On Sunday morning, we woke up at the Hotel Astoria in Salzburg and had breakfast there, which was included. We then took a taxi into the city center to meet at the Panorama Tours kiosk to take our ride up to the Eagle’s Nest. This was the same company we used for The Sound of Music Tour, and today we would be visiting a sight that was high up in the mountains – more than 5,000 feet altitude. It is located about 45 minutes from Salzburg, just on the other side of the German border, back in the region of Bavaria.
The Eagle’s Nest is an area that was owned by Hitler. It isn’t a place he stayed overnight, but it is a location where he held many private (read: secret) meetings during WWII, during the reign of the Third Reich and the National Socialist (Nazi) Party. It was at this location that Hitler and the SS made plans for war and genocide. It overlooks an entire valley below, including the city of Salzburg, which is visible far in the distance. Hitler also held secret meetings here with other leaders (such as Mussolini, who donated the Italian fire place that is still there today).
When we woke up this morning, we were awakened by a thunderstorm, but it soon passed, and as the morning went on the rain lightened and eventually the sun started slowly coming out. I had hopes for good weather today, considering this particular tour was mostly about the view. There isn’t really much at the Eagle’s Nest to commemorate or even acknowledge Hitler and the Nazi Party. Today, it’s more about the view.
Our tour company bus took us about as far as it could (about a 45-minute journey) and then we switched over to a bus operated by the national park service that takes you the rest of the way up the mountain. The road is only wide enough for one vehicle so the buses have a certain time they all go up at and certain times they all come down at. We drove through about three or four tunnels and the rest of the ride up was incredible scenic (as long as you don’t look straight down). When we arrived at the top, we walked through a long tunnel (about 200 meters long) until we arrived at a brass elevator. I could envision Hitler and the SS making this walk.
Why was the elevator brass on the inside? They said Hitler was claustrophobic and the brass on the interior of the elevator was very much like a mirror and gave it the illusion that the space inside was bigger. It was already quite a large area. I believe they fit about 30 or so people in it on our tour today. It was also a quick ride up.
Once up there, the inside has been converted to a restaurant and a few viewing rooms. The rest is really more about being on the mountain top where we were able to take in panoramic views on all sides. Really spectacular. And the clouds had just moved out while we were getting up there. There were a few small ones lingering, and from time to time a few clouds passed right by us and under us, partly obstructing views for a few minutes. But mostly, we could see quite a lot! It’s a very peaceful place – and considering the madmen who once occupied it, I’m glad today there is a cross on the top of the mountain along with serene views where the people of Germany and many other countries of the world can take it all in together. The allied forces liberated this part Germany and captured the Eagle’s Nest at the very end of the war. Since it was never bombed, it is today as it was in the 1940s.
On the way back to Salzburg, our tour bus stopped in the village of Berchtesgaden, which is also in the Bavarian region of Germany. We had another great meal (sausages with sauerkraut) as well as some more gelato as we roamed around this quaint German town for about an hour. We have really fallen in love with the German food. It is just delicious and every place we go seems to have very reasonable prices.
The bus then took us back into Salzburg, where we caught a short taxi to the train station, where we boarded a train to Vienna, which took just over two hours. We checked into our hotel at the Courtyard Marriott and then took the metro about a 10-12 minute ride into the center of the city. Thanks to my friend Harout Samra’s recommendations, we ate a delicious dinner at Café Einstein and then walked over to Café Landtmann for some even more delicious dessert cakes. I’m in heaven with this food. We got a glimpse of City Hall (which is in that vicinity) and then we then took the metro back and called it a night. Our first four days have been quite full and we needed some rest as we prepared for our big full day in Vienna on Monday.