There is an Artista in Residence

at least she thinks she is...

MY RECENT POSTS

SheilaTGTG55's Links

MY LINKS
My Links
My Links
MY LINKS
MY LINKS
MY LINKS
MY LINKS
MY LINKS
My Links
My Links
MY LINKS
NOVEMBER 9, 2010 2:55PM

General Walker's Skytop, Kehlstein, Berchtesgaden, Germany

Rate: 16 Flag

In 1976 I was a student abroad in Salzburg, Austria. One day a classmate and I decided to take the bus from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden, Germany to see Kehlsteinhaus, "Eagle's Nest". Jim B., the person that I went with, was the same guy who once stood with me at the wall of the Festung in Salzburg. As We overlooked the scenic vision high above the town, he  stated that he would never come to Europe again. I don't remember the context of the statement, only my reaction, and what I said to him in response.

 id

"How can you at your age, (20) know for sure you will never come back to Europe again? "

I was dismayed. In my mind I was already plotting and planning to come back, without the responsibilities of school. My mind allowed me to imagine I might even live there someday, or do some major traveling there.

" How do you know that or did you just already decide it?"

He was not a romantic interest of mine, although he could have been, he was cute, but I was finding out that he really was not my type anyway. (Oh, and he had a girlfriend of sorts, back home.)  Anyone who decided in the first few weeks of our fall semester that he was never going to come back was not my type of adventurer. It was just how he said it, so hopeless, so final. I questioned him and he said his life would be planned out or something and there would not be money for this....at least that is what I remembered. 

 Even if I never, ever came back to Europe in my whole life, at 20, I would not just declare that I would not.  I could not think in that kind of limitation. I am the person, who hopefully will never realize "my last time" to travel or take a trip anywhere. It will be something known only after the fact. Do you see how I think? Always a kind of half full thing going on here. 

For some strange reason I decided to take a trip with Jim to Eagle's Nest. We took the bus from Salzburg, Austria and it was about an hour. For some reason the way the buses were running and when we arrived, it was probably early afternoon.  Because we either missed the first one or something, the whole day started out wrong. It is possible that this was the last day for the Kehlstein to be open for the season or something like that too. I don't recall.

General Walker's Skytop, was a lodge and ski area named for General Walton Harris "Johnnie" Walker, who was an important strong leader in WWII, decorated in WWI and died in a jeep accident in the Korean War. The nickname "Johnnie" was attributed to the scotch of the same name.

 The General Walker had a history, it was a small inn, taken over by Hitler's men and expanded to a lush hotel after he came to power, it was called the Platterhof after a Judith Platter, who was a character in Dietrich Eckart's novel very popular at the time, Zwei Menschen  (Two People) and the author was someone Hitler admired. Hitler dedicated the second volume of Mein Kampf to him. Eckart had already died in 1923.

At the time of my visit it  was one of the Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) in Bavaria.  So, it was probably no surprise to anyone except me, that a friendly G.I. picked up Jim and I at the bus station and very nicely drove us up as far as a private vehicle could go up the mountain. Some thirty years after the war's end, things in Europe were still being rebuilt and the experience still a bit fresh. For some of my classmates, it was all news to them. I was a little more familiar and had an interest in WWII history at the time. Kids I went to school with were unfamiliar with the Holocaust and that was the tip of the iceberg. Looking back on it now, I knew about Eagle's Nest, but not about the importance of the surrounding area.

As we made our way to what I will call the "landing" of Eagle's Nest, we realized that somehow the last bus up to the tunnel you had to take up to the tunnel walk and into the brass elevator had already left. In the time after the war, for safety sake their are no private cars allowed up to the top of the mountain. The reason is that rocks and debris can fall unexpectedly, and weather is also a factor.

The cost for the bus from Salzburg is about 4.5 Euros now, I am sure it was inexpensive then too. However, being a student, I had my round trip bus ticket and just a few bits of money, but I did carry my American Express card, you are not supposed to leave home without it.....

As we started hiking, Jim who did track, was clearly  in much better shape for the haul than I was. He had insisted we climb up the switchback road, that even if we could not take the elevator up to the actual building he was going up there. Probably had something to do with the idea that he was "never" coming back to Europe again and wanted to see it all. NOW.

