The musician duo Marcel Engler and Jens-Peter Abele don’t like to go hiking, but they know how to stage themselves well. A remarkable afternoon around Garmisch-Partenkirchen with talks about home, the universe – and a good waddle from the good Lord. Text: Florian Kinast, Photos: Thomas Linkel
Partnachklamm Gorge with Loisach Marci
Shortly after the Sindelsdorf junction on the A 95 heading south. Ahead, the massive walls of the wild Wetterstein massif are gradually approaching, when suddenly a bitter realisation runs through the brain. Damn! So we did forget something at home in Munich. The headlamps! For our appointment with the two protagonists of Loisach Marci, we finally arrive at the Partenkirchen ski stadium after 3pm that afternoon. And if it turns out as agreed in the preliminary telephone conversation a few days before, with an extensive hike up mountains, alpine pastures, huts, then it is likely to drag on.
Jens-Peter Abele, one of the two Marcis, announced that they would come up with something special. Spectacular pictures on the peaks, dinnertime at dusk, sunset at altitude, such things were to be expected, the full programme, certainly one would not return to the valley until well after dark.
Not Without My Oxygen Tent
Just under half an hour later at the meeting point, at the foot of the ski jumps. Abele gets off the band’s tour bus, wearing a remarkable checked suit and black patent leather shoes. When asked where we would now set off with our fully packed backpacks, he replies: “Hiking? Above 700 metres above sea level, I need an oxygen tent.” It quickly becomes clear: this afternoon will be different than planned, very unexpected and extraordinary. As peculiar as the duo of Loisach Marci is.
“Hiking? Above 700 metres above sea level, I need an oxygen tent.”
Marcel Engler and Jens-Peter Abele have been playing together since 2015, and among all the many young bands that create their very own, new and fresh Bavarian sound with individual approaches, the Marcis are perhaps the most unconventional formation. In any case, one of the most surprising.
On the one hand Marcel Engler, born in Garmisch, always on the road in traditional costume, with lederhosen, a smartly tanned lad with a chronically grim look. A musical virtuoso who masters more than a dozen instruments, from the jazz trumpet to the double bass and the alphorn. The other is Jens-Peter Abele from Büsum on the Danish border, always a hip music producer with a penchant for electro sound and a painlessly mannered coolness.
Hiking The Partnachklamm Gorge
Dulcimer meets hip-hop, tradition meets techno, between cow pasture and basement club, hometown sound 4.0. There have been many attempts to categorise this exciting, contrasting crossover melange of two musical worlds. “But we don’t want to commit ourselves, we don’t want to get caught up,” says Marcel Engler, when, after some negotiations about feasible routes, we take our first tentative steps, behind in the direction of Partnachklamm, on the flat, of course.
As a boy, little Marcel was here again and again. Listened to the old stories that told of how the gorge was used in the 18th century for timber drifting, how they let the trees from the forests around the Reintal float northwards through the Partnach and later fished them out of the water again.
Today, the 700-metre-long gorge is one of the biggest visitor attractions in Werdenfelser Land. On this afternoon, too, many holidaymakers squeeze through the narrow rock passages, heads bowed and bent, which were blasted out of the mountain with dynamite at the beginning of the 20th century for tourist development.
Alpine Power Plant With 100 Decibels
In some places the walls open up, the view of the sky breaks through. From above, guileless droplets of water pearl into the depths to be swallowed up and carried away by the greedy floods of the raging torrent.
The Partnach gorge is up to 100 decibels loud in some places, as was once measured, a background noise that also left its mark on Marcel. He looks at the untamed torrent and suddenly says: “Alpine power station. That’s what perhaps sums up our music best.”
Next to him, Jens-Peter poses for the next photo, under the slightly bewildered gaze of a Spanish family who seem to be unsure whether the narrowness of the gorge is scarier or the scenery of the photo shoot, and who in any case now look to make a hasty getaway. Vamos. Rapido.
A little later, at the southern exit of the gorge. The view into the Reintal valley is bright and friendly, the Partnach is suddenly a peaceful murmuring mountain stream again. Somewhere further back, the Zugspitze towers over us. You can continue on foot from here, to the highest mountain in the republic climb. From here it’s just under ten hours, a good 20 kilometres and more than 2,000 metres in altitude – nothing for today. Not for patent leather shoes
But Now: Up to The Graseck
To do so, we climb up the small serpentines on the left to Graseck, a charming plateau at an altitude of almost 900 metres above sea level, which Jens-Peter Abele then manages without artificial oxygen supply, puffing heavily but quite bravely. A lot of the conversations with the two on the road are about the courage to break out, to break free from rigid patterns.
The two used to tour with a big band until they realised that the symbiosis of opposites works best in the minimalist form of coexistence in pairs. It goes further into the philosophical, almost into the supernatural, when the two at Graseck talk about their experiences and adventures during their performances.
How they always go on stage without a set list and then just play away, how their alpine power plant gets going on stage, with harp, alphorn, electric guitar, synthi, zither and ziach. How difficult it is to grasp their music and how easily they could be located in the most diverse places. Sometimes in a blues bar in Tennessee, sometimes in an electro club in London. And in between, also in a “folk music festival hall” in the Bavarian homeland.
Now It Gets Philosophical!
The encounters with visitors after the concerts are particularly touching. Marcel speaks of people who receive and celebrate their performances as a spiritual experience. The Marcis and the Mysticism! Jens-Peter is still concerned with the existential questions of life, with meaning and nonsense, with the significance of humanity in the universe. And how small you are, how insignificant. “Somewhere in space,” he says, “on a tiny blue dot.”
As the thoughts drift off into the metaphysical and infinity, a very earthly-real arrow points upwards to the right, up to the “Eckbauer”. Somewhere up there, Marcel says, he had his awakening experience, in a hut where it smelled like Kaiserschmarrn, like on the alp of the same name on Graseck. But it was much more the sound that shaped it, the sound of folk music conjured up in the room by men in traditional costume, with dulcimer, zither and accordion. And soft singing to go with it. That’s what brought him to music. Today, he says, “That was God’s waddle.”
That’s what brought him to music. Today, he says, “That was God’s waddle.”
Engler hasn’t been to the Eckbauer for a long time, this gentle hump at an altitude of a good 1200 metres, with its wonderful mountain restaurant and the colossal view of the rocky flanks of the Wetterstein from the terrace. There is no way up there on this day, the descent begins.
It goes over the Iron Bridge, the only crossing of the gorge, built in 1914, with a fabulous deep view 70 metres vertically into the gorge, further on the west side over a hiking trail back into the valley. Back to the ski stadium, where Hitler was allowed to stage the first part of his propagandistic Olympic show in 1936 and where today, every year on New Year’s Day, the best ski jumpers in the world throw themselves off the hill.
Finale at The Pflegersee
On to the next stop, across the Loisach, the river that gave its name to the Marcis, the river that was Marcel Engler’s favourite playground as a child, to Pflegersee. A dammed pond right at the foot of the King’s Stand. Once, many centuries ago, it was the water supplier for the neighbouring Werdenfels Castle, today it is the starting point for hikes and always a popular photo location for the Marcis, with crooked alphorn and chequered suit, which in between seems like a persiflage not to be taken entirely seriously.
They would like to end the day relaxing with a snack, drinks and conversation, and recommend the “Berggasthof Panorama” below the Wank. It has a beautiful view, but unfortunately it’s a day off. So last pictures on the empty terrace in the early evening mood with backlight, then the Marcis move on.
It’s back to Munich. Back from a remarkable afternoon with a very special team. Driving home through Bavaria, this wonderful country on a small, blue dot in space.