Right underneath the Waxenstein and the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, you will find the Zugspitz village of Grainau, where you can enjoy the majestic mountains in both summer and winter. But the village also looks back on 700 years of history.
The Zugspitz village Grainau with its unique location underneath the Waxenstein and Zugspitze was founded 700 years ago. In 1294 the land belonged to the free county of Werdenfels, which stretched from Mittenwald to the Wallgau and the upper extends of the Loisach valley up to Farchant. The master of the county was the bishof of Freising. Grainau is made up of the Obergrainau, Untergrainau, Hammersbach, Schmölz and Eibsee, which were all settled at different times.
The village Grainau is first mentioned in AD 1305 in the records of Freising as „Gruenawe“, which denotes a clearing in dense forests. Three farms were mentioned, but it is unclear which part of Grainau was settled first. Obergrainau developed along the Alplebach around today’s Oberen Dorfplatz, Untergrainau as a lose collections of houses along the Krepbach, today’s Unterer Dorfplatz.
The development of Hammersbach
The first farm and a black-smith in Hammersbach were mentioned in AD 1419. The name can be traced back to the ancestral line of the Hamerspacher from Hall in Tyrol. They undertook mining close to the Alpspitz up until the beginning of the 16th century and built a tower – the “Hammersbacher Burg” – above today’s chapel in the first half of the 15th century. A map from AD 1562 gives an idea of what it must have looked like but it fell to ruin soon after AD 1600.
Eibsee and the Schmölz
The name Eibsee is already documented in the sales deed of Garmisch in AD 1249 as „lacus Ibsee“. The name can be traced back to the tree Eibe, which is common around the lake. In AD 1513 the first building on the lake is mentioned in the deed of the fishing lease.
The hamlet of Schmölz also owes its existance to mining. The first iron ore foundry went into operation in AD 1483. Further smelderies were built with accommodation for workers in the 16th and especially in the 18th century. One of these accomodations was extended into the first farm-house in AD 1745.
The Villages of Ober- and Untergrainau
Livestock farming formed the basis of Grainau’s existence, while agriculture only played a subordinate role. Additional income came from forestry work, occasional haulage and a variety of home activities (above all wood-turning), mining (when it was in progress) and from 1750 a small scythe factory in Schmölz. Grainau had more basic freedom than any other town in the county. According to the tax book of 1678 all 43 estates existing at that time were "free and own", only the Eibsee and some meadows were lent by the prince bishop of Freising as “Leibgeding”.
During the Freising period, the villages suffered only little from the effects of war. However, Obergrainau was not spared from fire and water. On 12 March 1779 a large fire destroyed 14 houses and the church. The narrow construction, the wooden buildings and a great drought combined for a catastrophe that claimed almost all estates around the upper village square. Only a few years later, on 21 June 1788, the Alplebach, normally only a small stream, consumed the village square and made two houses uninhabitable.
In the tax books of the 16th century there was no separation between the villages. It was not until the beginning of the 17th century that the two villages of Obergrainau and Untergrainau were formed, which had their own "Dorfmayer" (mayor).The farms of Hammersbach, Eibsee and (later) Schmölz belonged to Obergrainau. In Garmischer documents all together were called "municipalities behind the Degernau", since the Degernlahne forms the border between the Garmischer and Grainauer fields.
Of Churches and Chapels
Grainau originally belonged to the parish of Garmisch. Church activities such as baptisms, weddings or funerals were carried out there. The villagers also had to go to Garmisch for church services. Nevertheless, the villages had their own chapels. The chapel of Obergrainau on the Kirchbichl was established in 1697. Around 1730 the chapel in Untergrainau was constructed and in 1783 the Marienkapelle in Hammersbach was built from stones of the "Hammersbacher Burg". In 1812 the first local chaplain moved into Grainau. In 1835 the mountain cemetery was built and in 1927 the church in Obergrainau gained its current appearance.
The final ecclesiastical separation from Garmisch took place in 1945, with the establishment of the parish of Grainau. Since 2016 the parish association "Zugspitze" was founded, with the parishes Grainau, Garmisch and Burgrain.
The Protestant Church of the Redeemer (Erlöserkirche) is a listed building and was built by the architect Olaf Andreas Gulbransson. The foundation stone was laid in 1960. The church is characterised by the minaret-like tower and the tent-like roof.
The Development of the Region
With the Bavarian secularisation in 1802, the county of Werdenfels was incorporated into the duchy (from 1806 kingdom) of Bavaria, including all 53 Grainau homesteads. With the municipal edict of 1808, the two villages of Obergrainau and Untergrainau became independent rural communities.
The effects of the Napoleonic wars, the changed political situation and the abolition of many old wood and pasture rights had a big impact on large parts of the population and led to widespread poverty. But in the middle of the 19th century, painters, writers and folklorists discovered the incomparable charm of the landscape around the Karwendel and Wetterstein. They were soon followed by the first summer visitors. Around 1870/80 the slow development of the mountain world began.
The construction of railway lines (to Murnau in 1880, to Partenkirchen in 1889 and to Reute via Grainau in 1912) increasingly opened up the area to tourism. And the construction of the cogwheel train to Germany’s highest peak, the Bavarian Zugspitzbahn, from 1928 to 1930 brought a major upswing in visitors and growth to Grainau. After the two communities had grown together structurally over the years, they were politically merged in 1937.
Grainau in Modern Times
International winter sports events conducted on the Eibsee in the 1930s brought further fame and visitors, who also appreciated the prime ski slopes around the valley. All this contributed to the fact that the Zugspitz village of Grainau today accommodates guests from all over the world all year round, who find relaxation and recreation in the midst of wonderful nature.
The Municipal Coat of Arms
The municipal coat of arms, awarded to Grainau by the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior in 1958, shows a lily from the coat of arms of the Lords of Hammersbach on the right side of the shield. The left side, depicting a bear's head, serves as a memory of the large mammals that used to roam the forests. But Grainau’s last bear was shot here at the beginning of the 19th century.
„einfach schee“ – simply beautiful...