Well, it was the end of October, cold and rainey, and the walking of this switchback road had 5 tunnels,  and was about 4 miles. A normal 2.5 hour hike at least.  The elevation was something to consider too. The difference in the height 700 m or about 2297 ft. I was a thin, tall girl, with some pretty good energy, but it had been two years since my high school days and I did very little athletic activity. I could not make it. When I admitted that to myself, as I was peeling off my natural wool sweater made in Ecuador, because I was perspiring, then putting it back on because I was cold, not to mention I was not wearing any hiking boots and the road was hard, I told Jim to go ahead.

To my surprise, he took off running and actually left me there. Yup. He mumbled something about seeing me later and took off, I know we were not going to be taking the bus back to Salzburg because the G.I. who had dropped us had said he would meet us at around 6:00 pm and take us back to Salzburg, he was going anyway. We were going to meet near where he dropped us at the General Walker. 

The path/road was paved, and I felt pretty confident after my rest and stubborn, also intimidated at being left there, so shortly after he rounded a curve, I took off after him. I climbed for an hour and 45 minutes. I just could not go any further. I could see the Eagle's Nest right above me, but I knew I was pushing myself too hard.

The sun had gone down. I was so high up. I was already at an elevation of 1600 ft, at least I thought I was based on what I remembered as the last marker. I was well past that marker. Well, suffice to say, I could see the snow on the mountains next to the one I was on. The tunnels were pitch dark, they were about 2 blocks long it seemed and curved. You could not see daylight  and I was approaching the second one, when I made the executive decision to turn back. It started to rain.

Luckily, my dad had given me an orange fishing raincoat (plastic)  and I carried it in my backpack.  I pulled it out andI had a couple of cookies which I always carried. I don't remember exactly what shoes I was wearing, but I think they might have been loafers, or a small wedge that was the fashion. I think they were tie on. So rain, slippery, downhill pavement, darkness, yeah, I sprinted down. I didn't even stop. When I reached the foot of the trail, or the bottom of the paved road, there was a gate and it was locked, the guards were gone and the Gasthaus was closed. I climbed around the gate and saw a car parked nearby.

It was an older German couple.  I told them I had just came down the mountain and was separated from my friend who had begun the hike with me. ( all in German) I told them I was supposed to meet this G.I. at the General Walker base with my friend to drive us back to Salzburg. They didn't know the place, but I knew the general direction and if it hadn't been raining and so dark I could have found it myself. Anyway they drove me to it and waited to make sure I was okay and I told them thank you, very sincerely auf deutsch.

I got into the building, which was a hotel, and the time was 5:30 pm. We were supposed to meet up with the G.I. at 6:00 pm. So I started talking to these two other G.I.'s  who were on a four day pass. One was a platoon leader, a Second Lt. the other was a doctor. I told them what happened and they were really nice and bought me a beer. Which was great as I only had Austrian schillings and my American Express card which never left my side.

letter 

One page of my 35 year old letter to my parents explaining my adventure.

 

Anyway, well after 6:00 pm Jim and the other guy show up, and by this time  these guys and I were old buddies and they had taken me out to dinner. They were taking their men on a tour of Salzburg the next day so they invited me to stay and go back to Salzburg with them. This sounded like a good plan, especially since there was no way to get back unless Jim and that other guy did show up, as the buses were done for the day.

So when Jim did show his face, he looked all sweated up, rain soaked and worried. The G.I. with him was kind of laughing. Apparently Jim got to the top, only to find the last tunnel closed and he just got a view from the bus turn around area. He did not find me on the trail waiting for him, obviously because the agreement was to meet at the General Walker. Then he had to climb over the locked gate too....so then he noticed the pitch darkness of the lot and empty restaurant souvenir place and might have for one small minute realized finally that he left me to rot somewhere. Ha. I think the G.I. he was with understood very well. He kind of smirked.

