I have been reading up on the history of the roads that lead past here over the Alps, from northern Italy to Bavaria. I recently read the chapters in Goethe’s Italienische Reise (Italian Journey) which involve southern Bavaria and northern Tirol. His carriage travelled from Munich over Benediktbeuern (home of the Carmina Burana), the Walchensee, Mittenwald, Seefeld, Innsbruck, and then straight down to the Brenner Pass, and I was startled to learn that he got from Mittenwald (in Bavaria at the border to Tirol) to Brenner in one day.
It would make for a few interesting trips to retrace and document parts of his journey by bike, at least certain parts. Some of the roads have a lot of traffic on them now, but the old Kesselberg Road from Kochel to Walchensee is now a trail for hikers. My main source of information beyond Goethe’s own writings has been Der Goethe-Weg über die Alpen (“The Goethe Trail over the Alps”, Guido Seyerle, Bruckmann Verlag, in German), although it seems a few liberties have been taken to better accommodate hikers (such as staying overnight in Völs, which is off across the river and therefor somewhat off the track, but no matter).
Goethe wasn’t the only important person to take this route, of course. In Inning-am-Ammersee, for example, an historic old house bears an inscription that Emperor Heinrich II had stayed overnight there in the year 1021 with 60,000 men (one assumes they slept elsewhere), allegedly on their way to Italy. From Inning, it is logical that they would have gone over Mittenwald too. This route is, of course, the old Via Raetia, one of the Roman roads to Augsburg.
To assume that Roman legions broke through the untamed wilderness with machetes to make a path through here is romantic but unlikely. There must have been trade routes over these passes at the time. The Amber Roads between the Baltic and Adriatic Seas go way back. The belongings found near Ötzi, who lived 3,000 years before the Romans who built the Via Claudia Augusta and the Via Raetia, point to regular trade and travel over the Alps, if not to an established trade route. What is true is that the Romans built roads for their horses and carts, and it’s a logical assumption that they would have widened and improved on what what already there, which may well have been a simple track.
All this is a long way of saying that these parts have seen tourists before there were tourists, and foreigners long before there were nations.
All of which reminds me of this, one of my favorite short films, “Das Rad”, here with English subtitles: