Europe 2012: Day 82, Berchtesgaden and Eagle’s Nest

Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest near Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Saturday, 8/27/12

Woke at 7am.   It is cloudy but no rain.   It feels nice.   Went for breakfast at the mall across the street from the hotel.    I get my coffee (sans the nut roll, I’ve had too many of the sweet, fat rolls already) and my DH hits the fruit stand in the grocery store across the way.

Today we are taking a half-day tour of Eagle’s Nest – Hitler’s mountain retreat.  Yep, we are heading back into Germany.

We arrived at the tour bus on time and it is packed with tourists.   Eventually we learn that this bus is carrying two different tours – one to Eagle’s Nest and one to the Bavarian Salt Mines.   Our tour guide is an older German gentleman who reminds us time and time again to “stay on schedule” and “not to be late” or he will “leave [us] behind!”  I am beginning to question if that would be a bad thing?

The ride to Berchtesgaden (where we will board special buses that we take us up the mountain to Eagles Nest) was lovely.   Berchtesgaden is about 30 km south of Salzburg  in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria on the German side near the border with Austria.   Here are some pictures from our trip:

Traveling on bus to Berchtesgaden to see Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

Oh look — cows!

Near the Bavarian Salt Mines.

Our first stop is to drop off  at least half the tourist on the bus at Bavarian Salt Mines.  Both I and my DH have been here before and were not that impressed — although being  984 feet below the bottom of the valley has a certain adventurous appeal.  What I remember of my visit to the salt mines was being cold and wet — have I not been that already?

Finally, we reach the Eagle’s Nest boarding station at the base of the mountain.  Eagle’s Nest can only be reached by taking a special bus designed for the steep and narrow road up the mountain.

The stop before the stop at Eagle’s Nest. These buses were specially made to go up the steep and narrow mountain load leading to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.

This is our bus. Our tour guide warns us to “remember it or you will be left behind!”

This is the road that leads to the Eagle’s Nest. Seems harmless enough…

… until the bus starts the climb…

…and reaches the clouds…

…and we are surrounded by awesome views…

…that only get better and better…

…until we stop and unload at the tunnel entry to Eagle’s Nest.

The entry tunnel, a finely crafted tunnel leading to a polished brass elevator which zips you to the top of Eagle’s Nest. This tunnel is just wide enough for a single car. Hitler’s car would drive into the tunnel, drop off Hitler and his guests (only 6 were allowed in the elevator at one time because Hitler was claustrophobic)  and then have to back its way out.  We will walk down the tunnel and all twenty-four of us will ride the elevator to the top.

Inside the elevator to Eagle’s Nest with my fellow tourists. This elevator is lined in brass — it reminds me of Las Vegas!

The day turned out to be cool and sunny!  The views up the mountain are spectacular!  Under these conditions, it is easy to forget that Eagle’s Nest was the stage where some of history’s most horrific political and military plans were hatched.  Here are some  facts I learned during our visit here:

  • The real name of this lodge is Kehlsteinhaus.  The name “Eagle’s Nest” was coined by an French diplomat due to it high perch on the mountain.  Click here it see a video with inspiring music!
  • Eagle’s Nest is situated on a ridge at the top of the Kehlstein mountain at 6,017 ft.  To get there you need to climb a 4.0 mile long road that is only 13 ft wide.  You will go through five tunnels and one hairpin curve.  The road climbs 2,600 ft and your ears will pop!
  • This lodge was a gift to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday in 1939 from his friends in the Nazi party.  His inner circle all contributed to the construction of this lodge with materials and slave labor (mostly Italian).  It was completed in 14 months.
  • This extravagant lodge was only the tip of a vast Berchtesgaden compound that served as Hitler’s second seat of government and his planned refuge of last resort.  Here, Hitler was surrounded by nature, gently receiving alpine flowers from adoring little children, and lounging around with local farmers.  In Berchtesgaden, there was no hint of a modern arms industry, no big time industrialists, or ugly prison camps to lead anyone to believe that Hitler was not a loving, kind, and democratic leader.  At Eagle’s Nest,  Hitler hosted world leaders, wowing them with the natural wonder of  his mountain palace, the adoration of his people below, and the economic and political promises of his brand of National Socialism.
  •  Hitler only visited this site 14 times (and never stayed overnight) because he was afraid of heights and claustrophobic.  It is reported that he stayed for no more than 30 minutes each visit.  Hilter had a larger home at the base of the mountain where he and his girlfriend, Eva, stayed when not in Berlin.  To my knowledge, no tours go there since it has been incorporated into a hotel.

The elevator ride took about a minute.  We stepped into the hallways and rooms where Hitler and his henchman made alliances and planned global domination.  Eagle’s Nest is smaller than I imagined.  It definitely looked bigger in the movie “Band of Brothers”.  Of course, many of the rooms are now restaurants and gift shops but some features are still original like the pine paneling in the rooms and the stone fireplace in the main restaurant (a gift from Mussolini).  Here are some pictures:

Photographs and newsreel footage show 3rd Infantry soldiers relaxing on the Eagle’s Nest patio, “drinking Hitler’s wine”, affirming that they were present at the house in May 1945

My DH looking out of the window of the “Tea Room” where the ladies gathered as the men discussed politics and war in the next room.

