Monday, July 21, 2008

The Eagle's Nest

I can now say we've been to Germany -- a little corner pocket called
Berchtesgaden which is the gateway to Obersalzberg, the Nazi southern
headquarters and second seat of power. We caught a bus an hour out of
Salzburg and joined a tour which Mai Li had spotted on the internet and
booked before we left Sydney. This particular tour is recommended by the
New York Times, Lonely Planet, Rick Steves (European travel guru) and
others. The guide was extremely knowledgeable about the Nazi history of the
mountain, covering the life of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi high officials --
Speer, Himmler, Goering, Goebbels, Hess, and quite a bit on Martin Bormann,
Hitler's secretary and architect of much of the mountain stronghold;
indeed, it was his idea to construct the Eagle's Nest -- a luxurious tea
room (what we might call nowadays a conference centre) perched at the apex
of the mountain, accessible by a steep and winding mountain road, and then
a long (and once-heated) tunnel to the large, completely brass-lined
elevator which takes you to the top -- as a fiftieth birthday present from
the Nazi party to Adolf Hitler.

About half of the Nazi buildings remain, including some of the officials'
houses, but Hitler's residence sustained two direct hits in an RAF bombing
raid on Obersalzberg in 1945. The remains were completely razed in the
early fifties and trees were planted closely together over the site to
ensure it is never used as a place of pilgrimage by Hitler sympathisers.

We explored part of the extensive bunkers which were built under the
residences as a potential last refuge and means of escape of the Nazi high
officials and their families.

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