Sunday, July 13, 2008

Berchtesgaden: The Eagle's Nest

Legend has it that the angels who were given the responsibility of distributing the Earth's wonders were ordered to do so hastily. In their panic, they dropped them all in one place - Berchtesgaden.
That may be one of the reasons that Hitler chose to have his second headquarters here.

There is a more practical reason though - Hitler was an Austrian by birth. By residing in a Bavarian town on the boarder of Austria, no one would think it odd he lacked an authentic German accent. 

Which brings us to one of the reasons the JeTZ found themselves drawn to this now morose and mist-laden municipality which lies sleepily in the Bavarian Alps.

We wanted to see some authentic Bavarian culture. Yes folks, we were  itching to see men in Lederhosen and women in Dirndl.

We wanted to see  weisswurt (white sausage) and entrails on menus. TZ wanted to order Apfel Strudel although her German wasn't good enough...

 Jez in particular wanted a decent sampling of the  region's finest Beer. Actually this photo is not about capturing Jez in his element.
If you look behind him, there's a Dirndl-clad woman. We were secretly photographing her. Moments after that, our dreams would be shattered.

People don't dress this way here! These people were here to celebrate Tartan Day!

Having now been educated about the frailties of stereotyping other cultures, we pressed on to the real reason we were here..

Hitler was in some ways a lucky man. He had some rather generous friends in the SS. So liberal was their gift to the Führer on his 50th birthday, that the angels who threw the Earth's wonders here would have wept. It was a holiday home perched some 1,834 meters high on the Kehlsein mountain. Nicknamed the "Eagle's Nest", it took 3000 people to build. The workers would hike 2.5 hours up the mountain side in the bitter cold carrying all the materials themselves. No horses or transport were used. They worked 24 hours a day to construct the most expensive building  in Germany (A$216 Million) since Neuschwanstein.  Is it any coincidence that these two constructions were built in times of mad rulers?

Anyway, it was pretty much a big waste of time and money. Hitler was not exactly what you'd call a 'fearless' leader. On the contrary, the Führer had many phobias - claustrophobia, acrophobia, atrophobia (fear of lightning) and did you know, a fear of early death? Makes you wonder if his SS friends were being just a little bit ironic?

See to actually get up there, one needs to travel up a steep mountain, through an underground tunnel and up a shiny brass elevator...

Is it any wonder Hitler only visited his nest 14 times and for never more than half an hour...when this was the view from the top!

As it seemed rather innocous to the allies, the Eagle's Nest was saved from destruction and today is a restaurant which donates its profits to charity.

Coming up (sooner or later...) The JeTZ hop over the boarder into Austria to pick up two very precious items...

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