Walk in Hitler’s Footsteps in Berchtesgaden

Perched high on an Alpine peak, Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest put the beautiful area of Berchtesgaden in Germany’s Bavaria Province on the world map after WWII. The Kehlsteinhaus, called after the mountain it is built on, was a gift to Hitler on his 50th birthday on the 28th of April 1939. Many people think this is where Hitler spent most of his time when visiting the Berchtesgaden area, which held a special appeal to him. Fact is that he lived in a villa called the Berghof in Obersalzberg below the Eagle’s Nest. He spent more time here during the war than in Berlin. The Berghof was destroyed at the end of the war and the burnt-out shell demolished in 1952. What remains is the impressive underground air raid bunker system built by the Nazis to protect their leaders. Some of these bunkers are accessible from a modern, new museum documenting the area’s history during Hitler’s rule. The Documentation Centre is visited by thousands of tourists en route to the Eagle’s Nest each year. But while the museum is open year round, the Eagle’s Nest is only open from mid-May to mid-October and only accessible by public and private bus. The impressive stone lodge, which today houses a restaurant, remained undamaged during the war. The road leading up to the lodge is considered to be a feat of engineering. It was blasted out of solid rock and features only one hairpin turn despite the great difference in elevation. Visitors arriving by bus are surprised by a tunnel that leads 124 metres into the mountain, before they enter an elevator which takes them straight into the Eagle’s Nest. From the vantage point of the Eagle’s Nest one has spectacular views over the surrounding mountains and the beautiful Königssee. A trip to Schönau am Königssee, the deepest and cleanest lake in Germany, is well worth the trouble. It is 8 km long and up to 1,2 km wide, but most parts are not accessible by car due to the towering rock cliffs at its sides. There are however regular boat trips conducted from Schönau. Highlights on the boat trip include a visit to St Bartholomew’s Church on the western shore. The current building was erected in 1697 in a Baroque style. Near the church are also a centuries old hunting lodge and the popular “ice chapel”. The latter is a cathedral-like arch of ice that never melts. A longer boat trip goes to Salet, the furthest stop along the lake, from where short hikes can be undertaken. A little bit of walking is rewarded with breathtaking views of the Lake Obersee and the Röthbach waterfall. While most international tourists visit Berchtesgaden during the summer to visit the Eagle’s Nest, European tourists flock to the area’s numerous ski slopes during winter.

 

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