After forty plus years we finally make it to the top


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Europe » Germany » Bavaria » Berchtesgaden
May 6th 2018
Published: September 2nd 2018
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Another breakfast viewAnother breakfast viewAnother breakfast view

I used the excellent zoom on my good camera to get a closer look at all the firewood piled up at the next farm over from our hotel.
The realization that our trip was almost over hit me this morning. Only two more days of sightseeing. We needed to make the most of it. Therefore I started the day off with twohard roll breakfast sandwiches. I piled a slice of each of the four different cheeses as well as a slice of all three different meats on my roll and smeared both halves with a liberal application of butter. Combined with the beautiful view from the breakfast room it was a great start to what appeared might be a rather cloudy day.



The plan wasn't set in stone but we hoped to be able to do another tour we had never done before. Again, because we usually traveled in the Winter the Kehlsteinhaus, otherwise known as “Hitler's Eagle's Nest”, has always been closed. Snow remains on the mountain road from September until May. This early in the month of May there was no guarantee the route to the top would be open. If it were just me and my X1 I think snow wouldn't be much of an impediment, but because of the unique alpine roadway to the Kehlsteinhaus only specially designed buses are allowed to
Not much of a view hereNot much of a view hereNot much of a view here

Riding up to Kehlsteinhaus on the specially designed buses took us by what is purported to be some rather dizzying views. We couldn't see much of anything through the morning fog.
ascend.



It was a short drive from our Gasthof to the area just below the Eagle's Nest. Back in the 70's and 80's when we first fell in love with this area the plateau below the Kehlsteinhaus road was the site of the General Walker Hotel. Originally built as the Platterhof, the hotel first served as a place for visitors to Hitler's Bavarian Redoubt to spend the night. After the war the Armed Forces Recreation Services took over and the hotel became an unique place for American military families to stay when vacationing in the area. Now that hotel has been demolished and the Dokumentation Center has been built in its place. The center tells the story of Hitler's rise and fall and the effects of the Nazi occupation of the Berchtesgaden region. If we couldn't go up to the Kehlsteinhaus we planned to revisit the Dokumentation Center.



Finding parking was a bit of a chore even though it was only 9:45 on a Sunday morning. We hiked uphill a bit and felt a bit out of breath at this altitude. I couldn't figure out where we needed to go to check availability for
Arriving near the summitArriving near the summitArriving near the summit

The parking lot just below Kehlsteinhaus is big enough to hold plenty of cars but the road up there is so narrow that traffic is limited to just the special buses run by the administrators. One might think it was a bright clear day by the looks of this shot but the clouds continually passed through.
the Eagle's Nest tour but saw a group descending a stairway near the back of the Dokumentation Center. As we started to follow I saw three buses idling in a parking lot below us. The assembly area is called “Hintereck” or “rear corner”.



I was still not certain we'd be able to take this tour as we approached the ticket window. There were scores of people standing around waiting so I assumed that the first tours of the day were already sold out and those waiting were going later. We bought our tickets and even saved a few Euro because of the discount cards our hotel had given us. As soon as we walked away from the ticket window a bus driver beckoned us over to one of the available buses. No waiting and two seats.



After waiting another ten minutes for the bus to fill up the ride to the top began. I guess we were fortunate that fog was clinging to the mountain. Therefore we couldn't see just how terrifying the ride to the summit was. The single lane road, considered a true marvel of engineering at the time, twists and turns
There's snow on the roofThere's snow on the roofThere's snow on the roof

Despite temperatures in the high 70's for the past two weeks thee was still plenty of snow to go around on the Obersalzburg.
to climb over a mile above sea level. The ride takes about twenty minutes with much of it precariously close to the edge of huge drops. The route took us through five tunnels and only one hairpin turn. All we were able to see on our drive to the top was a lot of trees and some guard rail.



Ours was the third of three buses driving up the mountain. Our ride ended when we reached a wide parking lot that was not quite at the summit. The only vehicles allowed in this lot were the buses. Just before getting off the bus an announcement was made that all visitors must book their return trip down the mountain before going up to the actual Kehlsteinhaus. They recommended staying two hours. Then we joined a rather lengthy line where we reserved our return trip.



Even though it was a bright sunny day May day as we stood in the paved parking lot, the mountains all around us were shrouded in mist. Even Hitler's Teahouse a few hundred feet above us was draped in fog. Standing in the open space of that parking lot we could
Another war memorialAnother war memorialAnother war memorial

I'm not really sure why this small monument was built up on the Eagle's Nest. At first I thought it might be dedicated to the men killed building the road up to Kehlsteinhaus, but the dates indicate that they were killed during WWII. Perhaps these were guys who helped build the site in the late 1930's who were later killed in combat.
see snow piles on the edges of the lot and deep snow laying in the shadowy crevices of the mountain. Tourists who obviously had never seen snow before walked out onto a snowy ridge with a 60 foot drop next to it. Idiots.



