Monday, November 05, 2012

Wank the Mountain

Most days the kids have a great view of the Alps from their school. It never fails to take our breath away. But as there is so much green space all around us, including forests, with numerous biking and hiking trails, we don’t often get to the Alps. However when we do  the forty minute drive south, we can’t stop asking ourselves why we don’t go Alpine more often.

Recently, we took the kids to the Wank, a mountain in the Bavarian Alps and part of the Loisach Valley, very near the German border with Austria. Despite the oddish name, it is a great day trip and one I discovered through a school group this past September. We drove to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a little mountain town very near the Wank. The kids were mostly ready to hike but after we got stuck in traffic, the mood in the car soured.. We all survived by eating and drinking all snacks that I had packed for the hike. Luckily for us, Garmisch- Partenkirchen is the site of an American military base and thus the town has a number of American eateries. We drove past a Burger King and Adam relaxed, knowing American food was possible at some point during the day.
Our day started at the base of the Wank at about 700 meters/ 2,300 feet. There we boarded the Wankbahn, a cable car system that takes folks up and down the mountain for most of the year. Winter can come get here and in fact on the day I first hiked the Wank, we were told the cable car might shut down to bad weather. I wanted to get everyone up the mountain before the snow and we made it. We had temperatures near 30C on top of the Wank. The very next week, the snow came. The Wankbahn, built in 1928, slowly chugs along a 3 kilometer course up the mountain. The cable car stops at a middle station, or rather it slows there. According to plan, we all got off there and started the straight up hike to the top.

The kids were great, running and jumping and splashing in the creek.  We walked through the mostly spruce and pine forest, all replanted after it was completely harvested in Roman times.The hike was a hard one but within an hour and half or so, we all made it to the top at 1,780 meters/5,840 feet. Below us, a multitude of paragliders drift by, making our hike seem even higher than it was.
The Wank has a grassy summit with plenty of room to walk around and take in the panoramic views of the southern Alps. Tori took particularly pleasure in pointing out the Zugspitz, the tallest mountain in Germany (approc 1960 meters) and one she hopes to climb soon. On the top there is also a summit cross, erected in 1904. Most mountains in Germany have these crosses on top, causing everyone to slow down. After a brief reflection, we headed to the Wank Haus (1911) for refreshment. There hikers can get a hot meal, usually something with potatoes and sausage and of course a beer. We can usually get people fed with a lentil soup, picking the sausages off the top, and apple pie, draining away the vanilla cream that always comes with it. While our kids were not happy with the German food selection., they all drank the ski wasser (ski water) some sort of homemade Gatorade and had a pretzel. We are not proud but there was a Burger King stop on our return trip home.