Welcome everyone to the mighty Deutschland! So did you guess the historical face from the main blog post image?
In all honesty, if you’d have asked me three months ago if I was planning on visiting Germany, I would have answered fairly emphatically, ‘no’ – purely because I did not expect to have come this far west from my first port of call, Athens. But hey, things change and so I’m rolling with the changes intent on making the most of them and you know I will.
Although when I say Germany, I hardly mean in the geographical centre of this vast country but rather the outskirts and still very close to the Austrian border. In fact, I am a mere 45 minute bus ride away from where I have been staying in Salzburg so day trips to here will be common for reasons I’ll shortly go into. However, having put some research in I realised there were actually several popular sites I could visit and so I embraced this and decided to stay in the German-Bavarian Alps for the full weekend! Whilst three nights allows me to add another country to my stats board, it certainly does not qualify to say I ‘know’ or have ‘done’ Germany. Far from it.
Tell me, do the following places mean anything to you? Berchtesgaden. Obersalzberg. Kehlsteinhaus. I’m guessing they might to a very small percentage…
Let’s start with Berchtesgaden, the place where I’m actually staying. A small town that to looks to me from movies and wherever else, quintessentially Bavarian, backed up by the several female tourist information staff dressed in full native Lederhosen attire. Cute.
This small town in the middle of some not very small Bavarian alps is extremely popular due to its proximity to several tourist destinations. Oh, and the fact that is it also the main rail and bus hub might also have something to do with its popularity. Resultantly, prices for accommodation (and everything else) are expensive and I was staying in what I understand is one of very, very few hostels in town and above a Burger King. Hmmmm…. More on that another time.
So folks, without further ado, today I visited the so-called ‘Eagle’s Nest‘. The name in German is Kehlsteinhaus and it is a Third Reich era edifice standing tall at the summit of the Kehlstein, a rocky outcrop that rises above Obersalzberg. The Eagle’s nest was completed in 1938 and was presented to Hitler by the National Socialist party to mark his 50th birthday It served largely as a retreat and place to entertain friends (Hitler had friends!?) and visiting dignitaries. It took thousands of workers to complete the ambitious project and they did it in less than two years. You have to admire what they were able to achieve considering this was the 1930s! Then again, these are Germans so if any super-force of workers were going to pull this off, it’d be them, right…
Here is the opening to the mountain and the start of the first of the two 100+ meter ‘tunnels’.
Aren’t pictures deceiving? You’d be forgiven for thinking this was already at ground level but it really isn’t. I try and point it out with my heavy finger and even when the image is ‘blown up’ it still looks so far away!
So in terms of reaching it, well it’s fairly easy in this modern era, but back then imagine having to lay the foundations and infrastructure that remains to this very day! Get this, they purposefully built a 6 kilometre road. Additionally they carved into the mountain horizontally a tunnel that went on for well over 100 meters and then another 100+ meters vertically! In effect, forming a right angle from the initial point of entry to the summit. At the base of the second 100+ meter section when things go from horizontal to vertical, an elevator was installed and it was this vessel which took Hitler, and indeed myself, to the top of the mountain and therefore to The Eagle’s Nest. When I reached the summit though, sadly my first reaction was one of grave disappointment. We were up so high at 1, 834 meters that the clouds kinda got in the way!
Thankfully the clouds would soon give-way….
It’s unclear how many times Hitler actually visited here but the consensus is ‘not many’ and perhaps less than 15 separate instances. I wonder if the height and effort to get here played a part! At the museum we saw some video footage of him and his band of merry-men hanging out up here as well as his secretive lover, Eva Braun.
As ever you can take a dedicated tour of The Eagle’s Nest with prices ranging between 45 and 60 euros. Needless to say I didn’t take up that option and instead did it completely on my own like lots of other well-researched tourists would have. Also, these tour don’t typically include a visit to the museum which you’d think was a negative but confusingly, this wouldn’t have been a bad thing. I paid the light 3 euro entry fee but was frustrated to find nothing was in English! Ok, there were a couple of leaflets offering translation but it wasn’t the same. Top tip: You can skip the museum.
Total cost for this experience for me was around £30 including the museum.
These days the Eagle’s nest building itself is privately owned and is opened seasonally as a restaurant, beer garden and tourist site. The view up here was awesome and being up so high looking down at the world below felt both fantastic and eerie considering this was a view that Hitler himself would have admired.
You could climb even higher at this point as some of these brave people are demonstrating…
So have you realised then up until now, I haven’t actually showed you any images of the Eagle’s Nest? You’d be forgiven for being so taken away by the scenery, that you’d forgotten why I was up here! Believe me that was easily done and probably the case for a lot of people up here, particularly curious explorers including myself. Having come here for one thing, we found enjoyment from another; from Mother Nature herself.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say there would be a moderately split percentage of people that found the views and the mini-climbing adventure as interesting as the Eagle’s Nest itself. As mentioned earlier, it is essentially a restaurant these days although you can still explore parts of it as very briefly depicted here:
And now finally the view of ‘The Nest’ from high above:
Folks, it really was a strange feeling having shared the same ground and the same viewpoint as one of the most grotesque human beings of all time. Shudder.