To get to the actual Kehlsteinhaus we had to first walk through a beautiful 400 foot long tunnel deep inside the mountain. The route was lined with beautiful masonry stone throughout. Taking a right hand turn we came to a chamber where an old school elevator waited for us. The ride up to the Kehlsteinhaus was very smooth and surprisingly quick despite the obvious age of the elevator. It looked like the old department store lifts I remember as a kid. This one also required an operator who had his own stool for resting.



We emerged from the elevator and found ourselves just outside the main room of Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Walking around the side of the building we still couldn't really tell how high up we were because of the thick fog everywhere. It would clear totally for a few seconds then another cloud would roll in. At no point
Dangerous liaisonDangerous liaisonDangerous liaison

This is where the geniuses unfamiliar with the properties of snow and ice were showing off for their girlfriends. Just beyond those trees was an immense drop to the valley below. Even up where I stood it would've been a nasty spill if you slipped.
could we see the next mountain over. We passed by a big outdoor patio where some visitors were already eating and drinking.



We skirted the patio area and walked up the icy pathway to an overlook just above the Kehlsteinhaus. Because of all the tourists continually stepping into our picture frames we spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get a decent shot of the building itself. Gail would have ventured even higher up the mountain but my sneakers were not giving me much traction and I was lucky not to take a header as we tried to stay out of the professional hikers' path uphill.



Again the sun played peek-a-bo with us behind the clouds. I found a vacant bench where I sat down to watch an eagle flying around the mountaintop. Before too long I realized there was more than one. In fact, when we got out our cameras and tried getting the perfect bird shot we determined that there were at least six of them hovering up above. Believe it or not the little creeps wouldn't stop and pose for us so it took quite awhile to get a decent
Still higher to goStill higher to goStill higher to go

The parking lot where the bus left us was still far below the mountaintop. To the lower right is the long tunnel leading to the elevator that takes you to the Kehlsteinhaus. Meanwhile. the clouds keep passing through.
picture.



Unfortunately the actual interesting parts of the Kehlsteinhaus are off limits. They don't want it to become a neo-Nazi shrine by allowing access to the rooms Hitler and his cronies used on the few occasions he came up here (Hitler was afraid of heights so he rarely came up to the Eagle's Nest). I wanted some sort of memory of visiting this place after waiting all these years so I bought a book detailing the construction of the Teahouse as well as the history of the road to the top. I also bought a golf shirt with “Kehlsteinhaus” embroidered on it. Let's see if anyone I meet recognizes the significance.



Our two hours were soon up. The bus ride down the mountain was only slightly more interesting because the fog had lifted only slightly. On the descent we passed a couple of hikers using the roadway to hike to the top. In my most athletic years I doubt I could have ever done that hike. And these were middle-aged people doing it.



At the bottom parking lot where the bus discharged us there was a huge crowd waiting. We had timed things pretty well again. Getting an early start is always a good idea when touring in Europe. There was a souvenir store here as well but we didn't need any more stuff to bring home.



My plan now was to try out the Summer Rodelbahn that was supposed to be in this area. I had printed out information on its existence but not the exact location. We spent the next 45 minutes driving up and down the Obersalzburg looking for this mountain rollercoaster. We had an address that we put into the car's Nav system but when we reached that address there was nothing there but a field. We kept driving looking for what had to be a huge metal track or for a ski lift but found nothing but the old abandoned Armed Forces Recreation Center ski area that has now become a golf course. We continued searching and found the headquarters of the German Olympic bobsled team and the remains of Hermann Göring's Obersalzburg chalet. We also drove through the luxurious Kempinski Hotel complex in our little BMW as the hotel was hosting some sort of Mercedes-Benz owners' convention.



We never
The long tunnel into the mountainThe long tunnel into the mountainThe long tunnel into the mountain

This 126 meter long tunnel leads to the elevator that takes visitors another 131 meters up to the teahouse. Nazi bigshot Martin Bormann supervised the project and wanted the road to go all the way to the summit but the brave engineers actually running the project insisted on building the tunnel and elevator feeling that trying to build a road to the top would be far more expensive in money and lives. Not to mention adding more time to the project.
found the Rodelbahn. I eventually learned that there was a small cable car operation at the bottom of the Obersalzburg that takes riders to the track. It was closed on the day we were looking for it.



