For the last day of the time our friends, Allen and Rhonda, are with us in Germany, we toured the German Alps around Garmische-Partinkircken, site of the 1936 Winter Olympics. It is beautiful country. Ettal Abbey, founded in the 1300s, is known for its brewery, its strong liquor, and fantastic church. We skipped the first two and concentrated on the last. We were in the church during Sunday Mass. The church is an outstanding work of rococo art. Some say it is one of the purest examples of that particular architectural and artistic design. Rococo is a riot of movement and color in imagery, and the church is resplendent in its explosive use of that technique. The eye cannot quickly comprehend all that is before it.
The Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain, is close to Ettal. The gondola ride up is by far the most daring I have ever ridden. Unlike other gondola rides that soar above the trees as they sweep upward, this gondola ascends up the side of the mountain. You realize that there is absolutely nothing below you but air, and when the gondola makes its final ascent, it moves straight up like an elevator. Being used to gondolas that might reach heights above ground of 200 or so feet, I was terrified as I saw the ground underneath this gondola over a mile below. I am not sure I could ride it again. Of course, friend Rhonda was more chicken than I. She did not appreciate my running commentary of our ride upward, as in, “The last accident was over ten years ago and they haven’t made repairs since,” or, as we reached the top and the gondola came to a rest, “Since this thing is round, it could easily roll on down.” Honestly, the gondola did not glide into the station, it dangled in mid-air and you stepped onto a grate that led to the station. Then, you realized that the station was bolted to the side of the mountain–the station and platform are built around the peak and held in place by girders and cable wires. You soon realize that is no solid ground! I hollered at Rhonda, “The cables look like they are unraveling.” For those of you who know her, she gave me that look that said, “One more word…” The jagged peaks around us were in Austria and Switzerland. We could even see into Italy. We walked on a glacier, walked to Austria, and ate on an outdoor patio amidst God’s created beauty. Then, we took a cog-wheeled train through a long tunnel and through the mountain valley, past waterfalls and farms with goats and sheep. It was a fine final day with our friends. WEG