Christmas in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Photo by Tania Ho (flickr)

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, host of the 1936 Winter Olympics, used to be two towns, Garmisch and Partenkirchen. This is probably not a surprise when looking at the name of the city. The two towns were combined by Hitler in 1935 in preparation for the 1936 games and have remained together to this day.

We’ll look at each of the two names, (Garmisch and Partenkirchen), separately, starting with Garmisch. One source tells me that Garmisch translates roughly to “Germar’s district,” and another tells me that the first mention of Garmisch is as around 815 AD as “Germaneskau” meaning “German district.” If the second source is correct, then some Germanic people settled in the area. If the first is correct, we should figure out the origins of the name Germar, and that is not easy to do. There are people named Germar, including a famous holocaust denier, but I haven’t been able to find any reference to someone named Germar who ruled the district, and am wondering if perhaps Germar’s district is just another way of saying German District.

Partenkirchen was originally a Roman town called Partanum, founded in 15 AD. I’m not sure when the name got changed to Partenkirchen, but I’ve read that Partenkirchen means “Parthians by the Church.” Assuming that Partanum and Parthians are the same word, this would make sense since the German word for church is Kirche.

I’ve exhausted my resources on this one, so if anyone knows more about the history of either Garmisch or Partenkirchen don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.