With only 10 months left in Germany, it’s time to really prioritize our travelling. No more randomly visiting interesting places, or seeing things for the second or third time. We need to focus! FOCUS!
We’ve had Berchtesgaden on our DEROS list since the beginning, and now we can cross it off. I knew that the infamous Eagle’s Nest was there, but honestly, that was all I knew. There’s much more than that little tea house on the mountain!
We took a tour with Eagle’s Nest Historical Tours and it was great! I’m not a huge fan of group tours, but this one was excellent. Owner Christine Harper was amazing. Not only was she incredibly knowledgeable, she is an outstanding speaker, and – possibly the most impressive – she stood and narrated the tour, facing backwards, while the bus meandered through twists and turns on mountain roads without a problem.
The first portion of the tour took us to Obersalzburg. This area was one of Adolf Hitler’s favorite spots, even before he attempted to rule the world. Once his reign of terror began, he and his inner circle settled on the mountain. The entire area was bombed at the close of the war, and many facilities were obliterated further after that, but the tour showed us many of the buildings and remains. For example, the buildings above housed SS Troops, though now they are rented as apartments.
Everyone in Hitler’s Inner Circle had a home on Obersalzburg. The buildings were connected by a network of bunkers. Here is one of the entrances.
Prior to Hitler and his gang taking over there were people living on Obersalzburg. They were given the option of giving up their property or having it taken from them. This hotel was return to the rightful owner once the war was over.
In addition to the interesting history, the view on the tour was incredible! Hitler liked this location because he could see his homeland, Austria.
We stopped briefly at the Documentation Center. We didn’t spend much time in the Museum, but Christine did explain just how Hitler was able to take over Germany through force and clever propaganda.
Below the documentation center are the bunkers and some are open for visitors. My apologies – this photo is horrible because I wasn’t sure if photos were allowed and the lighting conditions were challenging. The bunker system was incredibly vast and complex. Although now it was pretty barren, we did see remnants of the past glory – like parquet floors.
Next we had to board a bus specially designed for mountain climbs. Christine assured us that the bus had three independent braking systems. The road up to the top was quite steep – 24% grade at times! This was intentional. The architects wanted the road to be somewhat hidden so that it wasn’t an eyesore when looking at the mountain from afar. They also wanted the approach to be dramatic. It was!
Once the bus dropped us off we walked through a tunnel into the heart of the mountain.
We then boarded an elevator – the same on that Hitler used – to get to the top. It was a 40 second ride.
Here it is, Hitler’s 50th birthday present – just a little tea house on a hill. Now it is a restaurant (and tourist attraction, obviously) with a fantastic view.
Americans call it Eagle’s Nest, but the official name is the Kehlsteinhaus.
This fireplace was damaged not by bombs, but by Allied soldiers who helped themselves to souvenirs.
Although this was a gift to Hitler for his birthday, it certainly was not on his wish list. Hitler was afraid of heights and apparently came up only infrequently. (If I had to guess I’d say 17 times – I think that is what our tour guide said.) Eva Braun, Hitler’s longtime girlfriend and short-time wife, did come here often to hike and sunbathe though.
After the guided tour we had some time to look around and (of course!) take photos.
Here’s a view from the parking lot. It really is perched up on top of the mountain like an eagle’s nest – that is where it got that moniker. Incidentally, the building was constructed by laborers forced to work long hours under terrible conditions. Another horror of the Nazi regime.
One last note about Berchtesgaden – it has a beautiful train station! We had lunch at a cafe in the station and noticed these beautiful murals in a very large station.
We learned on the tour that this was also by design. This part of the station was where Hitler would arrive, always to pomp and circumstance and large cheering crowds. Horrible, isn’t it?
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