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Skiing in Germany - Good Value Alpine Wonderland

By: Peggy Anne McNulty

Date Posted: 2001-03-16

After two very warm Christmases in Okinawa, we chose to hit the mountains of Germany for a bit of snow and ski. Extravagant? Perhaps. Impossible. Not at all! This is how you can plan for a similar Christmas or Spring Break in the future. Expedia.com became something I was checking from about mid-May for a December time frame. After watching the rates rise and fall over a period of days, I began to feel much like a day trader of flight fares. However, it does prove to be very cost effective. When a comparison of fares for a family of five was made between flying to the States to visit older children or take a trip to Germany, there was no choice. We bought a German dictionary, a map of Europe and started packing!

We left Naha mid-morning to Tokyo and got on board for a flight non-stop to Frankfurt. Arriving late at night into Frankfurt was no problem since we had a follow-on flight to Augsburg, Germany. This is about a one hour train ride to Munich which got us to Munich after the car rental closed. The three kids sacked out on chairs in the spacious closed airport while I sat with Danielle Steele and my husband churned his way through Tom Clancy's latest adventures, nudging each other to stay awake. Budget opened at 0600, so the night wasn't too unbearable. SATO in Okinawa made the arrangements for the car and we were very pleased with the mini van. It had the added feature of keeping our 11 year olds equidistant from each other so we could pretend that we were actually on a vacation to relax. And we surely did!

Shop on line for places to stay in Garmisch, which is an Alpine wonderland to explore. The bright sun illuminated shiny, translucent shimmering trees in the absence of snow for the first week of our trip. The photography was tricky as one had to compensate for all of the white in the background but some of the best photos were most treasured mistakes! No photo could ever capture the beauty all around...it was incredible to see. We were able to stay at Oberammegau at the NATO Shape School, which was having a winter recess at the time. The arrangements were made on the Internet since we were not familiar with the bases in Europe. A valuable book on military travel obtained at the Bookstore at Foster will also give you ideas of bases in Germany with available housing for families on leave. The Shape school was great and a buffet breakfast with local breads and jams was included each morning of our stay. Midnight Mass was highlighted by a Mass in a monastery in the town of Ettal built in the 15th Century. It was so spectacular with guilded sculptures and a ceiling that puts the Sistine Chapel in competition for first place. Ettal is passed easily from the Shape School on the way to Garmisch and is so small that if you close your eyes for a few minutes, as my kids joked, you wouldn't have seen it "Et-all" .

Oberammegau is a short mountain drive above Garmisch and easy to reach in about 20-25 minutes. Garmisch hosts a variety of winter sports including ice skating and skiing, sledding or simply shopping the streets laden with wooden crafts, nutcrackers and cuckoo clocks. Skiing for the day runs about $10.00 per person for the equipment and about $15-18 to take a tram to the top of the Zukspreitz. For a cheaper day, you can ski in the "backyard"; fully equipped with a snow machine and a towline that kept my active kids thoroughly entertained Christmas Day. Garmish has a Post Exchange that is meager in content but enough to satisfy a tourist for purchases both cheap and expensive.

Drives can be taken every day to the vast assortment of towns and villages surrounding the area. Each possessed a unique charm, distinct from one other. Every town had a large, spired church in the center. Farms surrounded most villages with cows dotting the pastures, like black dots on a bed of cotton. Stores lured the buyer to purchase cuckoos and nutcrackers dolls of every profession. It was easy to pass between Austria and Germany with passport areas long vacated and void of personnel. We passed into Salzburg for the remainder of our trip and focused our stay at a little bed and breakfast home in Grodig called Sallerhof. This small but charming town was filled with enormous hospitality from the hotel staff to the local merchants and restaurant owners. The home had soft down comforters and a warm interior that made you feel at home back in the States. Having a shower that actually drained was the highlight of my trip as I delighted in this remembrance of pre-Okinawa. It was a great place to start each day with a home made display of local treats including fresh fruits, jams and local bakery items. My husband particularly enjoyed the chocolate bread while I looked forward to the daily dose of granola with huge raisins and Brazil nuts. With the semi-annual "weigh-in" months away, I truly enjoyed each bite!

Berchesgarden was a charming town not to be missed with the Eagle's Nest looming above, the site where Hitler met with many of his leaders during WWII. Unfortunately, since this site is fairly elevated and dangerous to visit when icy roads prevail, it is only open in spring through fall. Another incredible site for families is a visit to the Salt Mines. These mines were discovered by the Celts in 500 BC..........and it was a perfect compliment to the chapter my three 5th graders had just completed at Zukeran Elementary the week prior to he trip. Being a bit claustrophobic didn't help, but I survived the adventure that was fun and informative. At one point you slide down to a mine shaft where active mining reaped the riches of salt that at the time sold for as much as the price of gold.

Salzburg was a winter fantasy of snow and castles. We took a side trip to the places where the Von Trapps lived and followed the "Sound of Music" sites as snow began to fall heavily into the evening. Even though we love Okinawa, it was hard getting on the plane to return. So, if your detailer won't entertain a set of orders to Europe, perhaps you could visit expedia.com for a vacation you will never forget!

If you compare a ski trip in Northern Japan, the quoted ski package per person would run about $950-$1,000 each for adults and children. This would include the air, ski and hotel and take from four to six hours, depending on connections, to fly from here to Hokkaido - the northern part of Japan. Although I have never skied in Japan, many have said it was worth the trip. This would run about $5,000 for a family of five. The airfares to Europe run about $650 for children and $880 for adults not including the lodging or skiing fees. Military lodging is under $100 per night for a family of 5. The European air route takes you north of Russia and about 12 hours or four movies from Tokyo. It's really your choice where you want to ski, but Germany is certainly worth it!

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