Here I am sitting with two higher ranking guys at a white table cloth dinner, looking pretty dried off and calm at this point and he presents. I was really polite. I told him I had been invited to stay and go back on a tour of Salzburg tomorrow. I would spend the night in Berchtesgaden. I told him that he could leave, and have a safe trip. The guys I was with dispatched the other guy with Jim and it was done. Jim, I think, feeling some remorse at leaving me on the mountain, nearly fainted.

After dinner, the guys took me ice skating and we had a blast. I used to live beyond a huge field that belonged to our church as a kid. We had our own hockey rink and I skated on that quite a bit so this was really fun for me. 

So it all seemed fine, until we went to get a room for me. It seems that because I was non military, I could not stay there. I went over to the local pension nearby and they did not take Austrian money and no American Express.  It was too late to find a place to change money, remember this was the old days.  Now I was a little worried, but not really. I had a lot of confidence in the military for a number of reasons. They won the war, my dad was in the Air Corp during that War and my mom was a WAVE. I knew a little somethin about somethin. So the guys decided I would be sneaked into the General Walker up to the room they were sharing. Mission accomplished. The bathrooms were not in the rooms it was a kind of full bath set up, like a college dorm on each floor in the hall. So I very sneakingly without shoes went down the hall to the empty bathroom. Then back to their room. We camped out there. It was hilarious. These guys who were probably in their 30's or so, married and having the adventure of their lives, with a college girl in their room! Yup. I recognized the imagination of the pair, but you know I was pretty savvy. They were gentleman, and I was a lady. So we were triplets and we all snored!

The next morning we got on an Army bus and headed for Salzburg with the platoon. Well, you have never seen so many shocked guys in your life.  I was the prize trinket. They had all these ideas in their heads and no one said a word, expect they teased the sh-t out of the officers and kept taking pictures of the three of us. I think the one guy was from the Bronx and he wanted to buy his wife a Schonbek chandelier before he went home, he and his friend who had helped me were family men. 

So I got to go on a real tour of Salzburg with a guide! I learned more on that tour than in all the time I had been living there. I found out so much I didn't even know about. I gave those guys about 200 schillings that I had in my wallet, which I think then was about $12.00 and then they had some Austrian money to use. We even stopped on the tour at a Kondeteri and ate cake and drank tea. It was a great adventure.

So then I was "safe in Salzburg" once again. My roommate Cathy and I made a big dinner and this guy who was a student friend of hers at the Mozarteum where she went to school, who was also an American, got a car to use.  So the three of us went back to Berchtesgaden  Sunday night because they had an American movie on the base! Clint Eastwood in the Eiger Sanction! It was terrific! No matter where I'll ever be in the world, there's always "home" on an army base. It felt like we just drove into Chicago for a movie.

I went on to tell my parents that "I was so happy this week". " I can't believe it is the same person. But, I was on the bottom and there was no way to go but up (unless I drilled a hole and fell through). But I didn't".

I had saved their letters to me, but I think those were some of the things that never made it home. Some of what I shipped home in envelopes got compromised and stolen. My stamp collections that I had purchased never made it home and some other things like letters, etc. Most of my pictures were not developed with good process or the film was in some way compromised. I have very little in the way of good pictures.

I did get back to Eagle's Nest in 2001 with my husband and children. We rode the bus up and it was a hair-raising ride. We actually walked through the final tunnel after the bus dropped us off at the turn around with hundreds of other tourists. We rode Hitler's brass elevator to the top of the mountain. It was actually an OTIS elevator, an American company, and still has all it's grandeur. It turns out the view was spectacular and it is mostly a huge restaurant up there now.

The General Walker had been returned to the German government when recreational facilities were closed in this area for AFRC. It was demolished the year before we came back as a family. At the time of my stay there, I had no idea the significance of the hotel in the history of the area nor the expanse of all the Nazi owned inns, building, etc. The area is rich in WWII history of the party echelon. In the years before it was turned back over to the Germans, it had been furnished with local artifacts and items probably from some of the Nazi properties. G.I.'s used to frequently loot some of these things, and sometimes they were caught and others not, and some overlooked it as not their building to manage. When it was turned over to the Germans, it was really abandoned by them and it was further stripped of all its furnishings and marble and grand appointments until it was reduced to a  shell of itself by the locals and anyone who knew it was abandoned. Then it was bulldozed for a parking lot. That building had a history to it and was even used late in the War as a hospital. 

