Where are we going again?
The Handbasket » Posts for tag 'Eagle’s Nest'

Eagle’s Nest 2 comments

The hair on the back of my neck stood up on the bus ride up Kehlstein to Eagle’s Nest. There were perhaps three reasons for this.

1. The views … who needs to rent a helicopter to line up aerial shots?!? A lazy cinematographer would only have to take this journey to get a clear sense of what is possible.  I am convinced that the lake in the distance, Lake Konigsee, is the one seen in the opening shots of the Sound of Music when the helicopter comes over the crest of a mountain and looks down on a lake with a boat motoring along, wake lazily spreading out behind. Look in the Ducky shot, off in the distance.

Steady ... steady ...

Steady … steady …

 

2. The place … Hitler’s supposed summer retreat. This would creep any thinking person out.

3. The ride … which compares with almost anything Canada’s Wonderland has to offer. Hairpin turns, lightning speeds, narrow tiny one lane road with no means of accident avoidance, narrow tunnels taken at speed.

To get here, one takes a tour bus from downtown Salzburg to an unnamed spot which I later learn is / was called Berchtesgaden/OberSalzburg. It is actually in Germany, just over the border. More on this later. From this big parking lot/tour bus depot/ticket office/souvenir shop, one boards a specially designed bus, one of six, with upgraded engines and brakes. This is what gets you to Hitler’s parking lot, from which spot one takes the original elevator (not a Schindler, I asked) directly up into the Eagle’s Nest building.

Photo of interior of original elevator, in reflection, showing manufacturer Carl Flohr.

Photo of interior of original elevator, in reflection, showing manufacturer Carl Flohr.

 

We are told on the journey up, by the tour guide, that Hitler hardly ever came to Eagle’s Nest because, ironically, he was afraid of heights. Chickenshit. An Internet factoid, of dubious credibility, suggests that he only visited the place 14 times. Construction was completed in 1938. There are, therefore, seven summers possible that he could have visited, so twice per summer. There is some raw footage on Youtube of Eagle’s Nest in use which I watched after. This is what makes my hair stand on end, still. The footage shows the exact place, practically unchanged, that I just visited. The filmmaker made a vista shot, circa 1939, exactly the same as one I took earlier in the day. It looks, for all the world, like B-roll from the opening credits of the Sound of Music that might have wound up on the cutting room floor.

I typed my initial thoughts on this entry into my iPhone while at the top of Kehlstein. I like that autocorrect consistently likes to change Hitler to either “girl” or “butler”.

One of my burning questions had to do with who was profiting from this rather popular tourist activity.  It turns out that profits from the gift shop, restaurant and bus tours to Eagle’s Nest go to support local schools and charities. No single individual profits from this activity and no single organization is touted. I’m not sure the restaurant even has a name. There is no branding of any kind. The restaurant is marked “Restaurant” and the gift shop is called “Shop”.

I had steadied myself for the creepiness of visiting the heart of nationalism, or of anti-internationalism, if you will. Having Ducky along as a photo buddy helped take some of the creep out. Still, riding in Hilter’s elevator and standing by his fireplace is chilling.  Which brings me to Berchtesgaden/OberSalzberg. It wasn’t until I was reading the materials on the bus on the way back that I realized that the actual summer compound where much time was spent by Hitler, Goring and others was OberSalzburg. The architect confiscated land from local farmers, without compensation, and built a real summer retreat here – right where the buses now jockey for position to transfer tourists from the weak-ass tour buses to the souped up tour buses. The guide didn’t tell us this. On the land was a village of summer homes for Nazi officials, useful facilities, and gathering places. Below ground, there is a complex series of bunkers, facilities and shelters. Allied bombers did some damage to the above ground complex in 1945 as the “American Zone” expanded. The locals blew up all the remaining buildings in 1952 and wrote a local bylaw restricting anyone from owning land or building residential buildings on the site, in perpetuity. With one exception – a small hotel/restaurant was returned to the family from which it was taken by the Nazis when they built the site. It still operates as a hotel/restaurant and is the only remaining entrance to the network of tunnels below surface. We may have driven by it and I wish I’d known to look for it.

Update: So, my Eagle’s Nest visit was yesterday and I had been using my GPS to note the relative location of the “Sound of Music” hill that I had a half-baked plan to visit. “The hill” is hidden behind some farmers’ houses in the middle of almost nowhere on the border of Austria and Germany, on the German side. As we went to/from the Eagle’s Nest, my GPS suggested it was very close, just over one of the mountain peaks perhaps. Turns out it is even closer. 12 km. The Sound of Music “hill” is closer to Hitler’s summer retreat than it is to Nonnberg Abbey, which is 20 km away.

 

Top of page / Subscribe to new Entries (RSS)