The Eagles’ Nest
Day 34 has been a funny old day with a visit to a place so connected with evil but so beautiful at the same time. I will try to explain the place as well as the emotions that it conjures up.
Greg and I had read that the Kehlsteinhaus received a lot of visitors so decided that we would get there for the first visit, 7.40am. An early start for us these days!
The Kehlsteinhaus is 1,834m above sea level and only reachable now via a bus. There are two routes to the bus parking area, one is steep and narrow and the other marginally less so. We had read horror stories so took the easier path. The journey took us around 30 minutes from the stellplatz and we arrived just in time to take the bus.
For those visiting with a motorhome, your choice is to take the B305 from Berchtesgaden then the B319 towards Obersalzberg to arrive at the Dokumentation Oversalzberg first then the Parkplatz Hinterek. If you have a motorhome, the recommended route is the B305 to Unterau, where you turn right onto the B319 and carry on past Oberau (and the stellplatz) onto the B999 to arrive at Parkplatz Hintereck first.
The car park had around 3 other cars in it, so we were pleased to have arrived early. Kehlsteinhaus is let as a private restaurant (heaven knows why), so the bus mainly contained workers for the restaurant, so the only tourists arriving at the Eagle’s Nest were us plus 11 other tourists, a mix of Germans and Americans. The bus journey was hairy, with the drivers coasting around bends and sheer drops for 7kms. I don’t think that anyone scared of heights (Daddy Dovey) would like to do this drive. The leaflet you are given speaks of the safety history, presumably because everyone is frightened, no accidents since 1952 – pretty impressive. The bus driver was more than happy for Juno to come on board and she just had a little sleep under our feet during the 20-minute journey.
We pulled up at the drop off station and were ushered into a tunnel. It was really cold in there, so I was glad of my jumper but not so much of my shorts. The tunnel is quite long (124m) and cut into the rock but the walls and floors are all immaculate. It felt appropriate to be shivering as we walked along the tunnel when you think of the evil plans that we hatched by people taking this same route.
Then we arrived at a room that contains the lift. It is like a hotel reception area, the lift is bronze and you are instructed not to take photos inside (Greg snuck a cheeky one!). Inside the lift there is green leather side panelling, bronze everywhere else, a clock and a telephone. I found the inclusion of a clock strange – why would you need to know the time in the 41 seconds you spend in the lift? The lift rises another 124m and was built purely for Hitler’s comfort. I wondered of foreign diplomats coming here to meet with Hitler and what was going through their minds at this point – did they understand his depravity or had they closed their minds to what was happening to minorities across Germany.
The lift stopped and everyone poured out. The first view is one that I have seen many times as part of my historic geekiness, where Hitler is stood one hand on a balcony looking out to an amazing view smiling. It took my breath away, I’m not sure whether in a good or bad way. The view was certainly breathtaking, but I couldn’t get over that Hitler, and his henchmen, had been here, plotting what they plotted. Even in our world of inhuman acts, it still seems incomprehensible. Greg, Juno and I walked in almost complete solitude around the grounds. It really did feel like being on top of the world. I can understand why American GI’s named it the Eagle’s Nest.
The house itself was built as a bit of a folly, without any living quarters and was used for state visits and propaganda purposes. It is said that Hitler stayed there less than 15 times, with Eva Braun being more endeared to the location. That said, it is really weird to see it now operating as a restaurant only. The restaurant wasn’t open due to our early start but we were able to wonder about. The section of authenticity that still exists is the red marble fireplace, apparently a gift from Mussolini, which has bits missing due to trophy seeking US GI’s. We were not able to visit anywhere else in the house. I was quite disappointed with this as it feels like you are almost touching history but not quite.
We walked back down to the return bus stop having spent around an hour walking around. The walk down was really nice, great views, paved path and took around 20 minutes. Upon arrival back at the bus parking sight, we felt very glad for our early start. There were coaches, cars and queues everywhere. In fact, there were no free spaces for cars until we left! Chaos. I really wanted to visit the Eagles Nest, and it was quite disappointing. I think if I visited with a whole heap of people I would have been more disappointed. It helped that it was a quiet and contemplative atmosphere.
100m downhill from the parking site is the Documentation Centre (Dockumentation Obersalzberg), which was put together by Munich University as a lesson in the Nazi rise and the importance of Berstesgadan. We had been told by tourist information that dogs were allowed in but apparently only if they are carried in a dog bag!?!? Juno refused so Greg and her went back to Knigel and I continued in. The centre was only €3 entrance so it seemed worthwhile. On entering there were a group of German school children and a group of German soldiers – it seems this is taken pretty seriously. I moved onto the first exhibition.
Really disappointingly for me the whole of the centre is in German, with some leaflets in various other languages, including English. This did impact my experience as I felt like I was just reading leaflets and not really having the benefit of a centre. I moved through in record time and headed back to the rest of the clan.
Our plan now is to head west. We are having a few issues with Knigel that need to get sorted. We’ve been in touch with Lowdhams and Knaus, been underwhelmed with the service but have a dealer named back at the original (wrong) Oberau who will help us. We drive for the 3 hours west. The dealer isn’t able to help us today, maybe tomorrow or the day after.
We decide to head for a stellplatz at Bad Kohlgrub around 30 minutes south of the dealer and wait for the telephone call. The stellplatz is pretty good, attached to a spa hotel it offers electricity, wifi, showers, toilets, washing machine and tumble drier together with a spa package if you want to pay for it. The pitches are massive, we don’t have enough furniture to fill it. Upon arrival, we are greeted by a fellow motorhomer who gave us two fresh eggs – yum, and then spoke to our neighbour who is pretty fluent in English following numerous holidays to Britain. A lovely site, immaculate.
Juno managed to get a new boyfriend, Ollie from Dortmund, a Polish Lowlands Sheep Dog – wow what a cutie! Ollie told Juno that the walks around here aren’t that great as the local farmers are very protective of their patch.
We take advantage of the great facilities to get some washing done, have dinner and arrange to visit Neunschwanstein Schloss tomorrow – another early start to beat the crowds!