Lüftlmalerei, or Air Painting in Bavaria: 14 Examples

I mentioned Lüftlmalerei, or Air Painting, in my 68 Hours in Garmisch-Partenkirken Notebook post yesterday, but feel it needs a little further explanation. And more examples.

Lüftlmalerei refers to the colorful frescoes that are commonly seen on the sides of houses, hotels, storefronts and shops throughout not only GaPa, but in other parts of Southern Germany, Italy and elsewhere in the Alpine world. The style dates back to the mid 18th century and it’s believed that the name is derived from Zum Lüftl, the house and home of facade painter Franz Seraph Zwinck in Oberammergau, Germany. I’ve seen very similar decorative murals in some of Slovenia’s Alpine regions; whether that’s considered authentic Lüftlmalerei, I don’t know. As I recall the similarity in styles were striking.

The majority of the murals I saw in GaPa —and there were LOTS— depicted religious motifs, but there were plenty that were secular in nature as well. Fairy tales were a common theme, as were depictions of a romanticized version of country life. And young love, too.

Below, a slide show with 12 more examples. Some really beautiful work. Enjoy!


Previously from Garmisch-Partenkirchen:

~ 68 Hours in a Snowless Garmisch-Partenkirchen – GaPa Notebook
~ 45-Second Cheap Hotel Adviser – Haus Höllental, Garmisch-Partenkirchen
~ Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany – Travel | Stock Image Gallery
~ Waxenstein Mountain, Bavaria (Pic du Jour)



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68 Hours in a Snowless Garmisch-Partenkirchen – GaPa Notebook

The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest peak. At 2,962m (9,717ft) It’s also among the highest places in the Alps where you can get a decent glass of sparkling wine. Reason enough to make a small detour last month to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s premiere winter sport center on my way home after a quick trip to Ohio.

But thanks to uncooperative mid-February weather, I didn’t see it. I didn’t even come remotely close.

“Not a very good day out today,” my guest house manager said as she set two hefty breakfast plates in front of me. “You probably shouldn’t have planned on the mountain today. Really bad idea.”

Her stern matter-of-factness was a welcome interjection of service industry honesty that I miss whenever I spend any time in the U.S. I got the impression that this woman never directed a rehearsed and insincere “Hi, my name is Suzana and I’ll be making sure you have a great day today and How are YOU!?!” to anyone.

Rain was beating on the window behind me. “It’s pretty bad here, but isn’t visibility better on the Zugspitze?”

“It’s one kilometer visibility. Good is one hundred.”

The eye roll that I pretended to see, and one that saved me the €41.50 cost of the cogwheel train and cable car ticket to the summit, was the proverbial last nail. My one serious attempt in this tragically warm winter to do some skiing wasn’t going to happen. I already knew that when my train was rolling through the green countryside between Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen –GaPa from hereon– two days earlier. And before that when my plane was buzzing dozens of shades of green on approach to Munich.

So I did what I’m most comfortable doing. I walked. A lot. I had 68 hours to kill in a winter wonderland sans snow.


The world fondly remembers the 1936 Summer Olympics Games in Berlin where Jesse Owens’ four gold medals on the track were the athletic equivalent of a middle finger colonoscopy deep up Adolph Hitler’s ass. But Germany also hosted the Winter Games earlier that year in GaPa, and I couldn’t help but focus almost solely on that connection as views of the Bavarian Alps drew closer through the slightly mud-dusted windows of Regionalbahn 5421.

There was a Winter Olympics happening on the other end of the continent in a country firmly ruled by an autocrat. The city’s name even came about when the Fuhrer ordered that the two towns – Garmisch to the west and the older Partenkirchen to the east– merge as one for the Olympics’ sake. Billboard at Munich’s airport prominently featured Germany’s winter athletes. Live bobsled races were on every public television monitor at the airport and train station.

I watched those broadcasts with surprisingly wide and attentive eyes. We touched down just a few minutes after 10; the lack of sleep on trans-Atlantic flights rarely catches up to me until sometime on the second day and that would be the case this time too. Not that you need to be fully rested to find your way out of Munich’s sprawling airport. It’s a snap, as is getting to Munich’s busy central station, or Hauptbahnhof via S-bahn, a 45-minute €10.40 ride. [Here’s a concise up-to-date guide.]

There are regional trains to GaPa every hour. The 82-minute ride (€20 one-way) takes you through a few small suburban cities that then turn into towns which gradually evolve into villages as the valley narrows on its approach to the Alps. There are many piles of neatly stacked wood but no snow anywhere. The bright sunshine that stung my eyes on the outskirts of Munich is long gone when we pull into GaPa a few minutes before two. Here the skies are gray but that doesn’t detract from the station’s attractiveness.

