Exploring the ObersalzbergMore than 60 years have passed since the Nazi enclave on the Obersalzberg was destroyed.
It was on the Obersalzberg that Hitler made his home, along with Hermann Goering and Martin Bormann. High level meetings were held here, and many important decisions affecting the lives of millions were made by Hitler sitting in his mountain retreat, the Berghof.
In spite of the changes there is still a lot to see for those interested in World War II history. The road around the area is like a loop; The Berghof and Hotel zum Türken are on the other side of the loop from the Documentation Center and parking lot.
A good place to start is the Documentation Center.
The official tourist attraction on the mountain is the historical museum, opened in 1999. This is a first-rate museum that covers the history not just of the Obersalzberg, but the Third Reich in general, with many photographs and fascinating documents from the Nazi era. The text is in German but an audio version in English is provided for a small fee. There is also a scale model of the mountain showing the locations of the wartime buildings.
The exhibit was installed in the former Gasthaus Hoher Göll, used for important visitors during the Third Reich, located just down the path from the large parking lot off the main road coming up from Berchtesgaden.
As a bonus, visitors have access to the bunker system under the former Platterhof Hotel, which was torn down in 2000 and made into the parking lot just above the Center.
The Obersalzberg's Nazi Bunkers
Even though the bunker system travels through much of the hillside, most of the tunnels are now sealed off and inaccessible.
The other bunker is under the Hotel zum Türken, just further down the road past the large parking lot, accessible through the little office on the side of the hotel.
The Documentation Center bunker is a partially completed one; metal walkways have been installed for visitors and given the popularity of the Center, there are usually quite a few people exploring them.
For a truly eerie experience, head for the Hotel zum Türken's bunker. You will probably be the only one down there. A maze of tunnels and rooms on two levels is available for exploration. If you are somewhat agile, you can climb the metal rungs up into the machine gun nests tucked in here and there.
The passageways are well-lit, but damp and creepy. Fortunately, the walls have signs at turning points with the way out clearly marked; otherwise, it would be easy to get lost down there.
One tunnel leads to the entrance to Hitler's bunker in the Berghof, which was just next door to the hotel.The tunnel is bricked up at that point so you can't get into the Berghof's bunker, but standing next to it is a haunting experience.
The main road around the Obersalzberg goes past the Hotel zum Türken and the path leading to the ruins of the Berghof.
The photo on the left was taken from the driveway to the Berghof's east wing, looking out towards the road and the Hotel zum Türken above. The photo on the right shows Hitler standing in roughly the same location.
The photo on the right shows the path leading to the Berghof ruins, taken from the road just below the Hotel zum Türken. The yellow sign doesn't mention the Berghof.
The trees have taken over the place where the house stood, but the two driveways are still recognizable at the point they leave the road below the hotel. The left path led to Hitler's east wing, housing the dining hall, kitchen and staff quarters, and the right path was the driveway leading to the main entrance of the Berghof.
Just inside the forest are the remaining foundation walls of the Berghof. Visitors usually have the place to themselves, since it is unmarked.
The Berghof was blown up by the Bavarian government in 1952 and the ruins were cleared away later, leaving just the rear walls of the foundation and part of a side wall where the grand staircase had been.
The sign below is posted at the entrance to the left path that used to be the driveway to the Berghof's east wing. It gives directions to six other places; no mention is made of the Berghof location only a few meters away. The only official recognition of the site is a billboard installed in July of 2008, inside the wooded area (photo was taken standing where the building used to be).
Another approach to the Berghof is from the back side, following the path leading into the woods from the flat area where guests of the Intercontinental practice on their Segways (see photo below also).
If you are on foot, you can get to the Türken from the Documentation Center parking lot by crossing this area. This field starts just below the parking lot and to the right of the bus stop for the Eagle's Nest.
The Türken is to the left (just out of sight in the trees) on the road running below the bridge in the far distance under the Intercontinental Hotel.
Hotel zum Türken
Today it is owned and operated by the family of the wartime owner. Staying at this hotel is not only convenient for sightseeing, but it has the cosy look and feel of the 1940's and possibly the best view in Berchtesgaden.
Buses to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
The bus for the Eagle's Nest leaves from the Obersalzberg.The only way up to the Eagle's Nest is by way of the specially modified buses designed to make the steep climb up to the elevator leading to the building. This was an amazing engineering achievement and the view is spectacular on a clear day.
The building was never damaged; it's now a restaurant and structurally is basically as it was during Hitler's time. The marble fireplace, a gift from Mussolini, is still there. (Hitler lived at the Berghof, not the Eagle's Nest. He only visited it a few times, but Eva Braun was often there.)
The Bus Stop. The buses leave from a spot just below the parking lot for the Documentation Center; standing on the road, the steps leading down to the buses are on the right.
Tickets can be purchased at the bus stop and reservations are not necessary (cost: around 15 Euros). The buses only run during the summer months (April through October, depending on the weather; snow makes the trip too dangerous).
Other Buildings on the Obersalzberg
The largest building on the mountain is the new, Intercontinental Resort Berchtesgaden. The large luxury complex sits on a hill where Hermann Goering's house once sat (the exact location is probably where the pond is on the edge of the hotel grounds). The open field in front which used to be the SS barracks is now a Segway track for the hotel guests.
The construction of a luxury hotel on this particular site was controversial; some felt it was inappropriate to build a large, fancy hotel in an area associated with such a dark history. Others felt it was returning the area to its original tourist character.
The only trace of the Platterhof Hotel, which became the General Walker Hotel, is the building next to the parking lot housing the restaurant and the long row of souvenir shops next to it.
Martin Bormann's house was just across the road from the Türken Hotel and into the woods a few dozen meters. It was heavily damaged in the bombing and the ruins were almost completely removed, so there isn't really much to see there.
I thought this was an interesting travel article about the Obersalzberg.
The Obersalzberg is about a ten minute drive above Berchtesgaden. The main highway through Berchtesgaden (highway B305) passes by the Bahnhof and follows the river. The road to the Obersalzberg (B319) leaves highway B305 in the center of Berchtesgaden and winds up the hill. Follow the signs to the Documentation Center; there is a large parking lot on the left side of the road.
There is regular bus service approximately every hour from the Berchtesgaden Bahnhof for the 12 minute ride up the mountain, but the last bus leaves around 6:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m. on weekends). The schedules are posted at the bus stop in front of the Bahnhof. It is bus #838, but check the listing. The name of the stop is "Dokumentation"; it's right next to the entrance to the parking lot. You can get a copy of the bus schedule at the Tourist Information Office across the street from the Bahnhof.
You can get taxis near the main square in Berchtesgaden and there is a taxi stand in front of the Bahnhof. The taxi office is staffed 24 hours a day; it is just inside the right side of the train station building. If there are no taxis outside, they will call one for you. A taxi to the Obersalzberg costs about 10 Euros; a little pricey, but handy if you need a ride after 6 p.m.
Click on my blue markers to see the accurate locations of the various structures (Google's aren't quite right); I've marked the Berghof ruins, Hotel zum Türken, bus stop for the Eagle's Nest, etc. Zoom out (or go to the larger version), and see the markers for the Eagle's Nest and Berchtesgaden.
View Obersalzberg and Berchtesgaden in a larger map
History of the Obersalzberg. The Obersalzberg during the Third Reich.
Hitler's Berghof. The Führer's home on the Obersalzberg, then and now.
The Eagle's Nest. Tips on visiting Hitler's mountaintop retreat.
Berchtesgaden. Things to do in the town and ideas for exploring the area, including a boat trip on the beautiful Konigssee.