March 3, 2018: Partnach Gorge

When the “Beast From The East”, the arctic cold in the second half of February 2018, loosened its grip on middle Europe I immediately thought of realizing a plan I had already the previous year: visiting the Partnach Gorge near Garmisch Partenkirchen. The famous gorge is a great destination in winter-time because of the fantastic world of ice with frozen waterfalls and curtains of ice. It is a natural monument since 1912 and is visited by many guests every year.

Last year the gorge was closed when I was there because when temperatures rise huge chunks of ice come down and it is too dangerous to let visitors walk through the 700 meters long gorge. An owner of a restaurant close to the gorge told me when the giant icicles are thundering down and fall into the canyon everything is shaking in the house when they hit the rocky bottom. It must feel like an earthquake. Sometimes the trail needs a lot of repairs. There are unimaginable forces at work and in former times this was a feared place. The gorge is a monument of untamed nature and demands respect. Very close to the city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen wilderness begins.

This year I was lucky and the cold temperatures had done a great job. The gorge was a palace of ice. It was one of the more positive sides of the arctic cold.

I knew I had to act fast or I would have to wait for the next winter. After the extreme cold, temperatures on Saturday were rising in Southern-Germany, since there was an inflow of warm air from Northern-Spain. The direction of the wind was changing.


The gorge is a 25minutes walk from the Olympic Skiing Stadium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. As soon as you enter this wonder of nature it is like being in some Tolkien-setting from “The Lord Of The Rings”.

Words fail to describe the fantastic experience. Like the Breitach Gorge, there is a trail allowing visitors experience the dramatic atmosphere of the raging river and the close wet rock faces.
Mountain Warehouse

But the ice curtains, the interplay of frozen water and snow make it a unique experience during the winter time.

Particularly on the first 100 and 200 meters of the walk, there were some impressive sights. The trail is close to the river Partnach and there is a chance to study the ice-sculptures.


For most of the year, everybody gets wet when walking through the gorge, because there are springs everywhere and there is always water coming down. Thus you can see these fantastic curtains of ice when the water, which normally rains down is freezing.


The Partnach Gorge is offering a huge variety of great motives for pictures. There are not only the big panoramas but also many details in this “palace of ice”. Of course, sometimes you have to share the trail with many other photographers. Thus it is good to start not too late in the morning.

At certain points of the trail, the Partnach Gorge reminds me also of the famous ice-caves in Austria like the “Eisriesenwelt”. When walking through the narrow parts of the gorge there is only little light. If you want to take pictures a tripod is now extremely helpful.

The special experience of the Partnach Gorge is created through the change of very narrow parts and the parts where it is widening.

There is a special magic of these curtains of frozen water. In some places, it seems there would be a green glow on the ice adding to the otherworldliness of this special atmosphere inside the gorge.

Getting closer to the end of the gorge, there was sunlight coming in. This created another kind of experience and an even more enchanted situation.

The Partnach Gorge can be reached easily from Garmisch Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany. From the train station, there is a city bus going to the Olympic Skiing Stadium. There are also horse coaches. There was also an announcement that there are guided night-tours with torches.

The gorge is also a starting point for many hiking tours into the highest mountains of Germany. Alpine cabins and farmed alps are not far.

As said before sometimes the Partnach Gorge needs to be closed when the ice is melting. Thus it is always good to check before (

At any time of the year, it’s very important to have sturdy shoes and sturdy clothes. The trail is in very good shape but of course, such places can be always slippery or muddy. If you plan to do pictures it is good to have enough time since the trail is a narrow path. Often there are many hikers and tourists walking through the gorge in both directions and you need to wait for a quiet moment to set up equipment.

Furthermore, think of not only some rain-clothes but also about some water-protection for the camera particularly in summer.

During winter sunlight is limited inside the gorge since it is a deep canyon. When I was there, 10.00-11.00 seemed a good time for some sunlight in the last section of the gorge.


February 26-28: Extreme Artic Cold In Europe

It’s Tuesday and light snow is falling. There is a pale sunlight at the same time as the sky is mostly overcast. Shortly before the begin of the “meteorological spring” winter arrived in Europe. Seen from my window the nice winter setting outside doesn’t tell about the extremes which befell Europe over the last days.

After a moderate winter in Middle Europe, a Siberian cold front reached Europe. It happened what had been forecasted in weather models days before. However, there is a surprising intensity of extreme weather these days in Europe: The UK was hit by lots of snow, and Rome is seeing snow for the first time in many years. Last night temperature was – 27 Celsius on top of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. In Eastern Europe, there are very low temperatures and the danger increases particularly for homeless people. In Germany, there isn’t a lot of snow so far but the strong wind from the North-East makes it a bit of a challenge to stay outside for a longer time.

The blast of cold air from the artic has been already labeled: “The Beast From The East”. Scientists say that this happened due to “a freak warming around the North Pole”. They are somewhat alarmed about the retreat of Arctic ice during winter and the high temperatures. This weather pattern allowed the cold air on the other side to reach huge parts of Europe. There are now condition in Europe in some places which would normally apply to the polar region. It is not clear if global warming is causing this strange pattern or if other reasons are responsible.

However, very cold temperatures are not so unusual in February but what’s unusual is these sudden drops in temperature. They occurred also over Northern America in the last years and remind us sometimes on the “Day After Tommorrow” scenario in Roland Emmerich’s movie, even we can’t compare this to the “new ice age”.

In this weather-conditions, there are many things to see. Even if there is not a frozen-waterfall nearby, wind, snow, and ice create interesting patterns or sculptures.

It is always promising to look what happens at a lake or a river. Here are some pictures which were taken at the Bavarian lake Ammersee.