Kehlstein, or Eagle's Nest was only visited about 13 times by Hitler. The location of it provides a view of five nations. It was a gift from the Nazi party to Hitler for his 5oth birthday. As I mentioned before it is a primarily now a restaurant. There is an apartment in it also. 

It took me 25 years before I got to the top of that mountain. It was worth every second of the adventure and of the wait to have the memories and to return with my family. Poor Jim, I do wonder if he ever got back.....

I seem to remember that Monday back in our very small school, he kind of apologized to me. I don't think either of us were any worse for the wear and I do wish him well. 

 

 Eagle's Nest

Eagle's Nest 2001

stairs

Stairs to views

 

Brave Steve, our photographer

Steve, our son, our photographer 2001

 

view

View of Obersalzburg Area

 

Interior

Interior of Eagle's Nest Main Room

 

Fireplace 

Famous Fireplace of Main Room, stone is now defaced with WWII markings and gouging. 

 

View

Watzmann

 

view

Valley view

view 

Hohe Goell

 

Copyright 2011 Words & Pictures SheilaTGTG55 

 

 

Your tags:

TIP:

Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:

Comments

Type your comment below:
I hope you will all enjoy this trip down memory lane with me. I do believe that I have had angels watching me at many times in my life and while I was on that mountain, and as the rest of the story unfolded, this had to be one of those times......Enjoy!
Sheila, I sat down with my lunch and just loved this. I knew it was long read so I waited until the Y and R was over..:)
Loved it and I do not know how you did it.
Loved your picture and those mountains..:)
Rated with hugs
Excellent yarn....


^R^
Linda: This was a kind of labor of love, to find all this stuff and put it together. I know it is long, but the letter was long...it was five of those pages! Ha. Anyway, thank you for reading it. I loved the pictures myself. It was a breathtakingly beautiful place.

Sky: Yes, long winded story teller. I found a bunch of typos and fixed them and added to the title. I am so glad you enjoyed it!
- wonderful story, Sheila!

"No matter where I'll ever be in the world, there's always "home" on an army base." - so very true!
Catherine: You know I got a kick out of reading all the letters, and trying to put something interesting for everyone together. It brought back a lot of memories.

Tink: Many thanks for stopping by!
Nice pictures, nice story. I lived in Berlin in 1962 for 7 months while the Russians were tramping around the outskirts and the Vopos were in the East. I was a GI in the army of occupation in 1945 near Munich. US Air Corps.
Jan: My father was in South America during the war, he spent a lot of his time taking pictures from planes staying in Cali Colombia. I wonder if your paths ever crossed in the Air Corp. He was a sgt. in ariel recognizance. He was a great photographer and an artist in his own right, although he did not do art for a living. He just did bits of it for his company and himself. He was creative. He did at 66. I was devastated. Anyway, that would be a story wouldn't it? Thanks for stopping by to read.
Wonderful memories and a return trip too! Gorgeous place..!
O'Stephanie: Thanks for stopping, it was awesome to see the top, you felt like you were on the very top of the world. Thanks for stopping.
Great story - beautiful pics rated
Never been to South America. I never even got a plane ride while I was in the Air Corps for two years. I was so pissed off I got a pilot's license on my own after I was discharged.
Love your typo. Ariel (for aerial) was an angel and for a flier to be scouting for angels seems infinitely poetic.
Fabulous story and photos Sheila, Im glad you got to return to the mountain. Ithink you did have an angel watching over you that first time there!
Sheila I just loved this, even though I wanted to kick Jim's butt! But it all worked out in the end. Beautiful scenery and what a cutie on the I D card. Glad you finally made it to the top of the mountain.
Trish: Thank you for stopping!

Jan: Ha, that was very sweet, I struggled with typing that word, I remember...maybe it was an underlying message I was getting! I am really glad you went out and got your pilot's license. You got to be up there in billowy sky...Thank you for sharing that.

