On The Trail of Famous Austrians – Salzburg

Salzburg Panorama

Salzburg Panorama

Mirabell Gardens Salzburg

Mirabell Gardens Salzburg

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This is our second day in Salzburg and we are heading across the border to This is This is our second

This is our second day in Salzburg and we are heading across the border into Germany, if that makes any sense.  We have booked a half day tour to Berchtesgaden, and Hitler ‘s Eagles Nest.

Eagles Nest

Eagles Nest

Our train journey yesterday from Ljubljana to Salzburg was smooth, and the border crossing from Slovenia to Austria uneventful.  The journey took just under five hours.  We find these changeover days tiring, even though we do nothing much on the train.  All the same we roused ourselves enough to do a quick shuttle bus tour of Salzburg and a river cruise before dinner.  Salzburg is clean and well kept, it has an attractive streetscape, backed with an imposing and intact fortress.  Amazing villas line one part of the river bank – you need some millions to own one of them.  Our drive took us near one of the privately owned large estate houses that was an external shot in the Sound of Music film.  Our guide tells us that some people so associate Salzburg with the film, that they are unaware that Salzburg is first and foremost known as Mozart’s birthplace, and the home of the six week music festival which will start in just a few day’s time.

Today (Wednesday) has dawned bright and clear, perfect for viewing Eagles Nest.  It is a short drive from Salzburg, and I am amused when our guide points to the Alps ahead of us.  “That mountain is German, this to the right is Austrian,” he says.  They look side by side to me.
I had imagined that Hitler lived at Eagles Nest, but I was wrong.  It was a gift for his 50th birthday, and designed as a teahouse and meeting place.  Hitler, and some of his ministers, had homes lower down the mountain.  All were destroyed in allied bombing and after the war, and some of the area is now a car park, where we swap to another coach, with a special transmission to pull us up the steep climb.
We pass the stone guard walls that were constructed at the same time as Eagles Nest.  In my mind I picture a wooden barrier and guards in German uniform on point duty.  This is the beginning of the six and half kilometre single lane road that snakes up through the alpine forest.  At the drop off point at the top we enter a long, dark, damp tunnel,  which leads us to an old lift clad in reflective metal.   Eagles Nest perches at the top, at around 1800metres, and it is surrounded by mountains, some of which are even higher.
Even though it was a clear day, the view from the top of Eagles Nest was still a little hazy

Even though it was a clear day, the view from the top of Eagles Nest was still a little hazy

The view from the top is spectacular.  I can imagine Hitler surveying the surrounding mountains of his domain and chanting (or is that, ranting?) – “I’m the king of the castle, and you’re the dirty rascal”, – or words to that effect.
However our guide informs us that Hitler was not at all keen on the place and only came here around fourteen times.  Some say he was both claustrophobic – which would have been a problem in the lift; and also afraid of heights – which definitely would have been a problem on the terrace.  Apparently Eva Braun entertained here much more than he, and photos of him frolicking in mountain meadows with his dogs and compatriots were actually taken in the lower reaches outside his home.  I know I have read about this, and also about his sister and her role as his housekeeper, but I can’t remember the details.  Maybe she lived in the house in the meadow.
Into the tunnel leading to the lift that takes to up to Eagles Nest

Into the tunnel leading to the lift that takes to up to Eagles Nest

Our tour includes a lunch stop in Bertchesgaden.  This is a picture postcard perfect Bavarian town.  Old timber houses with painted decorations and window boxes.  Unfortunately we linger too long over our lunch before we realise how much there is to see here.  We leave just enough time for a couple of quick photographs.
Bertchesgaden street scene

Bertchesgaden street scene

Our first day in Salzburg (Tuesday 16th) was Jay’s birthday, and Waddy had pre-booked an evening of a formal dinner and Mozart concert for the next night in celebration.  So we switch our attention from the Third Reich, and move back to cultural Salzburg.
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The final note

The final note

The venue is called the Stiftskeller (and don’t ask me to translate that), which turns out to be in a stately old building in the old part of town.  It is our first truly formal evening of our travels.  Lavishly decorated tables and polite waiters.  We are entertained by a five piece orchestra and two singers (male and female), who sing a selection of arias from Don Giovanni, Marriage
 of Figaro and The Magic Flute.  They are dressed in the costumes of Mozart’s time (except for the wigs).  The two singers are very amusing, play acting their roles as well as singing superbly without microphones.  Each musical interlude is interspersed with a dinner course, a lemon&cheese soup, a chicken main dish, and a soft dessert.
Afterwards we walk home through the old town and the pedestrian zone.  It is on foot that you can best appreciate this wonderful city, and we are always struck with how much life is happening in the European cities on long summer evenings.  In the spring it would be even more stunning, as you could look up to the alps and see snow in the distance.  Salzburg is added to a growing list of beautiful experiences.
Tuesday and Wednesday 16/17th July 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Salzburg

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