Hiking up to the top of the Zugspitze from the German side and back down to the Austrian side took us three days. At 2962 meters, the Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain.
A string of coloured flags is fluttering across the Partnach stream. Hikers and mountain bikers step gingerly into the ice-cold water of the stream to cool their feet, or down huge glasses of beer and Apfelschorle (apple juice with mineral water) to cool their heads while a helicopter is delivering fresh supplies to the Angerhütte.
Sherpa Gyalzen has been working on the hut every summer since the 1990s and brought a touch of Nepal into the Bavarian Alps. This evening, the hut's manager plays the dulcimer for the guests. There is not much to do on a mountain hut except for music, beer and cards. Around 10 pm everybody retires to the dormitories. It was a fine sunny day and thus the hut is quite crowded, two people on each mattress.
“It's not far now!” The cheerful elderly lady smiles encouragingly at every hiker walking up. “Downhill, I've been walking seven minutes now!” Indeed, ten minutes later, the Knorr Mountain Hut comes into view. After a short break we continue, still facing a few hours more of uphill walking. Beyond a field of gravel on one of the many rocky outcrops around us, we spot a modern building. “But where is the Zugspitze?” Natascha complains. “We should be able to see it by now.” The modern building turns out to be a large platform with the Munich House, Germany’s highest mountain hut, a few fast food cafeterias and summit souvenir shops, and a German as well as an Austrian ropeway station. Everybody seems to be busy on the cell phone, calling Mom and Dad and friends to tell them where they are right now. Then, they have a beer and take the ropeway down.
“Republic of Austria,” a metal sign behind the wire-fence declares. At the Gatterl, about 2000 meters high and opposite the Knorr Hut, the German-Austrian border is marked by a proper gate. Perhaps it's only to prevent the cows from changing sides. The rolling green mountain pastures on the southern side of the mountain range seem impressively Tyrolean to us. A couple of middle-aged Nordic Walkers walk briskly past a small pest chapel. Both have taken off their shirts, and she is walking in an XL-sized dark blue laced brassiere. A group of senior citizens push their rented mountain bikes uphill. The Austrian village of Ehrwald can’t be far away.