Hitler's Eagles Nest, Germany, still sits on a mountain peak high above Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps.
In one of history's weird turns, Martin Bormann's birthday present to Adolf Hitler is now a cosy restaurant with a spectacular 360 degree view of the Alps.
This historic survivor of the Third Reich can only be reached by taking a special bus (or a strenuous 2-hour walk) to an elevator shaft set deep in the mountain.
Entrance to Elevator Tunnel (Closed in Winter)
Once at the top, you can explore most of the rooms and have something to eat or drink in the same spot that Hitler, Eva Braun, Himmler and the rest had their banquets and entertained foreign diplomats. Outside, just past the beer garden terrace, a path leads up to a higher point well worth the short climb.
When the weather cooperates, the panorama is incredible. Right at eye level with the Alps, looking over both Germany and Austria, the jagged mountains march away in all directions. On a clear day, you can see Salzburg. Even when it's misty, the swirling clouds give it an pleasantly eerie feeling.
View from Eagle's Nest, Lake Königssee in distance
Hitler's fascination with the old Germanic legends is reflected in the style and location of the building.
The sturdy Kehlsteinhaus has a pseudo-medieval look inside, with its thick granite walls and heavy beamed ceilings: a modern day version of the mountain fortress where legendary Germanic heroes wait, like Barbarossa, sleeping under the Untersberg across the valley.
The Eagle's Nest wasn't damaged during the war, so it looks just like it did in April of 1945. Most of the furniture was removed by the occupying forces, but the red marble fireplace that Mussolini gave to Hitler is still there, minus some pieces chipped off by souvenir hunters.
The stone walls and beams in the ceilings are the original ones. Some of the light fixtures are original, others are copies of the originals - ditto for the wood paneling on the walls.
As you enter the Kehlsteinhaus, you come into a small, paneled dining area, now a restaurant with small tables serving a limited selection of food and drink. Take a look at the sideboard; it's the original one. This was the room where Hitler had a long dining table for banquets.
Going through the dining room and down a few steps takes you into the large, stone-walled room that was used for conferences and occasional parties. It's currently set up for additional diners. There are deep-set windows on three sides that look out over the Alps. Mussolini's fireplace is in here, along with some tacky souvenir racks.
Eagle's Nest Conference Room
This room was the setting for a party following the wedding of Eva Braun's sister, Gretl, and SS Officer Hermann Fegelein, on June 3, 1944. The Führer had Fegelein shot for desertion on April 29, 1945, the day before his own suicide in Berlin.
Also in the building is the wood-paneled Scharitzkehl room, sometimes referred to as Eva Braun's tea room; the whole window slides down to open. Eva often entertained her own friends and family at the Kehlsteinhaus. Unlike the Führer, who only made about 17 visits, Eva Braun spent quite a bit of time up there.
View from Scharitzkehl Room
The other rooms include the kitchen, office (Hitler's study), a room for the guards, and a basement. A sun porch runs from the main room out to the back terrace and now has an exhibit of historical photos. The beer garden/terrace in back was added after the war.
Getting to the Eagle's Nest is a two-step process, unless you see it as part of a tour.
First: from Berchtesgaden to the Obersalzberg (ten minutes).
Second: from the Obersalzberg to the Eagle's Nest, taking the special Eagle's Nest Bus up the mountain to the entrance of the elevator shaft.
The Eagle's Nest bus leaves from the Documentation Center area on the Obersalzberg, above the town of Berchtesgaden.
From Berchtesgaden to the Obersalzberg:
By car, drive up to the Obersalzberg on B319 (about 10 minutes) to the Documentation Center parking lot, or
Take Bus #838 from in front of the Berchtesgaden train station up to the Documentation Center parking lot.
You can check the bus schedule online at the Deutsche Bahn site and fill in (from/von) "Berchtesgaden Hbf" and (to/nach) "Dokumentation Obersalzberg".
Also, you can get a bus schedule from the tourist office across the street from the Berchtesgaden main train station (Hauptbahnhof). Or, look at the bus schedules posted at the bus stop in front of the station.
Taxis are available 24 hours a day at the train station entrance as well.
From Obersalzberg to the Eagles Nest:
Once you're at the Documentation Center parking lot, next to the bus stop, go down the steps at the far right side to a small ticket office. You can buy a ticket for the Eagle's Nest bus there (currently around 16 Euros). There is a discount for children up to 14 years.
The bus ticket includes entrance to the Eagle's Nest; once you are up there, you are free to explore the building and the grounds.
The buses run every 25 minutes between 7:40 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The last bus coming down the mountain leaves at 4:50 p.m., but double check when you buy your ticket. In October, the buses start at 9:40 a.m. and the last return bus is at 4:00 p.m.
Other than a strenuous two-hour hike, these buses are the only way to get up to the Eagle's Nest. The steep road rises 2275 feet (700 meters) with only one switchback turn and is closed to all other traffic.
It is a one-way road except for one wide spot where the uphill and downhill buses pass. They're timed so the buses leave the top and bottom at exactly the right time to arrive at the passing area simultaneously (of course, it's Germany!).
The bus takes you up to the tunnel entrance leading into Kehlstein mountain. There you have your ticket stamped with the time you want to go back down.
The long, dark tunnel is lined with rough marble and leads to an amazing mirrored elevator that takes you up to the 6000 foot summit in 14 seconds. The elevator is the same one used by Hitler and his visitors. The Führer was driven through the tunnel, but you have to walk!
The Eagle's Nest is only accessible from May to mid October because of snow. The buses start running in May when the road is clear and stop when the road becomes unsafe.
Before the service begins each season, loose rocks from the mountainside are removed. Fortunately, this bus service has a great safety record; not one accident since opening to the public in 1952.
This is a very popular attraction, so it can be crowded during the summer months.
If you want someone else to make the arrangements and take you up there from Berchtesgaden, as well as filling you in on the history, I highly recommend David and Christine Harper's Eagles Nest Tour. They are extremely knowledgeable about the history of the area and include a drive-by of a number of WW2-era sights on the Obersalzberg, plus a visit to the Documentation Center and its bunkers.
The tours leave daily at 1:15 p.m. in front of the Berchtesgaden Tourist Office across from the train station. Reservations can be made online at www.eagles-nest-historical-tours.com or in the Tourist Office. Limited to 25 people.
Price is 50 Euros, lasts 4 hours, and includes bus tickets, entry to the Eagles Nest and entry to the Documentation Center. Well worth it, especially for a first visit. This is the tour recommended by many of the major guide books.