Munich is around 95km North of the Austrian border, and the vast Bavarian Alps mountain range. The highest mountain in that range - and the highest in Germany - is the Zugspitze. It's highest point is 2,962m above sea level, making it a perfect height for snow sure skiing in the winter.
An old colleague once told me that if I ever had a spare day in Munich, to hire a car or take the train to the Alps. It's a one and a half hour drive or train ride, you can ski in the winter, and hike some amazing mountains and countryside in the summer. I was sold. And now, finally, I had the chance to take a day trip.
On the 2nd January I ventured to the Hauptbahnhof in Munich to enquire about trains to the Zugspitze. On our way from the airport, I saw flyers on the S-bahn showing how easy it was to take the train from Munich to the slopes. Well, I assume that's what the flyer said....my German is basic at best.
After a short queue in the information office, I was surprised and delighted when I found out a 'Kombiticket' for a return train ticket from Munich all the way to the Zugspitze, AND a days ski pass on the Zugspitze ski area, cost just €50. Yes, €50. See for yourself - http://zugspitze.de/en/winter/skiarea/zugspitze/garmischer-ski-ticket.
Before I knew it, I would be spending the first few days of the New Year on the slopes. Wunderbar!
It is this proximity to the Alps that makes Munich the ideal city break destination for anyone with a passion for hiking, skiing, or other outdoor sports. Flights from London are now cheaper than some internal flights in Germany, meaning there's no better time to give Munich a try.
The first train to leave Munich for Garmisch leaves at 5.30am, with other trains departing every hour. As we were on holiday, we opted for the 7:30am train. Getting up at 5am is far too early when on holiday! Being a Friday, I was thankful there were other skiers and snowboarders around, as standing in the concourse of Munich's Hauptbahnhof in bright yellow salopettes and a green jacket could have been a faux pas.
We grabbed some breakfast (German salami and bread - a childhood favourite of mine) and boarded the train. We glided out of Munich in the darkness, and soon reached the countryside. We passed small villages and farmsteads, and watched the sunrise over a lake as the Alps came into view.
As we got closer to Garmish, the mountains started getting bigger - looming into view around each corner. More skiers and snowboarders clattered on board, with equipment precariously placed around the train.
After an hour and a half the train pulled into Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We went into the information office, swapped our train ticket for a ski pass, and hopped on the Zugspitzbahn to make the final 75-minute ascent to the peak.
The train arrived, and after skis and snowboards were stacked on the outside of the train (German efficiency right there - more room inside the train for we humans), we climbed on board.
The train snaked it's way through tiny hamlets and fields of snow, and we dropped eager skiers off at various stops until the train started the final ascent from Eibsee.
After some amazing views of the Alps and Eibsee lake at around 1800m, the train burrowed its way into the mountainside, and emerged 30 minutes later at 2600m, a stones throw from the slopes and snow of the Zugspitze glacier.
If we had our own skis, the total journey would have taken around two and half hours. It was probably the easiest, hassle free city to mountain slopes journey I've ever made.
Alas. We had to hire our skis, boots, poles and helmets. We turned right at the top of the main station, and joined the ski hire queue.
Even ski hire was cheap. Skis, poles, boots and a helmet for less than €40 each. More great value for money.
And with that, we headed to the slopes! The views were spectacular.
We started skiing at around 11am, stopped for lunch at 1:30pm (more German salami), and skied our last run at 3:30pm. In hindsight, we should have got the 6:30am train from Munich, which would have given us an extra hour on the slopes, but the hotel bed was warm and comfy :)
We started our journey back down the mountain, made a quick change at Grainau and were quickly back on the main train back to Munich.
Many people perceive skiing to be very expensive, but this is a great example of how it can be done on a budget.
So the next time you're in Munich, put down the steins for the day, and head to the Alps. A great day out for under €100. Just don't forget the German salami.