Eagles Nest

Trip Start Apr 04, 2007
Trip End Oct 22, 2007

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Flag of Germany  ,
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We woke up early this morning and found the bus out to Berchtesgaden, a small German town just over the Austrian border. From there we caught another another bus up to the 'Dokumentation' centre, which is the initial staging point for trips up to the 'Eagle's Nest', Hitler's mountain getaway that he never really used due to his fear of heights.

The Dokumentation Centre was his tactical headquarters outside of Berlin. A series of buildings, including an SS barracks, a hospital, and a children's school were built nearby. The facility was eventually bombed by the Allies in 1945, mostly destroying the site. However, a huge underground bunker complex remained and this was eventually turned into the museum.

The Museum has an amazing collection of photographs, film and other archival materials tracing Hitler's rise to power in Germany, important Nazi figures and events, and the horrors committed by the Nazi's during the genocide against the Jewish people. It was all in German, but the photographs and film were incredibly powerful all the same. We trekked down into the maze of bunkers beneath the building, a cold and eerie series of air raid shelters, passages, and thick stone rooms built for Hitler's inner circle. State of the art (at the time) air conditioning and air locks existed in the bunker to prevent poison or other harmful gases to enter the site.

We attempted to hike up to the Eagle's Nest itself, a small building atop the cliffs above the site, only to discover that all of the walking paths had been closed, with the only other alternative being a bus that cost about $60 NZ for the two of us. Given the price, and the lines for the tickets stretching for miles, we opted for the view from below and inspecting a photograph of the building.

We took the bus back down to Berchtesgaden, and from there to Konigsee which Nathan had told us was a cool town nearby. The lake that the town sits on is considered one of the cleanest in the world, and only electric ferries have been allowed to run there, at very slow speeds, since the 1900s. We had some cheap Gelato and hopped on one of the ferry boats out to St. Bartholomew peninsula, famous for its 16th century red domed church that sits on the waters edge. We'd also heard that there was a good hike up to an ice cave called the 'Ice Chapel' in the mountains behind the church.

The hike wasn't very well marked, but we enjoyed the walk through the woods and up to the beautiful mountain passes. We'd noticed along the way the number of fairly elderly German's hiking and were very impressed with their fitness at such an advanced age. After just having commented to each other about this, we rounded a corner into a group of people, with a police helicopter hovering over head. It turned out an elderly man had literally collapsed and died on the trail ahead of us (natural causes), and due to the remote location, the police helicopter came to airlift the body out.

Sad as it was, we couldn't help but thinking 'not a bad way to go'. The sun was shining, and the view was absolutely breathtaking and he was obviously out doing something he loved. Surrounded by mountains and rushing water, out in the lush green trails. After the police had left, we continued on a little farther to the Ice Chapel. we found two different ice caves, close to each other, both of them being very beautiful. It was getting late at this point so we hurried back (briefly getting lost) to the ferry and negotiated the huge lines to get a ferry back to Konigsee.

We managed to get back to Berchtesgaden in time to catch the last bus back to Salzburg. Unfortunately the only place still open, and vaguely affordable, was the bar at the backpackers, so we got a plate of food there between us and sat and chatted with another backpacker girl who was staying at the hostel. We were exhausted after our long day of exploring and tried to get organized for the following days only to encounter more useless staff assistance (or non-assistance) from the hostel.

We called it a night and headed for bed, looking forward to exploring more of what Salzburg itself has to offer tomorrow.

All our best from Austria

Dan and Gabrielle
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