The only reason I know I am in Germany is by my carrier sending a message to my phone saying welcome to Germany, other than that there is no check point, no boarder control, no passport or customs. Not even a damn sign saying "Willkommen nach Deutschland " The train rolls forward at an excruciatingly slow pace. We have made our way into the Bavarian Alps and they tower over me with stunning granduer.
After an hour travel from Salzburg, we arrive at Berchtesgaden. I had one mission here in Berchtesgaden, to see Hitler's Eagle Nest. When I approach the information desk to find how I am going to get up there, I am met with horrible news. It appears a recent rock fall has closed off the steep, windy road and there is now way to get to it untill it is cleared. They were offering an alternative tour around the area of Obersalzberg with views of the nest and a history of the site. I thought twice and reluctantly agreed.
I had several hours to kill so I hiked up a short hill to the Berchtesgaden old town. It wasn't far off the ground but with that
little bit of altitude, I was able to get awe-inspiring views of the alps. The town itself is beautiful, just as you would imagine a little German mountain-side town. I had some lunch, did some shopping and of course checked out what has become my favourite geraman word, "Biergarten"
I should clear up some common mis-conceptions many people have about Berchtesgaden. The town of Berchtesgaden lies at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. People hear the name and think Eagle's Nest, not so. The area of Obersalzberg, which is 4 kms up in the mountains, was the area where Hitler and all his main men had thier homes. Martin Bormann, Hermann Göring, Albert Speer plus many more, the most powerful in the 3rd Reich, all had houses here. The Berghof, Hitler's residence (none of which remains today) was, of course, the largest, grandest and most ornate of them all. All the footage you see of him playing with dogs and entertaining dignitaries all in the loom of those stunning views were filmed at this house. The Eagle's Nest, which sat over 6000ft above sea level, on the peak of a nearby mountian, was his private tea house which was
given to him for his 50th birthday. This was tea house number 2, as he a had another just down from his residence which he walked to religiously everyday. So, the Eagle's Nest was not where he made any decisions, nor entertained often. In fact, Hitler very much disliked it. Teetering on the edge of a cliff 6000ft above sea level didn't excite him as he was afraid of heights. The gold plated elevator, that was the only way of accessing the tea house, was no good either as Hitler was also claustrophobic. Needless to say he made any excuse to not go and only visited it 14 times. At the adjusted cost of US$147 million it made an expensive cup of tea at over 10 million a cup.
The area of Obersalzberg is nothing short of breath-taking. As we wind our way slowly up the mountain, the views get better and better. Obersalzberg was not just Hitler's home (where he spent at least 4 months of the year) It was of such importance that it was considered, by Hitler, to be the second seat of government behind Berlin. It wasn't just homes, it had offices, ammunition dumps etc...
It also had an extensive series of underground bomb shelters that weren't just shelters, they were an underground city. The entire war could be coordinated from right there underground and could be done so for up to 6 months. We got a chance do go down into some those bunkers and have a look around. Apart from the fact that it was bloody cold, it was very interesting. The man was telling us about how they built them and the detail that went into some. Hitler's personal bunker was as plush as his residence, marble floor, gold taps etc... but because he was claustrophobic, he never step foot in them.
We also saw the Eagle's Nest itself. Although we couldn't go up there because of the rock fall, we saw it from the bottom of the mountian. Perched high on the peak, just like an Eagle's Nest. That was actually how it got it's name, when a French dignitary visited it and described it like that.
So that was about it, we had a good look around and I went back to Salzburg. The following day I hopped my Ryanair flight back to London. Austria and southern Bavaria
is a magical part of the world and I would love to go back. The highlight was Salzburg and the views from Obersalzberg.
I don't know when my next trip will be but I have the Download Festival coming up in a couple of weeks so I might do a blog on that.
Untill then, PEACE CAMO!!!
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