My hotel, the Haus Höllental, is in Garmisch, about a five minute taxi ride from the bahnhof. It’s on Höllentalstraße, a quiet street not far from Garmisch’s center which I’m attracted to immediately and will grow to appreciate over the next 60 hours. [A 45-second review is here]. I check in, grab a few brochures and a map. I’m told there’s rain in the forecast. I don’t bother with the ski rental brochure. But I do have an Olympic experience.

Reissersee and the Olympic bob run

Jet lag kept me up until about 4am the next morning and kept me down until nearly noon. But I awoke relatively refreshed. I followed the clear skies towards the Riessersee Fußweg, a walking path that cuts through a pleasant residential section of the southern part of Garmisch and leads eventually, after a ten minute climb up a hill, to the Riessersee Hotel Resort at the edge of the lake whose name it bears.

The Riesersee (that’s a lake) sits in a beautiful setting, surrounded by forest on two sides, a four star hotel on another, and the majestic peaks of the Waxenstein Mountain in the distance to the southwest. Kleiner, or smaller Waxenstein, to the right stands at 2,136m (7,007ft) while Großer Waxenstein reaches 2,277m (7,470ft).

At the 1936 Games, the frozen surface of the Reissersee was the host venue for speed skating and the Olympic Hockey tournament, a notion that seemed all but laughable on the day I visited.  There was a thin sheet of ice covering most of the lake, one that would probably support the weight of a few squirrels. Minus hockey gear.

An access road that winds up into the mountain to the southeast leads to the Olympic bobsled run, a 1.5km track that was used from 1910 until 1966. It’s a pleasant hike to the top where you’ll find a small structure at the start and a few info displays set in a lush and invigorating Bavarian forest. The walk down was along the entire course, now little more than a dirt track, which finishes at the shore of the Reissersee. It almost made me want to be a bobsledder.

A pair of videos coming soon.

Garmisch Bobsled Run 5 Garmisch Bobsled Run 4

Warm and rainy February

This was the topic of the day, every day. Warm temperatures and a lack of snow forced the cancellation of the annual women’s World Cup ski races scheduled for Jan. 25-25 and the men’s downhill and giant slalom races slated for Feb. 1-2. The losses were a big hit for the local economy; one restaurant owner said it essentially ruined her winter season. Another called this winter’s dip in fortunes “dramatic”. An employee at the tourist office said she didn’t have official figures to provide, but did say the decline was notable.

The only snow I saw was midway up the most nearby ski slopes –even those were not operating at full capacity– and about a centimeter’s worth of slushy fluff along the path that circles the Reissersee –and there, only in spots shielded from the sun.

That said, most visitors come during the summer months, when the melted snow and hardened mud make way for a lifetime’s supply of hiking and walking trails through one of the most beautiful settings in the Alps. For that I will return.

Other Highlights

In no particular order:

- Exploring the town’s Lüftlmalerei, or “air painting”, murals painted on houses, hotels, stores and other buildings. Many are religious in nature, some elaborate scenes, but some are also more simple designs. Like this lonely hockey player. [More about this beautiful style and several more examples here.]

- Local yodel. I can’t guarantee that you’ll hear traditional Alps yodeling, but I did, courtesy of six high school girls shrieking alpine style through an afternoon rain, snowboards in hand.

- Free public transport for visitors. Be sure you’re given a guest bus card at your hotel. If you’re not, ask. A very nice touch indeed.

- Hirschbratwurst, or venison-wurst, with a hefty serving of homemade potato salad, €7.40, at the Bistro Extrawurst. Tegernseer, a light beer brewed about an hour away, accompanied it pretty well. €1.20 for a small draft.

- Art Café.  A local coffee shop and small gallery where you’ll likely share the space with youngsters participating in an art workshop.

Garmisch 23

~ Endnotes ~

I’m not a shopper but for those of you who are know that GaPa is small enough to still have shops that close in the afternoon, while hosting pricey boutiques that don’t.

English is common enough, but not as prominent as in bigger German cities.

Getting there

Train: Hourly departures from Munich, just under 90 minutes. €20.10 one way at station, €19 EUR in advance via

Plane: Munich ( and Innsbruck ( airports


My complete Garmisch-Partenkirchen photo gallery is here.

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Haus Höllental, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

45-Second Cheap Hotel Adviser – Haus Höllental, Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Haus Höllental
Höllentalstraße 39
82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
€38/night via, local tourist tax of €2/night not included.

There is no shortage of places to lay your head in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany’s most popular winter sport destination.  At under €40/night, my guess is that you could do much worse than the Haus Höllental.

A traditional, family-run inn, the 15 rooms are comfortable and beds cozy –I was given a double— with ample sitting space that’s generally offered by hotels charging twice the price.

Breakfast was the standard bountiful fare typical of this part of Europe: a big pile of fruit, yogurt, a heaping basket of rolls, a pair of nice jams, a hard-boiled egg and a plate of cold cuts with juice, coffee or tea.

