After last year's summer holiday when we spent half-an-hour zig-zagging our way along the border between Italy and Austria - and thus adding Austria to the list of countries we had visited on foot - we decided to go to different part of Austria for this year's holiday. After briefly consulting the internet, we alighted on Ehrwald as a place we would like to try. Ehrwald is a village that lies in the shadow of Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, and is just half-an-hour's journey by local train away from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the (double) market town that hosted the 1936 Winter Olympic Games in Germany. As seems to be usual these days, we travelled by train from Amsterdam to Munich and then caught a local train to our destination in the Austrian Alps.
We arrived in Ehrwald on a bright and sunny day in the early afternoon and quickly found the apartment we had booked. We were greeted by a friendly and lugubrious woman who let us into the apartment. However, unfortunately, she spoke no English. This gave a chance to my wife to practise the German she had been studying at evening college for the past year. Amazingly - should I say that? - she managed to speak and understand sufficient German to our host to allow us to stay there for the next week!
The next day we walked for a quite considerable distance along the lower reaches of Zugspitze negotiating our way through the runners who were running - and occasionally walking - the Ehrwald half-marathon, a very well-known (apparently!) international running challenge that attracted a good number of entrants to this marvellous part of Austria. As we approached the close of our first day's walk of about 10 miles we encountered the first hint of rain. To be fair, it didn't exactly rain... but nonetheless we stopped and donned our waterproofs - for the next mile at least(!).
Unfortunately, that was it for the next 3 days. It rained intermittently over the next few days. On Wednesday the heavens opened and the rain poured down for 24 hours. This didn't stop us from walking - no fear! On that day, we had a marvellous low-level walk to the foot of the Seebensee waterfall, which falls for 100 metres down to the valley. Still, this wasn't entirely what we wanted - or expected - when we booked this holiday.
On Thursday, it appeared to be reasonably bright and... crucially... no rain! We decided to go for a walk up to the popular location of Seebensee, which stands at 1657 metres above sea level. The walk starts at Ehrwalder Alm and in order to reach there we caught a cable car that saved us having to walk for an additional mile - or more to the point, an additional 500 metres upwards! From Ehrwalder Alm it is just a matter of following a well-developed and clearly signed good trail that is used by mountain cyclists as well as walkers for the next mile and half.
At this point you have a choice. You can either walk along the cycle track, which has the same well-developed route, or you can follow a walking trail that takes you slightly above the route of the cyclists and involves you having to navigate your way a little more carefully through the conifer woods. We, of course, chose to use the latter route. Both of these trails double-back on you so that you reach a point well above the start of the walk and can look back down the valley in the direction of Ehrwald. From here you can just see the place where we caught the cable car down in the valley below.
At this point you probably think that you are almost there to see the lake. Alas no... you still have to climb - again on a well-developed trail that is used by cyclists - up the next 80 metres until you reach Seebensee. Fortunately, if you feel the need, there is a restaurant here that can feed and serve drinks to you to help you on your way! At the top of the path is Seebensee, a small lake that is or was formed by a retreating glacier. A cow was serving as a pose for all of the photographers who passed her by at this point. Yes, I am afraid that I was one of those photographers!
In the distance on this photograph, you can probably see a small and best described as a 'hut'. This is the Coburger Hutte, a well-known landmark in the area - that serves food and drink, of course! - at the end of several trails. In order to reach this is it just a matter of climbing an additional 260 metres more-or-less straight up. I have to say that I was somewhat hesitant in committing myself to climbing this. However, my wife was determined to go. It would only take us half an hour to climb up to the top she said. I was afraid to disagree! Before we ventured on our way we had to pause a little while whilst it started to rain - again(!). Fortunately, it was only a local shower and after a short break it cleared and so we began our climb. As I suspected, going up was relatively straightforward - it was coming down I feared! The view from the top of the climb was truly stunning, looking out over the turquoise lake with the mountains beyond.
At 1920 metres this was the highest point we reached on this holiday. Not too bad for someone with a 'gammy' arm!
Below us was a further lake, Drachensee, on the far side of which was a path, which took intrepid walkers up and over the mountain pass to eventually arrive at the Inn valley. Maybe we will come back and follow that path in the future... perhaps? I think not!
This would have been a good point to have a drink at the Coburger Hutte but rather surprisingly it was rather busy - so busy in fact that we decided to sit out and have our pre-prepared lunch outside. Not that this really mattered. We had an outstanding view of Seebensee and the mountains beyond. The only impediment was an Alpine Chough with its yellow beak and red legs which came fairly close to where we were sitting trying to get a helping of our lunch!
After finishing our lunch the time came when we would have to start descending back down to the lake. As I predicted, this was not a happy experience for me. At one point early in the descent I had to say that I was stranded - I couldn't see anything I could do to help me to descend without falling flat on my face, ankle or some other part of my body which looked as though it could be easterly be broken. My wife, being very supportive, said "pull yourself together and find some other way down!" - or something like that. Fortunately, after a few minutes - which must have seemed interminable - I managed to work out how I could descend without ending up flat on my face. This involved me turning back on myself and finding another more slightly easier route down. This was the most difficult part of the descent. It became much/slightly easier after this point. Eventually I - and we - made it back down to the shore of the lake. From there it was just a matter of following a similar route back down to Ehrwalder Alm, which takes about 2 hours to complete.
This was a marvellous walk, full of gorgeous and stunning scenery - even in the rain! The walk to Seebensee is very popular with locals and visitors for understandable reasons. At a stretch, if you are interested in doing this, I would say allow yourself 4 hours to complete the walk from Ehrwalder Alm to the Coburger Hutte. However, if you wanted to adopt a more leisurely approach to the walk allow yourself a little extra time to pause and look out over the Ehrwald valley and the mountains beyond.
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