The G7 are in for a treat
The World Leaders won’t know whether to admire the mountains or the luxuriate in the spas on their brief visit to the Bavarian Alps.
I’ve just been out to Bavaria to check out the hotel – Schloss Elmau – where the G7 is having its big annual Summit over the 7-8th June 2015. And a truly lovely place it is, too, with all imaginable top-end luxuries in a spectacularly pastoral setting in a valley of its own, surrounded by mountains.
The likes of Barack and Angela should feel well looked after in the very short time that they have here, because the hotel has a staggering array of restaurants – seven – and spas – four – for its 162 rooms. I’ve done a detailed report on the place which will appear in due course in the travel section of the Financial Times.
There is already a huge security presence sweeping the valley. We were stopped in our car by a man with a gun in his waistband, who didn’t want to know anything about us, but just kept us stationary for a couple of minutes whilst something else was going on, somewhere else.
Black saloons came and went from the front of the hotel, and CIA operatives have been attending the hotel’s morning yoga classes. A rumoured 17,000 police have apparently been assigned to the task of keeping everything safe, which is more than were on duty for the London Olympics. The locals are, of course, grumbling about the costs, plus the potential closures to their roads and railways.
What the G7 leaders won’t have time to do is explore the surrounding area, which is a shame. Some two hours hiking directly up the hill from Elmau is Schachen, the extraordinary mountain lodge built by ‘Mad’ King Ludwig II, with its pseudo Turkish interiors. One of Ludwig’s even more extraordinary palaces, Linderhof, is a hop and a skip away.
Elmau is in a deeply traditional and very Catholic neck of the woods, with the huge baroque monastery of Ettal and the quiet town of Oberammergau – scene of a huge Passion Play every ten years – within a half-hour’s drive.
The resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen lies 18km to the west, with the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, towering over it. The Zugspitze has a cog-wheel train and cable car to the top plus a glacier which the Germans cover with plastic in the summer to stop it melting. All very organised.
We were lucky enough to have an Alpenhorn lesson with Elizabeth Heilmann up on the Zugspitze’s peak, which certainly attracted the crowds. Regrettably, however, this is not something the G7 will have a chance to do, although they’ll no doubt be making lots of noise of their own.
Otherwise, they’ll just whizz in, and whizz out again, 24 hours later. Maybe they’ll see enough of the region to make them want to come back again some other time.
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