I have always been one for the trivial side of history, you learn the facts and the dates at school and watch the programmes about this and that but it’s the wee jaggy bits that are the most entertaining and to an extent you could say this about our wee trip to The Eagles Nest or Kehlsteinhaus, which overlooks the Obersalzberg town of Berchtesgaden in Southern Germany. The facts and figures of this place are well documented elsewhere, so what you are getting here is my own wee jaggy history travelogue.
We drove out of Munich along the Nr. 8 Autobahn, the autobahn was about the only good thing to come from the German national Socialist era and is a marvel in the way it operates. I certainly can not imagine such a system operating in the UK, there’s too many divers here who drive with their minds on cruise control for it to work. The autobahns work because the Germans largely seem to stick to a series of rules and you really check the mirror before you even think about overtaking as it does not take long for a fast black thing, usually a BMW or a Merc to catch up with you doing well over a 100 mph.
Crossing into Austria was a non-event, although there was an increased police presence that day as there was a crack down on toll avoidance, we bought ten day one for eight Euro a few days earlier so we were all right. When we left the motorway, the police were pulling over drives on the slip road so they mean business in Austria when it comes to toll collection.
Having reached Berchtesgaden we then had to figure out where the blazes the Kehlsteinhaus was. Thank heaven for SatNavs as we got there in the end.
We were nearly out of the car park when the penny dropped that they wanted payment, so we bought our immunity in the usual fashion from a machine.
The next challenge was finding out where the tours left from, well the first was a toilet but never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
There is a huge bus station here with a fleet of big, new and clean DB busses to take you there. Unless you want to walk, then you must take the bus up to the lift level.
A convoy of four specially built busses for this route left and all were in radio contact with each other because the access road is a single track affair with a very alpine drop over the side. The engines and the clutches on these busses must work very hard as the climbs are steep with many hair pin bends. The journey takes 20 minutes or so, with a fleet of down busses stopping in a very large passing place to let us by.
When you reach the lift level, you are told that you MUST book your departure time, they advised two hours, which seemed about right for us.
You then walk through a tunnel, into the mountainside to get the lift up to the Kehlsteinhaus itself. It was while we were waiting in the queue for the lift that the thought struck me that where we walked, was the same route that some of the nastiest, evil, people in the world have walked. All one hopes consigned to a Hell somewhere.
The lift is a fantastic affair, it’s called the Brass Elevator, as it is clad in polished brass with a distinct 1930s look to it. Unfortunately photography is forbidden inside the lift so no pictures. here’s a link to a photo that someone has taken of the inside of Adolph’s Great Brass Elevator. The lift is raised 140 meters to the lodge and when the doors open and you think…”where do I go?”
The was built by the German National Socialist Party as a present for Hitler, however he only visited here on, it is reported only 17 occasions as he had a fear of heights and he also suffered from claustrophobia. Hitler stayed at the Berghof further down the mountain.
Nothing is too obvious but heading for the fresh air is a good start, which was what we done. In fact we kept on going for a while as there is a trail up the mountain past a large wooden cross to the top of a mountain and presumably more mountains beyond that. I say presumably because its a mountain, that mountains also have things called clouds and the top of Adolph’s mountain was socked-in by cloud robbing us of a spectacular views.
This above photo utilises a panorama view board against what we saw on the day. You are looking at the back end of the Kehlsteinhaus with the barracks being visible. The raised section is the winding gear for the elevator. The top of these three pictures is the view towards Salzburg, which is not that far away.
In a way the Kehlsteinhaus was a little bit of a disappointment, somehow I expected it to be larger than what it is. There was a large balcony, a conference room and a guard room and that was that. Today the conference room has been turned into a huge dining area, which at the time of our visit was going like a fair. We did seem to incur the German equivalent of the “Bum’s rush” by the waiter, who done his best to ignore us, so we got up and left. Beer and a pretzel bought from a kiosk, done the job for lunch that day.
With that done we headed back into the elevator and eventually down to the Documentation Center at the foot of the mountain. The history and the construction of the complex around The Eagles Nest is outlined, in fact where the Documentation Center stands was once the site of the Guests Lodge, and where the car park and bus station was the site of the SS barracks, everything to do with its former past has been obliterated either by the allied bombing or by the Barvarian Government. A few high party officials had lodges here, these too were destroyed.
What does remain is the in-completed guest bunker constructed by slave labour and is now open to the visitors to the Documentation Center. It was fascinating to see the construction laid bare from the gas traps at the entrances, the the machine gun emplacements, to the ventilation and power, to the accommodation facilities.
This is an uncompleted entrance way into the guest bunker, just past the machine gun emplacements.
With that done we headed off back into Austria to enjoy some of the wonderful scenery, but there’s one thing for sure….