Weather services announced warmer temperatures for the end of the week, but in these times we never know what exactly will happen. Thus, there is still time to do more pictures. Staying outside is normally not a big problem with the right clothes, however, some common problems need attendance: cameras and tripods get extreme cold and it’s painful if you have to take off your gloves. Batteries don’t last too long in the cold, but these problems could be handled with a little preparation, for example, do apertures settings and other settings before going outside if possible.

In the surrounding hills around lake Ammersee there are many open fields and spruces. The wind and the ice led also to bizarre formations.



Cliffs In The Harz Mountains

The Harz Mountains in the middle of Germany are one of the oldest mountains regions in Europe. Unlike the Alps, these mountains had been their best times a long time ago. Today we see mostly the remnants of the mountains. Constant weathering has taken its toll.

Visitors can see impressing results of weathering and how nature is constantly changing over the years.

In the Harz Mountains, there are steep valleys but no peaks. The highest mountain, the Brocken, is a plateau rather than a typical mountain peak.

The most prominent thing among the endless forests and the alpine valleys like the Bode valley are the rock formations:

In the higher regions of the Harz Mountains, there are cliffs. The cliffs are famous rock formations. Some of them are hidden in the forest. Others are visible landmarks.


In some places, they indeed create an alpine character of the landscape like the cliffs near the Bodetal and the Okertal.

The cliffs are often popular among climbers. They offer challenges and should not be underestimated. Often there is a trail or ladders leading to the top of some of the cliffs.

For safety reasons, there is often a railing. However, its good to be better, not afraid of heights. The view from the top of the cliffs is often fantastic but sometimes it is a surprise if you see look down since the Harz Mountains are often more gentle mountains.

Mountain Warehouse

I remember a trip to the “Ottofelsen” which is absolutely great but looking down was suddenly a challenge. The “Ottofelsen” is a prominent cliff not far from Wernigerode on the North-East-Side of the Brocken Mountain.

Spectacular cliffs are both on the west-side and on the east-side of the Harz Mountains.

They inspired romantic painters as writers like Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe who spent a lot of time in the Harz Mountains. He was very interested in science and studied the rock formations.

The rock formations always triggered the imagination a lot. In former times they were also ritual sites and places where the witches met. A popular place above the “Okertal” is the “Hexenküche” (Witches Kitchen).

Stories and old legends made the rock formations famous. Sometimes they are intimidating, sometimes it is awesome or bizarre. The rock formations often look like the work of a giant sculptor.

“The Hexenküche” is not far from the “Kästeklippe”, one of the most prominent view-points where you can find also a restaurant.

Some rock formation can be only reached by foot, where others like the “Rabenklippe” are easily accessible with the bus. The “Rabenklippe” is not far from Bad Harzburg and very frequented during summer time.

I remember the “Scharfenstein Klippe” as an extraordinary and very impressing place. The “Scharfensteinklippe” is not far from the former inner-german border. On top the cliff there is an impressing view. You look down in an endless green forest, see the huge Brocken-Mountain-massive on one side and the “Eckertal-Stausee”, a reservoir, on the other side.

The “Feuersteinklippen” near Schierke is another prominent rock-formation. They rise majestically in the forest and look very mysterious. There are always interesting geological discoveries to be made. Near Schierke there are also the so-called “Schnarcherklippen”. This is a cliff where sometimes the wind makes a special noise, and it sounds like somebody is snoring. Here there is also the “Wollsack-Verwitterung”, a special phenomenon called concentric weathering.

The cliffs in the Harz Mountains are interesting at any time of the year. They are a good opportunity for a rest during hiking trips. It is important to have appropriate shoes since the cliffs can be slippery particularly after rain. They should be avoided during a thunderstorm.

January 16-18: “Friederike” Strongest Winter Storm In Germany Since Kyrill

After a calm but grey weekend and a calm Monday, the wind freshened up on Tuesday, January 16. On Tuesday morning there was a turbulent sky with fast moving clouds in Southern Germany. There was rain in the afternoon. But on the next day with the public in the wake of Winterstorm Friederike, which was announced to arrive on Thursday, weather in many parts of Germany was getting extreme. Already in the night, there had been accidents due to winter-thunderstorms.

In Bavaria, Wednesday morning started still relatively calm but in Southern Bavaria around the lakes and in the South-West it was already day when it looked like the night would fall again at 8.00am in the morning.

Suddenly it became darker and darker. A snowstorm set in and there was lightning and thunder. Within minutes a lot of snow fell and streets became slippery. There was also hail. After ten in the morning the sky cleared up, even the sun was shining shortly but it was a day with many more showers. It was windy all the day.


There was a bit more snow in the night. In the morning it felt warmer. Then, on Thursday, the wind was picking up speed. Storm-warnings were issued before. Weather models did still slightly differ on Thursday morning but the storm hit mostly the middle of Germany as expected. But also in Southern-Germany, there were really strong winds.

Friederike was soon suspected to be the strongest winter storm since Kyrill which was exactly the same day, on an Eighteen January. Indeed, the storm already caused many accidents and did damage even before it crossed over Germany.

In the early afternoon, there were still different forecasts if the storm would increase in the early evening hours or if the weather would calm down. Many schools were closed for the afternoon, Flights from Munich got canceled, trains were delayed. In the late afternoon, Deutsche Bahn shut down its long-distance travel.

At 4.30pm, Januar 18, the sky is mostly clear, but the wind is still very strong. Most of the snow is molten away and a brook is running down the street.

The aftermath: As the weather calmed down in the night, the news showed the colossal damage which Friederike did. Due to its extreme wind speeds, it made it into the top five of monstrous windstorms in Europe over the last 30 years.

By Peter Engelmann