Kelsteinhaus

Trip Start Apr 09, 2006
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Trip End Jun 09, 2007


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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Sunday, August 13, 2006

Only 25km from Salzburg and across the border in Germany, Berchtesgaden is a pearl on the edge of the Alps. More accurately, the spectacular views from the mountains surrounding the town steal the show. B'gaden achieved infamy as the location of Hitler's Eagle's Nest (known locally as Kelsteinhaus) in WWII. The retreat was a gift to the Führer on his 50th birthday from what today is simply referred to as "the party". I guess there's no reason to use the "N" word.

The 45 minute bus ride to B'gaden was a site! I had only seen rain since arriving in Austria and it looked like I was going to be treated to a fantabulous day - sunny with big puffy clouds. We curved our way along a river surrounded by lush green fields, spectacular forests and sheer mountains. The river itself was unusual. It was a milky seafoam color - the same color that is formed in deep glacial cracks. It was easy to imagine every drop in the river coming from melted snows high in the mountains.

Finally, after changing onto my third bus (of course I had to do it the filthy backpacker way) I was almost to the top. I could see the peak and building about 150m overhead. The site is accessed by first walking about 200m directly into the mountain through a tunnel. Near the end, you turn right into a kind of small rotunda room. It was perhaps 10m in diameter and had a domed ceiling. This was the waiting room for the brass-lined elevator that quickly zipped up to 50 people the 150m to the inside of the Eagle's Nest. Very kewl. The building itself is not that remarkable (a restaurant leases the space on the top floors) but the views of the surrounding countryside are outstanding. One side reveals the mountains giving way to flatter lands and Salzburg in the distance. Another shows snow in mountain valleys dropping down to alpine lakes.

I remember seeing video footage of Eva Braün in a documentary. She stayed for months at a time at the site and I have to admit it was a little odd standing there looking at the same view that had been shared by her and obvious others. I had time, so I sat enjoying the view with a beer and ordered lunch from the restaurant. I had wiener schnitzel...seemed appropriate somehow.

I'm very glad the weather was on my side, as this was my primary reason for spending a few days in the area. It has made me want more and I just might have to rethink the future to include more alpine scenery.

On to Vienna.
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