Berchtesgaden is full of possibilities. The reason I love this part of Germany is because there is so much to see and experience. We decided to drive a short distance out of town to the village of Ramsau. We've been there numerous times over the years but the day was turning out to be yet another bright sunny day now that we were off the mountain. We headed toward the oft-photographed little country church searching for a safe place to park. As luck would have it there was a little Gasthof 50 yards beyond the church grounds. We parked in their lot and when we saw that their little Biergarten was open for business we grabbed a table. Once again we started with a couple of cold beers. With it getting almost too warm for my liking the beers were a welcome respite. I wasn't exactly starving but I felt the need to stuff my face with one more German
No I didn't stick a photo from our flight over to EuropeNo I didn't stick a photo from our flight over to EuropeNo I didn't stick a photo from our flight over to Europe

This was our view the instant we left the elevator and walked out on the patio of Kehlsteinhaus. The clouds kept rolling in and often they lay below our vantage point on the Obersalzberg.
delicacy as our remaining time overseas dwindled away. I ordered the spinach flavored Spätzle. At first glance I was a bit disappointed in the size of the portion but when I dug in to it I quickly discovered it was not only delicious but extremely filling. I could barely finish and needed help from Gail.



Instead of walking straight down the road to the church we crossed the street and followed a hiking path through the tiny hamlet of Ramsau. It paralleled the creek featured in virtually every photo of the church. I was surprised that so many of the homes here had backyard swimming pools. When we got to the little bridge spanning the creek we waited a few minutes for other tourists to get the hell out of our shots. Once again I was content with maybe five photos from which to chose a favorite while Gail took at least two dozen from every vantage point one could imagine. I was waiting for her to roll up her pants and wade into the stream's icy waters to get a truly unusual shot.



When we finally had our fill we returned to the
Not too early for the first roundNot too early for the first roundNot too early for the first round

I could instantly tell who the Germans were and who the tourists were. The Germans walked around in short sleeves and foreign visitors wore coats. I wore a raincoat on a sunny day.
X1 and took a little Sunday drive to the opposite side of Berchtesgaden motoring along some of the back roads around the Königsee. We found that the public parking lot at Königsee wasn't insanely crowded so we decided to make a visit. Half of the businesses along the avenue from the parking area to the actual lake were closed due to it being Sunday. But most of the restaurants and souvenir shops were open.



We casually strolled along the edge of the Königsee watching the steady stream of tourists boarding the electric boats that would take them across the huge alpine lake over to St. Bartholomew's Church situated just below the Watzmann mountain. We followed the curvature of the lake to the point where water drains into a creek heading toward Berchtesgaden. The smell of rotting weeds and duck crap was overwhelming. I couldn't wait to cross the little wooden covered bridge that took us to the opposite shore. From there we walked over to the Olympic bobsled and luge run. It was huge. Although no ice remained it looked ready for future competition the minute the temperatures dropped. I never realized these tracks were so
Maybe it's clearing (?)Maybe it's clearing (?)Maybe it's clearing (?)

Just when we thought we might get a good photo of the various peaks on the Watzmann more clouds came in to cover it. We didn't realize it then that down below us we might have seen the Königsee had it been a clearer day.
permanent and structurally sound. It almost seemed as if a bobsled could make a decent run down the track without any ice installed. Just pop on a set of wheels instead of blades. I wonder of local skateboarders sneak inside and take runs down it.



There were plenty of people out and about enjoying this Sunday's early taste of Summer. Whole families were out taking a hike along the numerous footpaths radiating away from the Königsee. And once again a busload of Russian tourists barred our way as we tried to hurry past that stinky section of the lake.



Enough time had passed. Time for more beer. There were a handful of empty tables adjoining the lake where we decided to pause. Neither of us were hungry but the warmth of the day left us pretty parched. We enjoyed two rounds of beer while watching the electric boats returning to the piers and discharging daytrippers. From there the boats would go halfway across the lake to wooden boat garages to park for the night. On our previous visits we had usually seen two to three boats operating. Before we really started paying attention I would have thought the entire fleet might consist of half a dozen boats. We watched in amazement when the count got to ten boats heading off to those boathouses. But more and more just kept coming back to the dock. Each with 40 or more passengers. By closing team at the ticket booth and as darkness began to fall we had counted 21 total boats. All of them electric and silent.



