01 June 2015

The Week, She Flew

Unreliable Internet, save for several forays into McDonald's along the way, discouraged daily posts so this one's catch-up. We kept a comfortable routine--after I collapsed early evening Sunday and Monday before dinner and fell asleep for the entire night(s).

Zeller Sea. Hotel under construction.

Zeller Sea

A sunnier day. DM and LG at Zell am See in 2009.
Our son DM and LG during my first visit to the Austrian Alps.

On Thursday we drove the short distance (@38km) to beautiful Zell am See--the drive taking about 1-1/2 hours due to road construction and one lane traffic patterns on 311. There was the dawning realization that this was the route we'd expected to drive in two days to Innsbruck, and the wavering in our will to do so.

Then, there was construction all along the shoreline access, as the Grand Hotel is being refurbished as well as a number of other sites throughout Zell am See. We did make it to the Promenade and the Zeller See is a gorgeous site. Many were taking the electric boats out on the lake, but we were content to sit and take in the beauty.

On Friday we drove the very short distance (4km) from Sankt Johann to Leichtensteinklamm (klamm being gorge), then hiked up and into, then above the klamm through dripping caves and along the rushing mountain stream, to the dramatic waterfall. Though not a long hike, the caverns can be dark and slippery, and I was ever grateful for the handrails. Caution: You will get wet. You will be chilled.

CA decided we would not miss out seeing Eagle's Nest this trip, so we headed out early Saturday for Hallein--near Salzburg--then crossed the border into Bavaria and drove to Berchtesgaden-Königssee. We spent some WiFi time at McDonald's in Hallein, arriving at the tourist office just before noon. Seems reservations are required, but we could take our chances and check back at 1:00pm--the tour goes once a day at 1:15pm. Dumb luck and happenstance allowed us to actually get to Eagle's Nest.

This is a 4-hour tour (Gilligan's was just a 3-hour cruise!) the bus tour took us up and around the mountain as our guide pointed out locations and remains of the Third Reich's glory days and Martin Bormann's idealistic plans and Alfred Speers designs for housing and agriculture for the pure race they envisioned for the Fatherland.

We also hiked through a web of bunkers (accessed from the museum)--prepared to house Hitler and his deputies if the Allies threatened bombing. Interestingly, while Bormann and Goerring's homes were across from each other, their bunkers were not connected as they didn't much like each other.

Did I mention this was a rainy day? No matter, the Bavarians are a hearty lot and expect the same from their guests, so we scurried between raindrops toward the shuttle busses that make the ascent to Eagle's Nest. Finally walking through the brick tunnel (Hitler's one-lane private drive) and into the large polished brass-lined elevator that delivers you (and 41 of your nearest and dearest) into the middle of the teahouse.

Outside the teahouse, snow is mounded. The 360° views are incredible--once the weather cleared and the clouds lifted. A very short hike above the beer garden is the actual mountaintop.

It's a well-known fact that Hitler rarely visited this teahouse 50th birthday present (14 times), conceived by Bormann and constructed by immigrant workers in over just 14 months of round-the-clock 12-hour shifts, through all kinds of inclement weather. At the same time the cliff-hugging and narrow roads were also built. The only way down the mountain was to walk, and many of the building materials were brought up in the same way until construction of a cable car was completed. That cable car was designated for the building materials and never as transport for the workers.

A very long day. And, a very wet one.

Sunday morning found us up, packed, and departing Sankt Johann by 8:00am, with a quick stop at our favorite Cafe Bauer for coffee-to-go. Our 1-1/2 hour flight from Munich to Amsterdam was a bit delayed from the scheduled 1:05pm, then at Schipol Airport we found there were no trains direct to Central Station due to weekend construction. We were instead bussed to another train station (in a very well-organized and polite manner) finalizing our journey with arrival at Central Station and a short cab ride to the Marriott, very near Leidseplein.

It was pouring rain in Amsterdam, but we were undetered and found our way (on recommendation of the Marriott desk clerk) to Castell at 252-254 Lijnbaangracht for grilled steaks and salads. This is a grotto-like space where you relax into low leather sofas, and your meal is served on lap trays. Quirky, for sure, but excellent food and very hospitable servers.

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