For me the town of Garmisch is synonymous with a sense of peace. Growing up there life seemed innocent and still sweet. As children we played outside all day and came home for dinner. We took a shuttle bus from our neighborhood to the city’s downtown to an American movie theater for Saturday matinees without our parents. On winter Wednesdays our school released at noon and we would go to ski school for the afternoon. Things were easy for me at the age of 7. Later as an adult, Garmisch became a place of refuge for me. I spent long weekends over the summers when stationed in Germany biking and hiking in these same hills. In the winters I’d go skiing on the same mountains I skied as a boy. After my first deployment to Iraq, I returned to Garmisch twice for skiing in the first months after I returned, living life to the fullest and making the most of pristine snow conditions. I’ve always felt both at home and at peace in Garmisch no matter what time of my life it has been. This trip was no different.
Of all the places I enjoy visiting, none are as pretty or as somber as the Kriegergedächtniskapelle, or Warrior Memorial Chapel, on the heights above the city. A short hike or run from downtown, this site is a memorial to local Germans who died or went missing during World War 2. Built in 1952 the memorial does little to glorify war, but rather honor the dead and missing in the peaceful solitude of the mountains. It is a quiet and sobering place with family plaques lining the outer walls with the names, pictures, dates, and locations their loved ones either died or went missing.
The chapel serves as a lasting reminder of war’s terrible cost, but still offering a beautiful view of the valley below. I first experienced the chapel in 1982 on what the Germans call a “volksmarch” or literally a people’s walk, with my family. During this recent trip, I completed a short run up to the chapel with a colleague to enjoy the tranquility and serenity once again.
On a snowy afternoon, my colleague and I headed up into the hills to find the kappelle. I had a general idea of where it was. After all, isn’t half the fun of an adventure getting there? We started off going down a main road, then turned left into a residential neighborhood until that road ended and a trail leading up the mountain began. A couple of hundred meters up the trail, the snow grew deep and we lost the trail. Did we let it stop us? No! We continued onward and upward in the snow, running across what would normally be cow pastures in the summer, but now were nothing more than deep snow covered fields. Finally, we found a main trail and a sign for the chapel, and ran down another mile or so until we found the landmark. The snow fell around us as we approached. The lone building stood quietly beautiful in the falling afternoon snow. We walked around the chapel looking at the family plaques, paying our respects, both being combat veterans, both knowing war’s terrible costs.
After a short while, we headed back down the mountain on a real trail this time. Oddly enough, we hit the main road only a couple of hundred meters from where we had originally turned off. Such is the life of a trail runner! Regardless, the adventure made the chapel visit all the more worth it. We returned back to our hotel, and changed quickly for dinner. There was more German beer with our names on it! The run and the cold only intensified our desire to quench our thirst and feed our stomachs.
Throughout this trip I was fortunate to not only have my favorite beer, a German hefeweizen, but also try a few other beers along the way along with some wine. Here’s a quick synopsis of a few of my German beverages choices:
Glühwein: essentially warm mulled red wine. Traditionally served at German Christmas or Christkindl markets during the holidays. It’s the perfect treat to stand out in the cold night air and let yourself soak in the holidays. I found a booth on Garmisch’s main street serving this treat and made several trips on my visit.
Ettaler Südtirol Chardonnay: Apparently, they make wine around here—not just wine, but Chardonnay. Südtirol is another term for a part of Austria, literally meaning southern Tirol. This particular wine was produced by the monks of the Ettaler monastery outside of Garmisch with grapes from Austria. While a bit dryer compared to American Chardonnays, it wasn’t bad. These monks knew there stuff!
Ettaler Kloster Dunkel: Another great choice by the monks of the Ettaler monastery! I tried this in a local restaurant: simply incredible. Not overly heavy or hoppy, this beer is flavorful and tasty. It was the perfect beer after a cold run around town.
At this point I was halfway through my trip and still felt like there was so much to do, but knew that pesky thing called work would keep me from really enjoying Garmisch like I wished. I figured I would have one or two runs left before leaving, and needed to wrap this grand adventure up with one last epic beer. Fate was on my side for both the run and the beer; I would find both on my last day in this beautiful place.