The fancy restaurant at Eagle’s Nest. There is also a cafe.

There are footpaths and trails leading to the mountaintop from the lodge.

The views of the Alps are spectacular!

Behind Eagle’s Nest, the 6,017 ft subpeak of the Hoher Göll, a 8,274′ ft mountain in the Bavarian Alps above Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden.

A view of Eagle’s Nest from below. It looked bigger in the movies…

…but the views are really, really big!

After I marveled at the scenery and took all the pictures I could, my DH and I order a simple lunch in the restaurant that used to be Hilter’s main conference room where he planned the horrors of his war and the “New World Order”.  Our meal was innocent enough — hot chocolate and a frankfurter with potato salad.   The food was good and the view breathtaking although I found the room itself to be a bit creepy.

All this fresh air made us hungry! We stopped in the cafe to order an innocent lunch of Hot Chocolate and Frankfurter in the room were Hitler and his cronies planned world domination.

Creepy!  Here I am, drinking hot chocolate!  I wonder, am I being disrespectful to all the soldiers who gave their lives to stop the madness that was plotted in this very room?  According to legend, the fireplace in the background was a little extra gift from Mussolini. In 1945, victorious allied soldiers chipped off countless souvenirs from it.  For the record, the hot chocolate was very good.

Our lunch time view from Eagle’s Nest.  I wonder, did Hitler sit in the very spot appreciating the view too?  Hey, did I just feel an icy chill?

My DH relaxing after lunch. He is trying to find a WiFi signal.

We spent a little more than an hour here at the lodge.  We took the elevator back to the tunnel so to be on time for the bus ride back down the hill.  I feel confident that our tour guide would leave us here if we are not on time.

Emerging from the tunnel after our visit at Eagle’s Nest.

Anna and DH enjoying the view from the Eagle’s Nest parking lot.  We’re waiting for the bus.

Here is a Youtube video of what it is like to come down the mountain from Eagle’s Nest.

The next stop on the tour was the town of Berchtesgaden at the foot of Eagle’s Nest.   During WWII, this town was one of the main headquarters of the Nazi regime   Actually, Hitler had a cozy house close by.   We spent about an hour here just walking around.   There are no WWII sites here.  When the Nazi’s moved out, the Americans moved in.   The city returned to normal after that.   Still, it is a nice little German town with building with paintings on them.  Here are some pictures:

Betchtesgaden main square.

Pretty painted building!

Another pretty painted building!

And another pretty painted building! This town is loaded with them! Most of the buildings that had any real historical value during the Nazi reign have been destroyed and replaced with buildings like this.

Apparently, Berchtesgaden is a mecca for rock collectors.

Aren’t these the sweetest things?

The Germans know how to grow a flower box!

The Berchtesgaden National Park was established in 1978 and has gradually become one of Berchtesgaden’s largest draws. Recreational and competitive sports have grown in importance. Although Berchtesgaden’s ski slopes are not among the largest in the Alps, they are popular. Berchtesgaden has virtually no manufacturing industry so everything is clean and pretty here…

…including the cemeteries.

Eventually, everyone got back on the bus and we rode back to Salzburg.   The tour returned to Salzburg around 1:30pm.    We returned to the hotel where my DH prepared for our next trip to Fussen (checking train schedules), and I went out to do our laundry at a local laundromat called Bubble Point.   As in Florence, I loaded all our dirty laundry in my DH’s suitcase and I wheeled it down the few blocks to Bubble Point.  There were instructions in English so I had no trouble figuring out how to use the washers and dryers.   I did two loads of laundry in about 2 hours – this should keep us clean and fresh for our last 24 days in Europe.   I don’t know about you but clean clothes always make me feel better.

It is our last night in Salzburg so we decide to go out for a final walk before our Mozart/Beethoven Concert at the Mirabell Garden.

It’s getting late!  We’re hungry!

As we walked, we decided the street food would be a good and quick dinner.   We stopped at the Wurst Wagon and ordered two of the wurst sandwiches we ever had — two thin and long sausages in a grilled bun topped with ketchup, mustard, onions, and dusted with curry powder.  We ate them standing up — they were fabulous!

Street food from the Wurst Wagon — tasty!

Earlier in the day, we decided a concert of chamber music was the best way to end our time in Salzburg.  We chose the concert being held at the Mirabell Palace, close to our hotel.

The Mirabel Palace.

The Mirabell Palace entry way.

The stairs in the Mirabell Palace.

The concert hall at Mirabell Palace.

Air conditioning at the Mirabell Palace Concert Hall.

Our concert program.

Music by candlelight!

The room was packed with couples both young and old (and a few well behaved children).  The venue was a large ornate room with crystal chandeliers that was used for small intimate gatherings, the way in which Mozart and Beethoven intended their music be enjoyed. One piano, two violins, one cello – that was it.  Mozart was sweet, cheerful.   Beethoven wrote light and cheery chamber music too — I did not know that.    This concert was really the most fitting way to end our visit in Salzburg — it was excellent!

We returned to our hotel around 10PM.   My DH turned on the TV and guess what?   The all-day “Sound of Music” channel was working!     Just when you think things can’t get any better, it does!!

Quote of the day:  “I’m going to get you to like cheap street food yet!”  — DH to Anna who is a restaurant kind-a girl.


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