Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 2 : July 3 - Drive to Austria

Munich, Germany to Berchtesgaden, Germany ~ 2 hours
Berchtesgaden, Germany to Klagenfurt, Austria ~3.5 hours

On Day 2, we woke up bright and early and ready to go. We went downstairs to have breakfast and it was a real German buffet- several kinds of meat and cheese, in addition to typical breakfast fare of cereal, eggs and pastries. It was one of the best breakfasts we had on the whole trip and it was only 2.5 euros per person! After breakfast we started on the road to Berchtesgaden, the home of Eagle's Nest and Hitler's mountain retreat.

For the first half of the trip we were on the Autobahn, which is German for highway, where of course, there is no speed limit. I was a bit tentative about driving on the Autobahn b/c the woman at the rental car place at the airport had said that people will go up to 300kph! I don't think that we saw anybody going that fast, but as I was going around 130kph (80mph), we were definitely getting blown by. We then got onto the Deutchesalpenstrasse, which means the road that goes through the German Alps. It was a narrow and winding road that went up and down through the mountains and afforded us all kinds of scenic views.

On the Deustchesalpenstrasse- looks like Heidi!

Berchtesgaden was a quaint town snuggled in a valley at the foot of a chain of mountains. We went up into the town, did a little emailing and then started heading up to Obersalzberg, where Hitler had his summer home and where his associates built him the Eagle's Nest, a feat of engineering on the top of one of the highest peaks above Berchtesgaden. We drove up the steepest and windy-est roads of the day to get to Dokumentation Obersalzberg. There we visited a museum that documents how the terrible events of World War 2 came about. It was built on the footprint of Hitler's summer home (the Berghof) that the American soldiers destroyed at the end of World War 2.
City centre - Berchtesgaden

Dokumentation Obersalzberg - Museum

After we went through the museum in a hurried fashion- Janda had the audio guide (which was 2 hours long!) and me translating what I could, we headed up to the bus station to get our tickets for the bus ride up to the Kehlsteinhaus - Eagle's Nest. We boarded a bus and headed up the mountain road. The buses go up and down in groups of 6 and the road is only 1 bus-width wide, so buses going down have to pull over into a parking spot and let the buses going up go by. Then you get past the tall trees and see that there is no railing, no shoulder, no nothing between the bus and the steep slope down to the bottom of the valley. I honestly couldn't look out the window very much as it felt like I would just fall out of the bus and down the mountain!

We got to the parking area and booked our bus back down. It was very busy up top, so we ended up having to stay almost an hour more than we had planned. In the end it was just as well b/c there was a lot to see. First you walk down a cool, damp tunnel and into a little foyer to wait for an elevator. The elevator goes up through the mountain and brings you right into the middle of Eagle's Nest, which today is a restaurant. They built this elaborate system during the war b/c Hitler was afraid of heights and this way you wouldn't have to see how high you were going. It only partially worked b/c Hitler only visited Eagle's Nest 13 times.

Once out of the elevator, we were free to hike around a bit up top. We didn't go to the actual peak as that looked seriously dangerous, but we went pretty far up the mountain and enjoyed the views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. After traipsing around on the top of the mountain for a while, we headed back down to the bus stop via the footpath. Once we got back to the car, it was time to go to Austria to meet Kat and Jeff for dinner.

Tunnel that leads to elevator

Eagle's nest on Kehlstein Peak

Janda climbing through the rocks as we go higher up the mountain

The view of the valley to the right

The view of the valley to the left

The peak of Kelhstein behind Janda in the distance. Looks like pure rock climbing to me!

Janda and I at the top

Walking down the footpath

We kept going on the backroad that we took into Berchtesgaden and then turned onto the tiniest road imaginable. I actually thought that we were on someone's driveway. We happened upon a car at one time and we had to pull off the road! We finally reached the end of the road, on the other side of the hill, and we realized that we were in Austria! No passport stamp for that one! The road to Klagenfurt was beautiful, with lots of tunnels cut through the mountains, villages up one the mountains and a bridge across the edge of on of the mountains. We didn't make very good time however, b/c there was some sort of accident. At one point the traffic was completely stopped for so long that everyone got out of their cars! After that, I got used to driving with no speed limit and pinned it at 140-150kph to try to make dinner. We would have had a chance except that after all that we got lost on the way to Kat and Jeff's hotel. Or to be more specific, we drove right by it twice before I caught a glimpse of the extremely unique design of the back and realized what we had done. So, no dinner with Kat and Jeff, but we did get to catch up with them before we went to dinner.

Traffic sucks everywhere! Note the tunnel that we're stuck at. We went through about 8 of them on the road to Klagenfurt- the longest one was nearly 5 miles long!

After we left them, we checked into our hotel and then went to downtown Klagenfurt. Even though it was Saturday night, we couldn't find much open and ended up eating at McDonald's! After that we hit the sack since we had to get up early to meet Kat and Jeff at IM Austria.

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