Nothing to beat a fine weekend in the Alps; placid, attentive drivers and dormant roadworks on a post-8pm Friday evening making the 500km separating Frankfurt and Garmisch-Partenkirchen - via Nürnberg and an Oktoberfest-ing München - a pleasant doddle in the dark. That's not always the case as the long, two-lane stretches of the autobahn can be lethal whenever there's a mishap and make all the difference between turning in at regular bed-time or only after an early breakfast the next morning.
The current spell of high pressure over Central Europe has given us some fine days recently, this weekend being no exception, although the tops of the higher mountains were already wearing a light dusting of what looks like powdered sugar, with evenings and shaded areas quite cool, alfresco dining something of a hit and miss affair.
Most trees give little sign of autumn yet as they had a relatively late start this year, but there are already flashes and patches of amber and red as birch leaves start to turn and creepers blush Burgundian crimson; as overnight temperatures drop to near zero, it won't take long for the landscape to colour in earnest. Once into the forests, there's no denying the Equinox as the multi-coloured caps of fungi sprout through the damp woodland carpet, the edible variety's banner carried this weekend by the Lactarius deliciosus, or Saffron milk cap, the Boletus edulis still a little shy. This far from home and a buttered pan, the mycologist's Laguiole and Opinel knives stayed pocket left and pocket right, the tiny Sony RX100 doing all the 'picking' in macro mode.
Feel at home here.
After a visit to the cemetery to pay respects late Saturday morning and an hour or so pottering about the centre of Garmisch, with sekt and latte to help things along, we headed east past Kaltenbrunn and In Gerold, swinging right off the E533 at Klais towards the Schmalsee, direction Mittenwald. Sharp right onto the track just past the glasslike lake took us to a late lunch at the Berggasthof Groeblalm, its dining terrace hanging on the slope overlooking Mittenwald below and the Karwendel range to the left, the insistent jangling of cowbells an unmistakably Alpine background sound. From there through the woods and the fungi, a stroll through picturesque Mittenwald hard up against the Austrian border, mass in Partenkirchen's Pfarrkirche and an impromptu dinner at the 'Trastavere' on Hauptstrasse. A crowded but tasty find at the end of a busy day. Recommended.
Ostensibly forecast to be better than Saturday, Sunday turned out equally fine but just a touch fuzzier - perhaps in keeping with Germany's election day, at the end of which Mrs Merkel won most votes but no majority and now has to trawl the opposition for coalition partners, most of them afraid to pledge their support knowing what happens to political makeweights over the mandated period: they simply lose credibility and disappear to enjoy Pensions without Power. Tough.
Heading, more or less, in the previous day's direction past the Schmalsee and Mittenwald, the lesser border was crossed around noon on the minor Leutasch road, various diversions slowing progress but allowing full enjoyment of a procession of sleepy villages into Telfs, mountains right, mountains left.
From there, the scenic 'high road', the Mieminger Strasse, twists its way towards Nassereith, under the Brunnwald, and snakes up over a (congested) Fernpass and its sandwiching, emerald waters. The Harley Davidson Club appears to have a season ticket here. Once over the top, the steep drop into Lermoos is rewarded with lunch on the sun-soaked, panoramic terrace of the welcoming Post Hotel with its views over Ehrwald and the Buchenwald, the Schneefernerkopf and behind it the Zugspitze, both imposing mountains marking the Austrian-German border, the latter Germany's highest peak and dominating Garmisch Partenkirchen on the other side.
Time to get back, pack our bags and hope for friendly traffic conditions. It must have been the day's polling activity that kept motorists off the autobahn and Munich's beer its drinkers busy driving other litres, as we made it home in good time, no holdups, no surprises.
Next time we head in this direction, it's likely all will be white in this part of the world.