Reliving recent German history in Berchtesgaden

During my two week stay in Munich and the Chiemsee this summer, I decided to visit one of the most important documentation centers about recent German history, the Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden.

Berchtesgadener Land

A trip to Berchtesgaden is feasible as a Munich day trip, the journey takes approx. 3 hours (each way) either by car or train.  Once you arrive in Berchtesgaden take to RVO bus #838 to take you up the mountain to the Obersalzberg. The documentation is a permanent exhibition of the Institute of Contemporary History Muncih-Berlin and to date the only permanent exhibition worldwide to cover all the essential aspects of the Nazi period in Germany.

The halls are arranged around Wachenfeld House which Adolf Hitler purchased in 1933 and then converted into his holiday resort Berghof. And of course, Obersalzberg contains the Führerbunker underneath  the exhibition halls.

Admission to the center is EURO 3 and you can either join a guided tour or walk around on your own, look at photographs, watch old Wochenschaus and videos.

Entrance to the documentation center

Then follow the signs and descend into the bunker. What struck me as chilling in the truest sense of the word was how vast, dark and very cold the many, many rooms are. Having to take refuge in a bunker this deep and big must be haunting, with water dripping off the walls and floors and not much by way of amenities.

Aisles in the bunker

Rooms were marked as office, guest quarters etc. but they resembled prison cells more than temporary living quarters. They are also all totally empty. I expected some sort of furniture or memorabilia of the times, but there is absolutely nothing.

Dripping walls

Another point of interest to visit in Berchtesgaden is the Eagle’s Nest, a big chalet which was a project of Martin Borman and presented to Adolf Hitler as a50th  birthday present . It’s located high up on a mountain and there is an access road which was blasted out of solid rock and completed in only 13 months. Since 1952 the Eagle’s Nest road is closed to public traffic and a bus service takes visitors to a viewpoint. From there a stone lined tunnel leads straight into the mountain and an elevator which takes the visitor up another 406 ff straight through the heart of the mountain and into the building itself. The Eagle’s Nest is open from mid May until the end of October.

Footpath down from Obersalzberg to Berchtesgaden

I didn’t visit the Eagle’s Nest because after my visit to the Obersalzberg, I walked back into Berchtesgaden on a winding footpath which leads through dense forest and affords views of the beautiful Berchtesgadener Land. It was also a means to unwind after the truly moving experience of viewing the documentation.

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