Berchtesgaden, Salzburg and Bunkers The village of Berchtesgaden is about an hour from where we were in the mountains above Salzburg. Since we didn’t want to drive to Berchtesgaden on the highway, we took the back roads, which turned out to be a lovely choice. Though a bit narrow and twisting, at one point our road came up along side a mountain lake (lake=’See’ in German). This was a very large lake, as we drove along side it for several miles. At one point, we pulled over to take a look at the scenery, and it’s just trees, the lake and a few small waterfalls. The cliffs of the mountain along side the road are covered in steel mesh to keep rocks from sliding onto the road. The lake eventually ends where it empties into a river.
More twisty roads, but not climbing in elevation much yet. Finally, we see a sign indicating we’re in Germany and we get a text message from our cell phone provider confirming they are now covering us in Germany. There’s actually very little to tell you that you’ve crossed borders. We begin to see some signs that indicate we are actually traveling in the right direction to Bertchtesgadenland (Berchtesgaden region). In front of us is a new Mercedes AMG. At a stop sign in the village, we see it came from Russia (RUS on the license plate). They came a long ways!
Finally, into the village of Berchtesgaden and then turn left to go up into the mountains to our pension. Up the mountain we go, never getting out of second gear (ears popping slightly) , but not struggling like the last car we rented. This road has a 24 degree incline and the road twists around the mountainside. On the outside lane, it’s straight down (no guard rails). You never know what you might encounter coming around the corner, be it a tour bus or a tractor hauling hay or a front end loader having come from repairing the road washout.
We discovered this pension when we first came to this area and stayed at a big resort just down the road. Hitler actually took over this little home during his army’s occupation of this area pre-WWII, and there are still bunkers below the building.
The owner, unwilling to sell to Hitler, was sent to a concentration camp (Dachau) until he changed his mind (They did let him out). When we took a walk down the road from our pension, there was another bunker entrance along side the road. The area has done a good job of erasing almost any mention of Hitler. Any bunker or building that remains from that era is closed off and unmarked so as not to draw attention to it. Hitler took over this part of Ober Salzburg (so named because it literally is above ‘Ober’ Salzburg, which is just 20 miles away) and had a home here (destroyed in 1952), probably less than 50 yards from our pension. Even Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) which is on the mountain above us (we visited two years ago) , has no mention of him. There is a ‘documentation center’ on the same level of the mountain as we, that has more info on that era; we visit it on Saturday. We didn’t necessarily come to this area to revisit this historical era, but it it is part of the history. We did come back (3rd time) because of its natural beauty.
The manager of the pension let us in through the thick wooden front door and gave us a tour of the building, then showed us to our room, which we had reserved without a bath. The bathroom/shower is just down the hall. Our room has a small balcony looking out to the valley below. Even the clouds can’t hide the lush green forests that surround us . The sign on the inside of the front door reminds guests to lock the front door as you leave and take your key, because they lock up the place at 6pm!
One consequence of being a bit isolated, is that wireless Internet access is very sketchy. There aren’t any cell towers in the forest!
Still drizzling outside, we decided to drive into Salzburg to continue the HWT (Hermes World Tour). Hermes is located in the Altstadt, so it’s small enough area to find easily, just not to buy what you are looking for!
There is a point on the road between Berchtesgaden and Salzburg where you can see that there has been a landslide on the other side of the river. Reasonably recent. Even more recent is the portion of the road that has been washed out by the river and is blocked off for repair.
It’s Saturday market day here, and so like other cities, there are stalls with most everything from bread to flowers, meat, cheeses, etc. The rain doesn’t seem to have diminished the crowd too much. We did manage to have some Munchener Weissewurst (delicate little white sausages) mit senf (with mustard). The buildings around the square date from the 13th century, though the Salzburg Cathedral is much older than that.
There is a youth festival going on at the Salzburg Cathedral and it’s packed, so not really a good time to visit, though we’ve been in the Cathedral before. The narrow streets of Salzburg have small signs above their e try door usually decorated with symbols of the type of goods or services sold there. The Altstadt is a pedestrian zone, except for the horse carriages that ply the streets. We walked past three horse drawn carriages and then saw one poor guy riding a bike behind them with a shovel. You figure it out.
Mozart is from Salzburg (or Salzburg claims him) , so of course you see signs on the buildings that Mozart was born here, lived here, was taught here, etc. And of course there’s Mozartplatz and Mozart Bakery, etc.
Finding our way back to the parking garage was easier than finding one to begin with! It was a tight squeeze to get out of the tiny garage from the 3rd underground level. And, you have to remember to pay at the machine before you get to the exit, or you don’t get out!
The road back to Berchtesgaden was easy to find and it takes you straight back into town. Despite Salzburg being a good sized city, when you are coming into town, there’s not a lot of suburban sprawl. The river that runs alongside the road is high, reflecting the rain they’ve had and the snow melt run off.
Back up on the mountain, located just a few blocks from our pension, we spent about two hours visiting what’s called ‘The Documentation Center’, which is part of an area of what was then, ‘ Hitler’s restricted area’. To add to my earlier mention about our pension, once Frank Borman, one of Hitler top aides, forced the owner to sell, the pension was converted to different uses, but became part of the complex of buildings (above and below ground ) that was Hitler’s second headquarters (after Berlin). If you look closely, you can still find traces of some parts of the complex. Just up the road is what is now the Grand Kempenski Bertchtesgaden Hotel (was the Intercontinental Berchtesgaden when we stayed there ). The hotel is built on the site where the SS troop barracks were located, and just off the road, mostly hidden in the forest, you can see the remains of the garages built into the side of the mountain. The pension where we are staying is connected to the bunker system, though the entire system is no longer open and interconnected. They have tours of their portion of the system, though we toured the section of the bunker system that is part of the Documentation Center.
The origin of our pension is a building originally constructed in the 16th century by a veteran of the Austrian – Turkish wars, and hence the building took on the name ‘zum Turken’ . The building, being part of Hitler’s complex, was bombed by a raid with 300 bombers on April 25, 1945, was heavily damaged, but not completely destroyed. Hitler’s residence was blown up in 1952 and is no longer visible from the road. We visit the remains of the Berghof on Sunday morning. Our pension got reclaimed by the original owner’s daughter, after a long process, in 1949. The survivors of the family rebuilt their hard fought reclamation, and their fourth generation owner manages it, as it has for centuries.
Sunday, after the walk up to the Berghof , we will leave Berchtesgaden to return our car to the Salzburg airport and then take the bus to the train station for a train to Munich. As usual, you have to fill up the car with fuel. Diesel here is the equivalent of $5/gal., while gasoline is 0.09€ /liter ($.0.41/gal) more. What’s different is that here diesel is less per unit (liter or gallon) than gasoline, while in the US, it’s more.
Photos on Flickr