After arriving in Salzburg late Friday evening, we took a walk around the city to grab dinner before quickly calling it a night. The next morning, we had to be up bright and early for a pre-booked excursion across the German border, in Berchtesgaden.
Saturday’s activities were definitely an interesting way to spend our 5th wedding anniversary: visiting WWII sights that belonged to the evil German dictator Hitler.
First on our agenda was the Eagle’s Nest, the site where he used to entertain foreign dignitaries. Apparently, Hitler was afraid of heights and only visited a small handful of times. One of the few undamaged sites from the Nazi regime, it’s perched over a sheer rock wall. To access the Nest, you must take a 20-minute bus ride on a narrow (12 foot wide!) and steep (22% gradient) road through mountain passes and tunnels. In fact, the road is so dangerous that no civilian cars are permitted to drive on it – there’s even a security shack and cameras guarding it to ensure no unauthorized access. My Army Engineer husband (who has firsthand experience building roads in tough terrains) was pretty impressed with the construction of the road, especially since they didn’t have the same type of engineering equipment they use nowadays.
After arriving at the Nest’s parking lot, you must walk through a long, chilly tunnel to reach the infamous golden elevator. When the Nest was in service by the Nazi regime, it was a heated tunnel, but the heat was pointless since visiting officials were driven through the tunnel. Anyway, the ride on the “golden” elevator (actually made of polished brass) takes you to the summit. Although you’re not supposed to take pictures on the elevator, I snuck one.
The architecture of the place is stunning, but it was created for one purpose only – to impress people and make them forget how truly horrific the Nazi party was.
Nowadays, the Eagle’s Nest is a restaurant called Kelsteinhaus. Their website describes the Nest in such a way that I wanted to share it with you: “It must, however, not be forgotten that the Eagle’s Nest was a part of an idyllic setting that was intended to overshadow all the horrors of those years. Today however, it still offers a magnificent and unique view of the surrounding countryside and also the opportunity to remember and learn about the inhuman dictatorship it served.”
After leaving Kelsteinhaus, we had hoped to visit the Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg museum recommended by the Katie Show Blog, but unfortunately the English tour requires headphones for an audioguide, which of course I left in the hotel room by accident. So instead, we went on a hike in the area.
We also saw the remains of Kampfhäusl, where the dictator wrote his (disgusting) autobiographical manifesto, and Berghof, one of his headquarters locations. Both sites were completely destroyed at the request of the American military before being handed back to the Bavarian government in the mid-1950s.
Our hike, although only 30 minutes on the map, took much longer because I underestimated the distances on my map app. Of course, the route was full of hills and my poor husband had a 30-pound rucksack known as our toddler on his back, so it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience… Drew’s face in the below picture summarizes how we felt about that hike, haha.
To be completely honest, seeing those places so closely associated with that disgusting, inhuman dictator was eerie and creepy, but it’s important to remember history so that we can prevent it from repeating itself. It definitely wasn’t a romantic way to spend our 5th wedding anniversary, but it was an interesting one!