A main attraction for David on our World War 2 memorial tour was a visit to Adolph Hitler’s tea house atop the rocky summit of the Kehlstein peak near Berchtesgaden in the German Bavarian Alps. His father visited the bunker at the base of the mountains and possibly Hitler’s hideaway as well.
An Infamous Meeting Place
The tea house, thousands of feet above the town of Berchtesgaden, was a meeting and entertainment site for the Nazi elite. Hitler became chancellor in 1930. In 1936 an eighty-building compound was fenced off in the Berchtesgaden area, fifteen miles from Salzburg and three miles from Obersalzberg, the “cradle of the 3rd Reich.” In 1939 the National Socialist German Workers’ Party presented Hitler with the Kehlsteinhaus (now known as the Eagle’s Nest) for his 50th birthday.
We often see the same newsreel of him there with Eva Braun and friends. Why usually only that one? According to travel guides, he only visited the Nest fourteen times. He was claustrophobic and afraid of heights. The newsreel shows large black cars delivering dignitaries up the four-mile road to a cliff-side turn-around point. We take special tourist buses. After walking through a dark ¾-mile tunnel (left), we reach the brass-paneled elevator and ride the same distance vertically to reach the Nest.
One can understand Hitler’s hesitancy in visiting. The Eagle’s Nest is now the responsibility of the Berchtesgadener Landesstiftung, and with the local tourism association, the trust leases the Nest to a concessionaire as a café and restaurant. The three large rooms are filled near lunchtime on this Sunday afternoon. We go out the back door and see the path leading straight up to the mountain tip. The walk up is not for the faint-hearted (above), but we take it. Black birds circle continuously in the skies above. Below, we see the houses of key Nazis which David’s father visited in 1945. The underground bunker, with its four miles of tunnels, built in 1943 after the Battle of Stalingrad, is closed today.
Sounds of Music
We travel back down the Kehlstein for a short drive to Salzburg. We visited here two years ago with a tour guide and saw the castle level, the ministry, and the Sound of Music park where the von Trapp children sang in costumes made of curtain fabric. This time, we are able to use our free time to blend in with the community.
A large festival is going on throughout the city: nostalgic and beautifully crafted carnival rides; crafters; and lots of food and drink, especially beer vendors in tents and beer halls. Their version of Octoberfest. To avoid the crowds in the last half hour of our visit, we stop for wine and hard cider at an outdoor café at the edge of town center.
Dinner in a small village on the way back to Kufstein is memorable. Our plates are small, round wooden cheese-boards. The main course, ribs, arrives ceremoniously on a long wooden plank with glittering sparklers on top. The large wine and beer pours are appreciated after a long day.
For more on the Eagle’s Nest, visit https://www.obersalzberg.de/obersalzberg-home.html?&L=1
Next time: Ulm Minster and the Black Forest