Cologne, Germany’s 4th largest city, is located on the mighty Rhine River, historically one of the great rivers of the continent and among the most important arteries of industrial transport in the world. As one example, while we were here, we saw 5 or 6 river cruise boats anchored in Cologne. The city was founded and established in the 1st century AD as a Roman settlement. When Cologne began building its underground transportation system they discovered extensive Roman ruins. In the year 310 AD under the emperor Constantine I a bridge was built over the Rhine at Cologne.
Frankfurt is unlike any other Germany city. It is a finance and business hub, home to one of the world’s largest stock exchanges as well as the new headquarters for the European Central Bank. Its airport is the third largest in Europe. Due to its soaring skyline and the Main River that runs through it, Frankfurt refers to itself as “Main-hatten”.
Mentioned in historical documents as far back as 794 AD, Frankfurt was an important center for the Holy Roman Empire. With the election of Frederick I in 1152, the city became the customary site of the selection of Emperors and German Kings. A stock exchange began operating in Frankfurt in 1585.
The city of Heidelberg is located about 48 miles south of Frankfurt on the Neckar River. The village of Bergheim, which now lies at the heart of modern Heidelberg, was first mentioned in documents dated 769 AD. The founding of Heidelberg is considered to be 1196 when that name was referred to in a document in Schönau Abbey, a 12th century monastery.
Leaving Munich, we picked up a rental car that we will be using for the next 10 days or so. We visited Dachau and then drove south to Garmish-Partenkirchen. This town, which is the combination of two formerly separate communities, is located in the south of Germany on the doorstep to the Alps.
Garmish-Partenkirchen is a ski town. From the town you can see the highest peak in Germany, Zugspitze at 9,718 feet. Also, the town was the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics, the first to feature Alpine skiing. Still, if you want to impress your friends, just tell them that you will be wintering in Garmish.
The old part of Garmish is quintessentially Bavarian. Our guidebook directed us to check out a restaurant in the old town called Gasthof Fraundorfer. They are known to serve very good Bavarian food and they have live music, yodeling and the Bavarian style dance, known as Schuhplattler with hip and foot slapping. We enjoyed the food and the entertainment.
A well known natural feature here is the Partnach gorge. This is a deep gorge that has been cut by the Partnach River. The gorge is about 1/2 mile long and as deep as 260 feet. It is located a little south of the Olympic Stadium. You must walk from the stadium to the downriver entrance to the gorge. There is a trail that has been cut into the rock on one side of the gorge that runs about 20 feet above the riverbed. There are a number of tunnels and curtains of streams of water falling all along the path. There are dramatic views at every point. In addition, if you’re willing to make the additional hike, there is a high iron footbridge the crosses the gorge affording a breathtaking view of a long section of the river.
Next stop: Freiburg, Germany
In Switzerland German is the primary language in the eastern 2/3 of the country and this includes the city of Lucerne. Lucerne has been described as perhaps the prettiest city in Switzerland and we can confirm that it is quite appealing. Like Geneva, Lucerne sits on a beautiful lake that bears its name and the Reuss River runs through the city.