Visiting Hitler’s Bavarian Tea Room

A transit stop near Munich


Sorry it’s been quite on the Blog recently – I’ve been touring Europe with very little internet access.  Here’s a tale of what Management and I have been up to during the past week or so.

We had booked a Channel Crossing for our late Summer holiday but nothing else, so it was the weather forecast which persuaded us to go East instead of South to the Loire, which had been our Plan A.  It had been raining as we left Lancashire but we got clear of it not long after crossing the Manchester Ship Canal and apart from a few isolated or overnight showers we struck lucky ever since.

Our friends in Maidstone have a place for us to park our motorhome and yet again offered us an evening meal, so we woke up and set off without disturbing them to make an early Channel Tunnel crossing.  Breakfast was a snatched bacon butty in the Folkstone Terminal and well before 9am (European Time) we were on the A16 heading for Belgium.

A small town called Mettlach, just into Germany and just off the motorway after Luxemburg has a handy overnight parking place for motorhomes which we had used before so that, since we were heading East rather than South, was our aiming point.  We had used this place before on the way home with disastrously expensive consequences because the Town has a large Villeroy and Bosch factory and an associated factory outlet store, in which Management got seriously carried away but this time we were outbound, we had discovered just how much she overloaded the van in the process of a two trolley shopping expedition last time (crockery is heavy in large quantities) and I was therefore forwarded.  We arrived in Mettlach on a Sunday when the shop was closed and we left before it opened the following morning.

Counting England, our starting point, we had driven in five countries by the time we got to our first Continental night stop.  We’ve found that  when you are making these fairly long transit drives to get to your chosen holiday area (n this case in was now to be Lake Garda in Northern Italy, it helps to have a night stop in mind which you can reach by 5pm or so, especially if you want to use a German Stellplatz (a designated motorhome parking place which is either free or only about 5€) rather than pay 25-30€ for a camping site.  Even outside the school holidays these sites often fill up early.

Up market Motorhomesat a Munich Dealership - priced from 200,000€

The weather wasn’t bad but it wasn’t wonderful and the forecast was worse, so eastwards we headed.  Toll-free motorways in Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany coupled with cheap fuel in Luxemburg – always with a fill up if you are passing – were an attractive option since we could make distance reasonably quickly.  Had we been heading for the Loire Valley we would have been using the French N Roads, equivalent to UK  A roads, to avoid the tolls.

Diesel fuel is a big factor in the cost of a motorhoming holiday these days, so I had decided that we didn’t need to rush so we would cruise at a steady 57-58 mph – fast enough to avoid being overtaken by lorries but also quieter and more relaxing as well as economical.  Of course our journey times were longer but we could still do 250 -350 miles per day without difficulty.  We saved at least 15% in fuel compared with 60-65 mph which we had used in previous years.  Our motorhome is capable of doing considerably higher speeds than that but then the fuel consumption really escalates.

We’d been to Lake Garda twice before and the route we’d used last time had worked well, especially on the way home in that we had driven from a site a Mals, just into Italy, all the way through Austria and Germany to Mettlach in one go.  This wasn’t going to be possible outbound because apart from the lower cruising speeds I was restricting myself to, we would be climbing rather than descending the Alps. Somewhere around the lunch stop en route to Mals, or more likely an extra night stop en route to Mals, Plan B was replaced with Plan C and we headed further East into Germany, towards Munich.

For the less well heeled - note the modified badge on the front

Not that big cities are attractive to us but since we clearly couldn’t comfortably get to Mals and we were thinking of going on from Lake Garda to re-visit Venice, we could go further into Bavaria than previously and then head South directly to Venice, taking in Lake Garda on the way back. Hence we made another overnight stop at a large motorhome dealer just West of Munich, the biggest dealership I’ve ever come across outside America, and then continued into Berchtesgadenland, the bulge which Germany’s very South Eastern corner makes into Austria, looking on the map as if at some stage in history there had been a bit of a land grab.

In fact the geography of the area explains why the border has the unexpected bulge because the border follows the line of the high ground, as it often does in alpine regions.  The border would develop where the mountains imposed a natural barrier between neighbouring habitable, relatively lowland, areas.

Berchtesgadenland  is a county-sized area surrounded on three sides by very high mountains between which lies staggeringly beautiful countryside peppered with lesser mountains and hills so that from high mountain sides on the rim there are some really splendid views to the West and North.

Which is why, somewhere along the line Hitler and his cronies took a fancy to it as their mountain retreat and headquarters.  Between his rise to power in 1933 and 1938 Oberslzberg, one of the villages above the Town of Berchtesgaden was completely taken over to build a Headquarters complex for the Nazi Party leadership which included an elaborate underground bunker system as well as a sizeable SS military garrison and grand homes for the key leaders.