Poppi: Yes, I am glad I got there too. I like to finish things, but it was kind of unintentional to go back there with the kids, but it seemed natural to do so. We did the Salzbergwerk Salt mines too with the kids and they loved the alpine slides. Many times I have felt surrounded by beings, especially when I think in a reflection of events, I know sometimes that I did not accomplish something or be held safe on my own. I sent out my thanks to them. Thank you for stopping.

Fay: I could not believe he left me there. It was getting late and the sun was waning. There were no lights that I remember along that road, it was just mountains, evergreens and darkness. I heard animals in the woods and I was really feeling the place closing in. When I could stop breathing so hard, it was so dense with silence, except for the wind rustling, the animal sounds, then the pelting of the icy rain.
What a nice read over breakfast, sheila, this is great! You are the adventurous type....and gorgeous photos!
I had a boyfriend with Jim's adventure level long ago....that wrecked it for me that he was so...unadventurous, to be kind... and he planned every detail of his life by the time he was twenty.....ugh.
Just Thinking: Thanks, I took that Sound of Music stuff literally as a kid, "spread your wings, done a thousand things, I'd never done before" when I got to Salzburg. I laid a blueprint for my life that included thinking outside what I knew and had grown up with. It forever changed me. I find myself even years later understanding more and more what that experience did for me that I did not even understand or realize at the time. Amazing. Glad you did not keep your "Jim". I think the sense of adventure does enhance a strong woman. It is a good thing.
A sincere, "Wow!" Thanks.
R
Donna: Thanks, glad you could stop by.
We're kindred spirits : )
Of course those Jims are probably very wealthy....but 'wealthy' has all kinds of manifestations, or so I like to tell myself.
Wonderful story and fantastic photos, Sheila. It's great that you got to go back and take the photos with your son. Another thing I noticed (as a lover of calligraphy) is that you have a beautiful handwriting seen in that page of your letter. What a precious souvenir that must be now! ~R
Sheila,
'Indeed a beautiful story.'

Warm regards

Leslie
I've been there, too. It's awe inspiring. Thank you for your pictures and story :)
Just Thinking: Yes, kindred spirits!

Fusun: Thank you! My twins, my daughter and my husband were all there, and we had some great adventures in the salt mine which I will probably write about. Yes, I was quite a letter writer, and now all I really do it type...My father was a quite a letter writer too.

Leslie: I am so glad you stopped by and enjoyed the story and pictures.

Julie: You know I loved being up there, but I like the mountains and have always like to look out on them. I remember a small plane we took into Salzburg and we flew over the alps, it was just like that one scene in Indiana Jones, where they show the plane and the map superimposed over the alps, an awesome close up kind of view.
Oh, to be young, beautiful, and in your 20s in Europe!
Lefty: Young, (naive) and beautiful? Well maybe in the eyes of the beholder. I learned a lot there that really changed my life, in many ways I think. Even as the years have gone by, I have continued to draw on the experience. It really opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I was very glad my parents raised me as they had and somehow it all made for a really good ability to mesh with those around me.
Dom: Thank you for stopping by. If you have written about it, send me a link or if you do let me know. I am always interested in stories about travel.
You've really whetted my appetite to go there. I think it would give me chills.
Beautiful views. Dark history.
Harry: The elevator really got to me. I was in there with my husband and kids and few other people and when the doors closed it was kind of disturbing on some level. The interior is exactly the same, minus the bench he used to sit on to ride. Once at the top and out in the air walking around on the top of the mountain, it felt better. The rooms were filled with people, so it was not quite as stifling....the outside air was cleansing. Really.

Hawley: Yes, exactly. I learned even more reading the guide books again, that we got when we visited and now with the internet, even more. Very sad what kind of legacy they tried to create that is hopefully with time being erased.
Sheila: After reading your story I would like permission to post it in THE AFRC TIMELINE.

Since you were sorta-kinda a quazie "guest" at the General Walker your story is just what I am looking for. It will add more color to the era when the U.S. Military "lived" a part of time in Berchtesgaden. After reading about your stay at the Walker and bunking with the troops it sort of qualifies you as a "RAIDER".

Jim Carey
Indianapolis

RE: http://theafrctimeline.shutterfly.com/
Jim: I am honored to be a Raider.