Best is the location: it’s a casual ten-minute stroll to the central Marienplatz to the north, and about five minutes to the nearest bus stop to the south. Train station to hotel was five minutes by taxi (red light not included), about €6.

Added bonus on a misty morning: the view of Kramerspitz to the north, a peak that juts 1,985m into the sky and with frost gripping the trees visible through breaks in the cloud that shrouds it, is spectacular.

I stayed at the Haus Höllental from 17-19 Feb 2014.

A note about hotel scores and reviews: I base everything on value for money. There’s no other way to compare a $15 a night room with one that costs $150. Or more. More about Piran Cafe’s review policy.

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Silhouette of the Brandenburg Gate

Atop the Brandenburg Gate

Today’s Pic de Jour is a silhouette of the quadriga that tops Berlin’s emblematic Brandenburg Gate, a four-horse chariot driven by Victoria, the Roman Goddess of victory. The chariot was sculpted by Johann Gottfried Schadow, and the gate completed in 1792. At a quick glance it appears that each of the horses is galloping in a different direction.

Waxenstein Mountain, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Waxenstein Mountain, Bavaria (Pic du Jour)

This is a south-facing view of Waxenstein Mountain taken this afternoon from the shore of the Riessersee lake in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Kleiner, or smaller Waxenstein, to the right stands at 2,136m (7,007ft) while Großer Waxenstein reaches 2,277m (7,470ft).

The mountain is part of the compact Wetterstein Range shared between Germany’s Bavaria and Autria’s Tyrol which is dominated by the Zugspitze, at 2,962m (9,717ft) the highest peak in Germany.

Look for a series of posts about Garmisch-Partenkirchen beginning this weekend.

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The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin (Pic du Jour)

I’ve posted this image of Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial before, but thought it appropriate to share again on the occasion of today’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The memorial, whose official name is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is a powerful and unsettling reminder of the horrors humanity is capable of.

Designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold, it covers a space of 19,000 square meters one block south of the Brandenburg Gate in the German capital’s Friedrichstadt neighborhood and was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, 60 years after the end of the World War II.

Never forget.

Photo taken on 17-Sep-2007

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Weekly Sunday Drive – 60-second Trabant Tour

When I was a kid growing up in the U.S. midwest, Sunday afternoons were oftentimes about drives. Usually into the nearby countryside east of Cleveland, much of which has long since devolved into developments with monstrously enormous homes. It was the same for a colleague Edwin, who grew up in the former East Berlin. But his drives weren’t enjoyed from the back seat of a 1969 Ford LTD. He and his three younger sisters were squeezed into the back of an early 1970s Trabant, similar to the one in the video above.

He didn’t tell me how long his parents waited before their legendary DDR limousine was finally delivered, but my guess is that when it did, they held on to it for some time. The average lifespan of the vehicle was an astounding 28 years. I’ll ask him next time I see him.

Officially it went from zero to 100kph/62 mph in 21 seconds and emitted four times as much pollution as the average car in Europe at that time. In all, 3,096,099 rolled off the assembly line. The one above wound up at the Historiale Berlin Museum and four wound up hanging in a U2 display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (pictured below). I have no idea what happened to the rest.

Anyone want to describe the riding experience?

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Berlin Quickie

Here’s a 4min&8sec vidblog from Berlin, the latest in my small –but growing!– Piran Cafe City Quickie series.

Berlin has long been on my short-short list of favorite European capitals – I’ve visited about a dozen times over the past eight years and always feel revitalized by the city’s unique energy.

These videos are not trying to be all-encompassing ‘destination’ pieces. They’re simply short visual notebooks from the road, shot quickly from the hip and then quickly-edited, attempting to provide a modest portrayal of a certain place at a certain time. Please let me know if, and when, I succeed.

Shots from 9-12-Sep-2011.

A few quick note on a few of the ‘cameo appearances’:

  • German Piratenpartei, or Pirate Party. In the 2011 Berlin State elections, held on the weekend following my visit, the party took 9% of the vote and won 15 seats in the Abgeordnetenhaus, or State Parliament, of Berlin. [Engilish wiki] [Party website][PPI - International collective]
  • Andrea Fischer, former member of the German Bundestag, campaigning for the Green Party at the Brandenburg Gate. The Greens took 11.6% of the vote, upping their number of seats by seven to 30.

This episode’s epilogue is at the Marx-Engels-Forum featuring some Asian tourists.

And the cool soundtrack is Yes, Inform by Christopher Mollineaux Carson aka Throcke from his album Sometimes not Unpoinful. Check out more of his work. (CC/Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License)

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Previous City Quickies:
~ Lille, France
~ Sarajevo (a series of timelapses, actually)
~ Rabat
~ Ljubljana (a 40min bike tour sped up and condensed to just over 5min)
~ Doha’s West bay area