Salzburg was high on the list of places to visit and we did originally intend to drive over the border into Austria, but when researching it there are no stellplätze in or around Salzburg, so the only option would have been to stay on a campsite outside Salzburg and get a bus in. However, as it’s the school holidays here, the site fees are very high and it’s likely the site would have been full anyway.
Carol then had the great idea of staying on a stellplatz in Germany and getting the train to Salzburg from there. Looking into it, we found that there was a perfect looking stellplatz in Bad Reichenhall, which would also be a good base for Berchtesgaden, another place on our must-see list.
The stellplatz at Bad Reichenhall was indeed excellent, well situated with great facilities and reasonably priced too (and loads cheaper than a campsite in Austria!), and so we decided to treat ourselves to a mini-break, staying in one place for four nights, and so no driving.
Once we’d sorted ourselves out, we went into town and found the tourist information office. The lady there was really helpful, selling us train tickets to Salzburg and confirming the best way to get to Berchtesgaden by bus, providing timetables and other useful information.
With that all sorted we went into Bad Reichenhall, just expecting to see a typical Bavarian town, so we were pleasantly surprised by what a lovely place it is, with its cobbled pedestrianised high street, gardens in full bloom and more. We satisfied ourselves with a mooch around the shops, and would come back to see the rest of the town.
Our day-return train tickets were only valid after 09:00, so we made sure we were up early and on the 09:01 train. After a change of trains at the border, we quickly found ourselves in Salzburg’s bustling hauptbahnhof, where our first stop was the tourist information office. There, we bought a Salzburg Card which gives access to almost all of the attractions, and includes public transport as well. At €27 each it wasn’t cheap, but we would easily get our money’s worth and more.
After initially taking a trolley bus going in the wrong direction, we caught another one going the right way and alighted in the old town. We went for a coffee, and worked out our plan of attack for the day, deciding which things to see and in what order. There’s no way we could have done everything we wanted to in one day, there just wasn’t time – for example, it would have been a two hour round trip to do the cable car ride, so we gave that a miss.
Highlights of the day included the views from the castle overlooking the city, the houses where Mozart was born and lived, and a boat ride along the River Salzach. Perhaps our favourite was a huge 360° panoramic painting from 1829 showing the city and its environs. At 125 square metres, it’s huge, and took four years to complete. Disappointment of the day was that the Festival Hall guided tours were cancelled due to rehearsals, so we couldn’t go in and have a look. By the end of the day we were knackered, so after a lovely dinner at a Bierhaus, we headed back over the border to the van.
Salzburg was a big hit with us, and we can really recommend it for a long weekend away. The €27 tourist card in particular was great value, as the admissions for the places we went would have cost us around €70 each.
By way of background, the area surrounding Berchtesgaden played a significant part in Hitler’s rise to power (if you’re familiar with all of this then please skip the rest of this paragraph!). Obersalzburg, near Berchtesgaden, was a mountain village popular with tourists in the second half of the 19th century. From 1923 it became Hitler’s holiday destination of choice, and in 1928 he started renting a house there which he went on to buy in 1933. Between then and 1936 he rebuilt the place, which later became known as the Berghof. After driving out nearby residents, the surrounding area was also rebuilt with this private compound becoming the second seat of power after Berlin. It is from here that the Nazi leaders proposed ideas which they discussed and implemented as policies. In 1938, construction of the Kehlsteinhaus, (which would later become known as the Eagle’s Nest) was completed. Sitting atop of one of the mountains overlooking Obersalzburg, the Kehlsteinhaus was presented to Hitler by the Nazi party for his 50th birthday. Obersalzburg was almost completely destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945, and the remaining ruins were blown up by the Americans in 1952. Since then, a Documentation Centre has been built over some of the bunkers, which now a place of learning and remembrance. The Kehlsteinhaus still stands, and is open to the public.
OK, history lesson over! Our plan was to visit both the Kehlsteinhaus/Eagle’s Nest and the Documentation Centre. When we set off, the weather was quite grey with no low clouds. We bought a day ticket for the local bus services and, after changing buses in Berchtesgaden, arrived at the Documentation Centre an hour later to low clouds and pouring rain. After buying tickets for the Eagle’s Nest, we boarded a shuttle bus which took us up the steep, narrow road, climbing 800 metres in 7 KM. Once at the entrance, we had to walk through a long dimly-lit tunnel through to the original brass-panelled lift, and 40 seconds later we were in the Eagle’s Nest.
Today it’s a restaurant, with spectacular views across the surrounding mountains and Lake Königsee. There’s not much left remaining from Hitler’s time, though there is a downstairs area which is only accessible by private parties. The place is owned by a charitable trust, and profits are reinvested in the local community. We had a coffee and a cake (it would have been rude not to!) and then went for a stroll outside now that it had stopped raining. Whilst visibility wasn’t great, the views were really good, and must be phenomenal on a clear Summer’s day. It soon started to rain again, so we took shelter on what was the sun terrace where Eva Braun apparently spent a lot of her time, and read the display boards there telling the history of the place.
When we were done we took the shuttle bus back down, and then spent a good couple of hours in the Documentation Centre where we learned about the history of the local area, and saw displays and exhibits from World War II. It was mostly in German, but with lots of leaflets available in various languages, and an audio guide was also available. It’s all really well laid out. We watched an excellent film where some of the one-time Obersalzburg residents were interviewed, and before leaving went down to see what’s left of the bunkers.
It was a pretty full-on day, but very informative, and we’re pleased that we went.