Our directory of Stellplatz found us a nice place to stay in a neighbouring village called Oberau which was on a terraced area overlooking the valley which had the essentials plus a bar, where each evening the owner served large (660ml) bottles of beer for only 2€.  It was a bit of a challenge to get to and would have been more or less impossible to find without satnav but we got there and very nice it was too.  Putting me to shame for my timidity on the narrow climbing approach road there was a large (11 ton) Phoenix motorhome already on site.

At only 12€ per night including electricity this place was a very good deal.  Management had stocked up well with food before we left so we hadn’t needed to do any shopping so far and diesel had gone on to the credit card, so these were the first Euros we had spent.  Our failure to contribute to the ailing German economy was however remedied the following day when went to visit Hitler’s Tea Room.

The Alps beckon - heading for Berchtesgadenland

During a 13 month period in 1937-1938, a Tea Room, known in English as the Eagles Nest, was built on top of one of the high mountain peaks from which there were spectacular views across much of Berchtesgadenland and to Salzburg in Austria.  It was a remarkable engineering achievement consisting of a specially constructed access road to within 150 metres or so of the peak where there was a parking area and an entrance into a tunnel from which a lift (elevator) would take the visitors the remaining distance to emerge inside the building at the top.

It had a large circular reception room with a huge fireplace and a panoramic view.  There was a large dining room and kitchen and many other service rooms, including one containing a submarine diesel engine used as a standby power generator.  A special heating system was installed to stop the tunnels from icing up in the winter.

It was designed to be a place to bring people to impress them with what the Third Reich could achieve.  It was building which would appear, by the standards of the time, to be almost on the top of the world.  This was where Hitler received the British Prime Minister Nevile Chamberlain in 1938.

In fact Hitler didn’t much like going there and used it only infrequently, preferring to entertain visiting VIPs in his Borg (castle/mansion) in the village below.  Apparently he didn’t enjoy the drive up to the Eagle’s nest; the climbing turns and precipitous drops made him queasy. Management found it painless enough in the big bus we rode up in and thought he must have been a bit of a wimp.

Hitler's Mountain-top Tea Room - he didn't use it much

The grand homes, garrison buildings and the underground bunker system in the village below were bombed by the Allies in April 1945 and what was left was blown up by the Americans after World War Two.  But the Eagles Nest wasn’t bombed and the locals persuaded the Americans not to blow it up and it was eventually opened by the Bavarian State Government as a Tourist attraction, in which capacity it continues to serve to this day.

Plenty of car parking has been provided in the area of the former village and former garrison and bunkers, of which barely a trace now exists, from which special buses transport visitors up the same approach road which made Hitler queasy.  After reaching the top the visitors pass through the grand entrance to the access tunnel to enter the same large, commodious and brass-lined lift which Hitler used to reach the top.   The submarine engine still serves as the standby generators but hopefully they’ve changed the lift cables since 1938 because it gets an awful lot of use by the tourists, twenty or more of whom are squeezed in for every trip when it’s busy.

Stellplatz with a view

The former reception and dining rooms at the Eagle’s Nest are now a restaurant but apart from the restaurant furniture (and some conspicuously modern toilets for the visitors, the building retains its original features.  It’s quite a place.

There are many mountain-top views and restaurants in the Alps and the Eagle’s Nest is not the highest, nor does it give the best of the views. But it is a nice view, it does have a history and it is worth visiting.  Down at the car park there is also a Documentation Centre which tells the story of the takeover of the village for the Nazi Headquarters but that didn’t appeal so we gave it a miss.

Berchtesgaden town was a useful source of a couple of 4mm bolts to repair my collapsed bed in the motorhome but otherwise, not least because it’s not at all hospitable for parking motorhomes, we gave it a miss.    After a couple of nights on the delightful Stellplatz in Oberau we woke up to cloud and light rain and decided it was time to head further South, through Austria and over the Alps into Italy.

Therein lies another tale of Go Boxes and unexpected tolls which I’ll return to later.

2 Responses

  1. mike embling says ........

    The Eagles Nest was certainly a feat of engineering, I went there because I want to see how they built it, all done in I think about 20 months, we would have a job to do it today in that time.
    When I visited it the lift stopped working so it was a climb up the zig-zag path to the top, well worth it.
    I want to go back again. A lovely part of Germany too.

  2. Stuart says ........

    It was an impressive enginering achievement – in only 13 months according to the stuff I read while I was there. The Nazis didn’t use slave labour to build it either, as of course they used extensively elsewhere. It nevertheless felt a bit creepy walking in Hitler’s footsteps and I won’t be going back there in a hurry. Berchtesgadenland is indeed very attractive.

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