Print from www.stmartinchalets.at from 19.06.2013
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St Martin Chalets Blog Entry
Trip to Berchtesgaden and The Eagle’s Nest
written by Clare Taylor, July 2012
This was a trip we did in July 2012; it wasn’t planned as we were trying to find the Park and Ride in Salzburg where we wanted to visit the old part of the town. The signs on the A10 for the Park and Ride weren’t displayed properly and before we knew it, we ended up on the A8 and crossing into Germany. We came off the A8 at the first intersection (Ausfahrt – Bad Reichenhall), with the intention of turning around and going back into Austria when we saw signs for Berchtesgaden – 29 kilometres. As I had always wanted to visit this place for its historical connection to the Nazi era and it was still early in the morning, we decided to cut our losses and head there.
We had a pleasant drive through the German countryside on the B20, through Bad Reichenhall and Bischofswiesen and entered Berchtesgaden. This is a very pretty town with many historical buildings with beautiful painted facades. There are also many shops selling lederhosen and traditional Bavarian costumes for women!
Long before its association with Hitler, Berchtesgaden was one of the classic “romantic corners of Germany”, steeped in legend and with dramatic surrounding mountain scenery. The history of Berchtesgaden dates back to the 11th century and much of its wealth has been derived from local salt mines. It has been ruled by a number of different regimes over its long history. Due to its proximity to Austria, it was under their control up until 1810, after which Bavaria took over.
The town became popular with the Bavarian royal family and they maintained a royal hunting residence there. Tourism grew and a number of well-to-do Germans, among them many artists, came to the area, especially to visit the Königssee, a spectacular glacial lake with steep mountains on each side – the area called “Malerwinkel” (painter’s corner) being particularly popular.
Having heard of Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” (Kehlsteinhaus in German) and of Berchtesgaden, I expected the “Nest” to be in the town, but a visit to the Tourist Office proved me very wrong. While many people call the entire area Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, this actually refers to the mountain top lodge, a project of Martin Bormann and built as a 50th birthday present for Hitler on behalf of the National Socialist Party. Apparently, Hitler seldom visited the lodge, having a fear of heights!
What few people realize is that Hitler’s home and headquarters – the second seat of Third Reich power – were located at Obersalzberg at the foot of the Eagle’s Nest mountain.
Obersalzberg, a mountain village near Berchtesgaden, characterised by tourism since the second half of the 19th century and Hitler’s holiday resort since 1923, was purchased along with the surrounding area by the NAZI party and turned into a huge compound of 80 buildings. The area was closed to the public after 1936, and it was here where the major decisions leading up to World War II were taken.
It was here in his house “Berghof” that Hitler hosted world leaders, especially wowing them with the engineering knowledge needed to build the Eagle’s Nest.
Having discovered all this information, we then drove to Obersalzberg and followed signs for the “Dokumentation Obersalzberg” which is a building holding a permanent exhibition on the history of Obersalzberg and the NAZI dictatorship. We parked in the car park at the Documentation Centre and walked down some steps to the bus stop to the “Kehlsteinhaus”. Due to the narrow road, it is only possible to visit the Eagle’s Nest by the official bus service. We had to queue for about 10 – 15 minutes to buy some tickets but we had arrived at peak time. Buses leave every half an hour and we only had a short time to wait for the next available bus. The buses all leave in convoy and we were soon winding our way up the mountain, listening to a short commentary on the construction of the road on the bus.
The journey with dramatic views, twisting and turning up the mountain and through tunnels built with great engineering skill, lasted about 15 minutes before we arrived at the bus turning circle where we all got off. We were advised to book seats on a return bus immediately.
From the bus stop, a finely crafted tunnel leads 124 meters into the mountain and to the original polished brass elevator, which takes you up through the heart of the mountain and into the Eagle’s Nest itself. I think there were six buses which disgorged passengers and, as we were on the last bus, we had quite a long wait in the tunnel, but once we arrived, it was well worth it, as the views were magnificent. We could see all the different mountains and Lake Königsee sparkling in the sunshine below.
We were too late for an actual tour of the lodge, but enjoyed walking around at the top as in the picture, and then had lunch at the restaurant there. The lodge is basically a restaurant with a scenic terrace 100 yards below the summit of the mountain.
Rather than getting the lift back down to the bus meeting point, we decided to walk down a path planted with very pretty alpine flowers – this took about 20 minutes.
We decided not to visit the Documentation Centre (which also has access to the mountain bunkers), as time was running out and we wanted to return to Berchtesgaden where we walked around the town on a self-guided walking tour. We then sampled some of the cakes in one of the cafes in a very pretty square.
We then returned to St Martin by the route we had taken in the morning, not realising that a much quicker road would have been the B305 exiting on Ausfahrt Salzburg Süd on the A10.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I would definite recommend the visit. I do think it is worth spending two days in the area to take in the Documentation Centre with its many exhibitions and World War II bunkers and also to visit the Königssee where one can take a boat trip to explore the lake.