Conquering the Kofel, Oberammergau’s Signature Mountain

Towering over the village of Oberammergau is the Kofel, a Matterhorn-shaped mountain with an elevation of 1,342 meters (4,400 feet). The name Kofel means ‘cone-shaped mountain’ in Celtic, and so hints at the tribes and peoples that once passed through this mountainous part of Germany.

The Bavarians we’ve met in this picturesque town are well-versed in the art of hiking, known as wandern, in German. As a result, they’re able to call off the names of these mountain peaks with the same sort of ease with which they ascend them. Coming from the Midwestern United States where hikes are typically through flat terrain, and well aware of my distaste for heights, I wasn’t sure I would have the fortitude to reach the Kofel’s summit.

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A Peek at Linderhof Palace

Schloss Linderhof is the smallest of three castles built by King Ludwig II in Germany’s state of Bavaria in the mid to late 1800s. Simultaneously referred to as the ‘Fairy Tale King’ and ‘Mad King Ludwig,’ eccentric Ludwig is perhaps best known for having commissioned Neuschwanstein Castle, the so-called ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Disney Castle.’ He is said to have been obsessed with French culture, found inspiration in the architecture of Versailles, and reportedly wanted to infuse Bavaria with refined attractions. Linderhof Palace is the only one of his castles that the king lived to see completed.

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The Last Days of Summer – Oberammergau, Germany

Oberammergau pictures

“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
-Henry James

As we welcome autumn to Oberammergau – with its bounty of festivals and harvests – here is a peek at the scenes we glimpsed during our last summer strolls.

Here’s to beautiful fall foliage, and Bavaria’s winter wonderland vistas that await us just around the corner. I hope they’ll arrive fashionably late, though.

Oberammergau scenes 3

Flowers in Bavaria 2

Flowers in Bavaria

Kofel in Oberammergau

Oberammergau scenes 2

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Celebrating Mariä Himmelfahrt Day in Oberammergau, Germany

As the time drew closer to nine thirty in the morning, the stream of villagers dressed in traditional German folk costume passing by our window in Oberammergau, Germany grew. Ladies in elaborate Dirndls and men in Lederhosen pedaled by on their bikes. Some navigated their bikes’ handlebars with one hand, with elaborate wildflower bouquets in the other.

Curious as to why the locals were dressed in Trachten, I headed to the nearby St. Peter & Paul Church and Cemetery, from which the sounds of a choir and small orchestra streamed out. Some villagers placed bouquets on the graves of family members buried in the church cemetery. They had come to the church to celebrate Mariä Himmelfahrt Day, or the Feast of the Assumption, a Catholic holiday that is also celebrated publicly in some German states every August the 15th. Many government offices and businesses are closed.

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Angels, Busts and Saints Dressed in Snow: A Wintry Visit to Oberammergau’s Cemetery

Perhaps it is a bit macabre, but I find cemeteries – particularly those in foreign locales – to be fascinating and fitting spots to reflect upon a place’s culture and history, and upon life itself.

When my husband and I last visited Paris, we spent several hours strolling through the city’s famous Père Lachaise Cemetery, passing headstones of the famous such as Edith Piaf, Chopin, and Jim Morrison, and wondering about the lives of others buried there. Autumn leaves danced on the ground. The sun shone through the kaleidoscopic stained glass that adorned the windows and doorways of ornate mausoleums. Parisians on lunch break sought refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city by escaping within the cemetery’s peaceful walls; they sat on benches with books or lunch bags in hand.

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Dizzied by a Dazzling Array of Dirndls in Bavaria

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Whenever I see Bavarians dressed in traditional German attire, I can’t help but recall a playful prank that my former American colleagues routinely played on friends and family who would come to visit them in Germany. The husband and wife would get laced up in their finest Trachten-wear (German traditional dress consisting of men’s Lederhosen (leather pants) and a St. Pauli Girl-esque Dirndl (dress)) and pick up their guests at the Frankfurt Airport in costume. Before their meeting, they explained to their friends that they would be dressed in such a manner so they could better blend in with the locals, and not perpetuate the ‘ugly American’ stereotype.

 
 

Anyone who’s been to Germany would know their clothing caper to be just that – a prank – but apparently many friends were initially naïve, resulting in a good laugh.

In Oberammergau, where we’ve been living the past two months, it’s not uncommon to see a handful of locals sporting their Bavarian best. Most often, we spot gentlemen in green or grey woolen hats – adorned with pewter pins with hunting motifs, feathers, and brushes made of spiky goat hair.

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A few days ago, my husband and I, battling a case of ‘cabin fever,’ embarked on a brisk walk through the village. The weather has been unseasonably cold lately, and we quickly developed popsicle toes and fingertips. Seeking an escape from the chilly temperatures before we turned back toward home, we stopped in a traditional clothing store and found ourselves wowed by the array of Bavarian garments for sale.

 

The attention to detail was pleasing: engraved buttons, intricate stitching and colorful fabrics. Prices there generally averaged 200 Euro (about $265) for a Dirndl, plus the price of a frilly, white, cropped blouse. Needless to say, I have three simple Dirndls in my wardrobe (two of which I’ve sported and been spilled upon at Oktoberfest), so I didn’t buy another. The shopkeeper was so friendly and enthusiastic about the upcoming collection, that I might be inclined to do so in the future, though.

 

For the record, Shawn didn’t take an interest in, nor buy the Lederhosen-inspired swim trunks. :)

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Twisting Tongues in Bavaria

German words have a reputation for being long, and at times very expressive. Two of my descriptive favorites are Zahnfleisch (literally ‘tooth meat’ or ‘gums’) and Schneebesen (which literally translates to ‘snow broom’ but means ‘whisk.’)

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Photo du Jour: Coffee Crybaby – Oberammergau, Germany

An image of a grumpy baby adorns the wall of a bakery in Oberammergau, Germany, enticing customers with the establishment’s promise of a tasty cup of joe. The poster reads: “Still tired? Here, you’ll find really good coffee.”

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