During this time we were also entertained by the busload of Russian tourists that were being served dinner in our Biergarten. We assumed that the tour company and restaurant had worked out a fixed menu in advance because the woman who seemed to be in charge had a long contentious discussion with the waiters before food started to come out. The guy directly behind Gail was especially angry about something and his wife and daughter tried to calm him with the additional efforts of the tour group leader. Just before his dinner was served he got up and disappeared for over half an hour. When he returned his trout was cold but he was thrilled with himself because he carried a couple of bags full of
Apparently you are supposed to go up this wayApparently you are supposed to go up this wayApparently you are supposed to go up this way

Yet everyone bypassed the barrier and climbed through the snow to walk farther up above the teahouse.
Schnapps to take back to the old country.



When we paid our bill we took advantage of the opportunity to use the Zum Schiffmeitser restaurant's WC. We were both quite impressed by the alpine décor inside the restaurant. I admired the look of the yellow pine walls and furniture mixed with the German antiques acquired from nearby farms and breweries. I would love to have a smaller version of their bar in the basement of my house: exquisitely lighted in a way that the glasses and pitchers looked like glittering jewels while the beer taps were unlike anything back home in America. The place had the perfect Bavarian ambiance.



Just before we got back to the parking lot we looked up at the Obersalzburg and with the help of a nearby map we were able to spot the Kehlsteinhaus clear as day high up on the mountain. All the fog and mist had dissipated. We spent a few minutes watching hang gliders weave in and out between the mountain valleys narrowly avoiding crashing into trees and power lines.



Back in the car we headed back toward Berchtesgaden. We considered having dinner back at our hotel but since it was getting late we weren't sure the kitchen would still be working. We drove down the main street of Berchtesgaden looking for an open parking spot. The few parking spaces in the downtown were all occupied and in fact, a number of vehicles were illegally parked as it was. Just before reaching the edge of the commercial district we found a street-side space in front of an Italian restaurant. No way did we want Italian food on our second last night in Germany.



We continued down Maximillianstrasse admiring the window displays in the little shops. I loved the little haberdashery with the big selection of Bavarian hats. Gail was impressed by the souvenir store/camera shop's incredible prices on knickknacks and kitsch. We decided to return the next morning when the place was open again. No way could we leave Bavaria without at least a couple of tacky mementos.



I had planned to walk all the way to the tiny pedestrian zone tin search of a place for dinner but as we passed the Gasthof Watzmann where we had had an enjoyable stay a decade ago we took
Most of the Watzmann is visibleMost of the Watzmann is visibleMost of the Watzmann is visible

This is the third highest peak in Germany and the highest solely within Germany.
a glance at their menu. We both spotted something we craved and the prices couldn't have been more tempting.



We decided to sit inside. I had had enough of al fresco dining. We ate in the same room we had been served breakfast years ago. A big ceramic stove was the centerpiece of the restaurant. Again, the room was full of pine furnishings further enhanced by really old unique antiques. At first our waiter seemed a bit formal but before long we were yucking it up with him. Our continual calls for more beer ingratiated us with him. We discussed tourism, religion, politics and local history. It was a wonderful finish to a full day. And the food was just as satisfying. I had maybe the best of all my Spargelsuppes that night and finished with Currywurst and fries. Lowbrow dinner but exactly what I craved after a day of over 18,000 steps according to my Fitbit.


Additional photos below
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No need to climb any higherNo need to climb any higher
No need to climb any higher

Even though it seemed like walking up to the highest point of the mountain would make a great picture, the fog was too thick to see much of anything and ice on the path made me turn around.
In memory of the American tourists that had heart attacks climbing up hereIn memory of the American tourists that had heart attacks climbing up here
In memory of the American tourists that had heart attacks climbing up here

At this point I realized I am truly getting old as I huffed and puffed to catch up with Gail. I was not happy I couldn't get a picture without a crowd of tourists standing in it.
Trying to look like a GermanTrying to look like a German
Trying to look like a German

I didn't want to be lumped in with the other confused foreigners so off came the raincoat. I would look German even if I froze to death.
No wonder Hitler didn't like coming up hereNo wonder Hitler didn't like coming up here
No wonder Hitler didn't like coming up here

You can't see anything up here. Two seconds of clear weather and the next second you have a cloud all around you. It must be really lovely up here in a thunderstorm.


2nd September 2018

We stayed at the General Walker Hotel...
it is terrible that they tore it down! The hotel had many tunnels under it.
2nd September 2018

Never had the privelege
My Air Force career was spent in the great states of California and Texas plus 8 years with the PA Air National Guard. In basic training I made the mistake of letting it be known that I desperately wanted to be posted overseas. Hence, I spent my time Stateside. The military way. Those AFRC facilities were so cool. I am still jealous of all those that got to use them and to experience living in Europe.

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