The Alpine Road and Zugspitze

The German Alpine Road (Deutsche Alpenstrasse) is one of Europe’s most ancient and scenic routes, winding along the Bavarian Alps, the spectacularly beautiful natural border between Germany and Austria. For 300 view-filled miles east of the Bodensee (Lake Constance), past ancient castles, quaint chalet-inns, and mountaintop villages with elaborately painted houses the Bavarians call Luftlmalerei, the road gives travelers a look at some of the best of Germany. A good halfway stopping point is Garmisch, host of the 1936 Winter Olympics and home of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. It’s an easy ascent to the top of this 9,731-foot peak with heart-stopping views, either by the cog railway, which departs from the center’s train station for a leisurely seventy-five-minute ride, or, for those who know no fear, by the cable car, which leaves from Eibsee, just outside town.

Finally, there could be no greater finale to the Alpine Road than the lake, Kiinigssee. Willi vertical escarpments of the Wartzman Mountains almost completely surrounding the lake, the most enjoyable—and only—way to see Konigssee is by boat. Electric and quiet, the boats do not disturb the deep, cool waters as they drop visitors off at the pint-sized pilgrimage church of St. Bartholoma, wedged into a small cove. Originally constructed in the 11th century, Bartholoma was rebuilt some 600 years later. With the KSnigssee as its highlight, this gorgeous little slice of Germany that protrudes into Austria is the centerpiece of the stunning Berchtesgaden National Park. The 120 miles of hiking trails are sprinkled with high-altitude restaurant-huls, and the region abounds with chaletlike guesthouses and rooms for rent.