The week before Christmas, we had the opportunity to spend a long weekend on a Strong Bonds retreat at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in beautiful Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
In case you’ve never heard of it, Strong Bonds is an Army resiliency program sponsored by unit chaplains that offers partial-expense-paid get-aways for service members and their families in exchange for participation in couples resilience training classes.
Over the years, we’ve been on four of these retreats in different locations, and we will happily jump at any chance we get to go on another! Each workshop has equipped us with invaluable relationship education, as well as practical skills training on topics such as the impact of frequent moves, how to navigate separation in the midst of training and deployment, and overcoming other stresses that come along with the military lifestyle.
Although the material may seem a bit cheesy, and it can feel a little silly and awkward at first since the training is administered in a group-session format, we always end up learning something new about ourselves and each other. It’s also been a great way to go on an inexpensive family vacation while exploring the area outside of our duty station, and getting to know other families in my husband’s unit along the way!
This time around, the boys got to spend the day playing with new friends while we participated in a refresher course on Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages. If you’ve never taken the free quiz to find out what your Love Language is, I highly recommend it!
Now, about Edelweiss Lodge and Resort…
After a scenic 5-hour drive through Bavarian countrysides, we arrived on Thursday in the late afternoon. The view of the Alps was just breathtaking!
To get onto the resort property, we had to present proper identification. I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t expecting that! With this in mind, Edelweiss is a great place for families with younger children who want to experience Germany with many of the comforts of being on base, including access to a small commissary, BX, and gas station within walking distance of the resort.
In the lobby, we were welcomed by a large, stone fireplace and a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. There was also a small gift shop where we could purchase local souvenirs and sign-up for golf, skiing, and rock climbing excursions, as well as guided tours to must-see sights like Partnach Gorge, Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle.
After settling into our accommodations, a cozy standard room with two full-sized beds and a patio that opened right onto the resort lawns, we set out for some exploring. Our little guys had been stuck in the car all day, and they desperately needed to stretch their legs and run free for a bit! Thankfully, Edelweiss has plenty of amenities to keep kids entertained.
On our walk around the resort, we found a few outdoor playgrounds, as well as a pool, a mini-arcade, and a small book and DVD library with free computer access. For the big kids, there’s also a wellness center with a spa, hot tub, and wet and dry saunas.
There are plenty of laid-back options for dining, as well, including a buffet-style restaurant, a bistro, and a coffee shop serving Starbucks, beer, and light snacks. Tired from our drive, we had an early dinner at Market Station, then headed back to our room to snuggle up for the evening.
Most of the next day, Friday, was spent inside a conference room as we attended our resilience training class, but on Saturday, we were free to do our own thing.
The weather was unusually warm and sunny for December, so we opted for a hike up to Partnach Gorge (Partnachklamm) early in the morning. It was a bit of a trek, especially for our boys, but, in the end, the incredible sights were well worth it, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat! Read more about our adventure here.
All of that walking left us feeling a little hangry, so after our trip to the Gorge, we headed downtown to seek out the Garmisch Christmas Market (Christkindlesmarkt). We knew we’d be able to find just what we were looking for there – Käse Wurst, pommes, Glühwein, and other tasty German streetfare treats!
As if we hadn’t had enough to eat all afternoon, we finished off the evening with a yummy, authentic Bavarian meal, a liter of bier for my husband, and traditional German slap dancing, or Schuhplattler (watch the video at the end of this post!), at Gasthof Werdenfelser Hof. Just a few minutes from the resort, this restaurant came highly recommended by someone who’d been to Garmisch several times over the years, and I will go ahead and pass along that endorsement… the atmosphere was charming, the food was delicious, the dancing was most impressive, and the wait-staff was kind and accommodating to our family. We definitely had a memorable experience!
On Sunday morning, we had to check out of the resort and head home. Even though we were looking forward to a stop to visit the fairy tale castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein, on our way back, we weren’t ready to leave. We had such a nice, relaxing family vacation at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort!
I will say, if experiencing local customs and cuisine is important to you when you travel, I would recommend renting a small apartment on Airbnb or staying in a hotel on the economy. However, I would definitely recommend Edelweiss to my friends and family, especially those with little ones in tow.
We hope to go back again soon. Maybe next time we’ll hit the slopes!
Now, I’ll leave you with a short video I took during our meal at Gasthof Werdenfelser Hof.
You’re welcome. 😉