trails exist in the area providing access to many panoramic views, historical locations, and neighboring villages.


The Partnach Gorge was formed by the flow of the Partnach river, between the Hausberg and Eckbauer mountains. An object of natural beauty, the gorge is 702 meters in length and 80 meters deep. Many hiking paths wind through and around the gorge. The primary path was carved out of the cliff face in the late 19th century. During the 18th century, Partenkirchen was known for its logging industry. Many trunks were floated down the Partnach river to Partenkirchen, where they were used for construction and wood carving. A shrine near the entrance to the gorge is dedicated to many people who lost their lives in the gorge during the logging years. The Partnach Gorge is a primary starting point for many hikes in the Wetterstein Alps, providing access to Schloss Elmau, the hunting lodge at Schachen, and the Zugspitze Glacier.

Werdenfelser Castle

The ruins of Werdenfelser Castle lie 80 meters above the north side of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the Kramer Mountain and are accessible from several hiking paths. The castle was built before 1180, and was the seat of the rulers of the area, The Counts of Andechs and later the Bishop of Freising. During the late 16th century, the castle was the location of witch trials, where 51 people of both sexes were convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake. The castle had fallen into disuse by the 17th century and was scavenged for building material in the 18th century. Much of the scavenged stone was used to build Saint Martin's Church in downtown Garmisch. Popular folklore states that if a man and a woman witness the sunset from the ruins together, that they will fall in love and get married.


King Ludwig II was enamoured with the Bavarian Alps, where he constructed Schloss Linderhof, Neuschwanstein and the Hunting Lodge on the Schachen. Located over 800 meters above town, his hunting lodge, The Schachen, was completed in 1871. It is accessed only by a 5 hour walk through the Partnach Gorge, or a 3 1/2 hour walk from Schloss Elmau. Ludwig was known to ride a carriage or sleigh to reach the lodge, and had his birthday celebration each year at the hunting lodge. To this day his birthday is commemorated by a mass and celebration at the Schachen. Visitors to the hunting lodge commonly stay overnight at the Schachenhaus, an alpine guest house, and visit the nearby botanical gardens. Much of Ludwig's collection of pipes (used for smoking opium) was found at the Schachen after his death, is now located at the Ludwig II Museum at Schloss Herrenchiemsee.


Several hiking paths lead through and around the Höllentalklamm, a kilometer long, 100 meter deep gorge between the Alpspitze and the Waxenstein, often described as the big brother to the Partnachklamm. Completing a hike through the gorge requires a climb of 146 meters. Due to its sheltered location on the north side of the mountain range, it is common for snow to remain in the gorge through the spring and into the summer season. Hikers can start their trek through the gorge from several locations, but the most common is from the village of Hammersbach, located just east of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In 1888 a 29 meter long bridge was built 73 meters above the river to provide access to the Obererweg, or Upper Path, bypassing the interior of the gorge and allowing entrance to the gorge from the rear. Many miners huts, relics of Hammersbach's roots, dating from the 15th to the 19th century are located in the gorge and on the surrounding mountainside providing overnight shelter to hikers.


A plateau located less than 100 meters on the Kramerspitze above the north side of Garmisch is traversed by a 6.5 kilometer path. No less than four trail heads lead hikers to the Kriegergedächtniskapelle, a memorial chapel for the missing and dead from the area during the Second World War. The chapel was defaced in 2006 during a political rally. Restoration of the chapel occurred quickly, but many of the hand carved plaques for individual soldiers were damaged or destroyed. The pastures on the plateau provide a cattle grazing ground for the local farmers. Many panoramic views of the Wetterstein Range are available to people in many locations along the hiking path. The Almhütte, a mountain restaurant on the western end of the path is well known for its Windbeutel, Bavarian Cream Puffs, often filled with ice cream, fruit, candy and liquour. Determined hikers can climb from the plateau to Saint Martins Hut, a mountain inn located at 1028 meters. If one continues past the inn, several overlooks are passed on the way to the summit.


The September, 2007, population of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is currently 26,351 residents. The United States Army also maintains a garrison, golf course, recreation center, and school in town, increasing the population on any given day by 5-10%. Because of the large American presence, most of the population of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is fluent in English, although when asked if they speak English, most residents will reply "A little bit".

Famous Residents

Garmisch-Partenkirchen was the home of composer Richard Strauss, and author Michael Ende. Strauss' villa is located on the north edge of town at the foot of Kramerspitzem where he lived from 1908 until 1949. His grave is located in the city cemetery on the North end of Garmisch. Michael Ende, the author of The Neverending Story, was born in Garmisch, in 1929, and is honored by Michael Ende Platz, a plaza in the pedestrian zone in downtown Garmisch which is the location of the local casino.