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Monday, November 14, 2016

I Fought the Law (and the law won): Going to Eagle's Nest on the German/Austrian Border.



(NOTE: We're trying to see different things on this trip to Munich than we did on our last trip. You might want to check out our previous trip to Bavaria to see some of the big sites we won't be covering on this trip as well)

Previously on The World on Wheels...

Part 1

I've had a couple of marvelous days with our rental car, doing 100mph on the fabulous autobahns of Germany. I'm spoiled. Now, we're stuck in a massive traffic jam that lasts from Munich to Salzburg.


Photo Courtesy K@rl at the German language Wikipedia

I see these signs along the autobahn as we approach the Austrian border. I correctly surmise that they mean there's a toll road ahead. With traffic crawling along at 5-10 mph, I have plenty of time to fish a selection of coins out of my pocket to pay when I reach a toll booth but I never see one before I exit.



We have crossed the border into Austria, I have to cut through a tiny corner of that country before I get back into Germany for today's destination.


Picture courtesy of Plani under CC 3.0 license

No toll booths, so I guess I didn't hit the toll road yet except...what's this? There are 20 cars parked along the shoulder of the off ramp. An officer of the Austrian Polizei peers at my windshield and motions me to join them.

He points to my windshield and says something in German. Noticing the puzzled look on my face, he ask's "sprechen sie English?"

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After answering affirmatively, he says "you do not have the toll sticker."

I tell him I don't know what he is talking about and he tells me to accompany him to a nearby van.  In the back of the van is another officer at a desk set up with a computer, phone, and a credit card machine.

The officer in the van tells me "you do not have the toll sticker on your windshield. That is how we pay tolls in Austria."

I tell him that I saw a sign about tolls, that I had money ready for it, but never saw a toll booth.
"You buy one at any gas station."

Again, I tell him I didn't know that and the sign on the autobahn did not make that clear.

"It's been the law for nineteen years, you should have known."

I inform him this is the first time I'd ever driven in Austria (not quite true, I drove through Innsbruck years ago into Italy but never exited the autobahn in Austria and still didn't know about this law). How was I supposed to know this?

He was unimpressed. "A hundred and twenty Euros...cash or credit?"

After quickly running my credit card, he went on to say "at least with this ticket, know that you can drive without buying a toll sticker through tomorrow."
Sigh...welcome to the world of the infamous Austrian toll trap.

A couple of miles later, we're back in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, following our GPS up an alpine road.  We're headed to Eagle's Nest, Hitler's retreat which was given to him as a 50th birthday present by the Nazi party.

This is different than Eagle's Nest, his alpine headquarters. That was bombed and purposely destroyed after the war and the site is now the 10th hole of a nearby golf course.

The retreat is perched high above, on top of the mountain. The Fuehrer was afraid of heights so he only went up a couple of times and mostly just left it alone.  Today, it's a restaurant and biergarten.



Our GPS announces we've arrived at our destination...a lonely gravel parking lot amidst green, grass covered slopes and spectacular, glacier-clad peaks. There's a quiet little pub here but I was thinking there'd be more people here.  Checking in, we find out this is another Eagle's Nest...a nearby pub that just happens to have the same name.



Getting the correct directions in the GPS, we set off to the other location after Letty snaps a few pics.

Across the valley, a couple of miles away, we come upon a much busier place with several, large, filled-to-the-brim parking lots. This isn't Eagle's Nest but the visitor's center and transportation depot.

I drop Letty and Tim off and head off to find a parking spot.  After a few false starts, I finally find one and get the family for the walk over to the bus station.  We purchase our tickets (not cheap, around $50 roundtrip for the three of us...that's just the bus ride) and wait 30 minutes for our allotted time.



You can also hike up...many people do...and the trail looks accessible enough for a wheelchair but it's a good three-hour hike up. You'd want to make sure you're in peak condition or have a lot of battery power for that option. The buses are municipal-type buses and have a ramp for wheelchair access at the back door.



We get on our assigned vehicle and are soon going up a very narrow, Cliffside road up the mountain. Not to worry, we're told, these are specially designed buses and specially trained drivers for this particular road. Well, we'll just breathe easier then...



We're still a thousand feet shy of the top when our bus pulls into the upper station. From here, you need to make a reservation for a time down before you proceed. Once your tickets are stamped with your return time (two hours is a sufficient amount of time for most people), you move on to a tunnel that takes you deep into the mountain.



It's damp and musty smelling and then you get to a brass elevator at the end which takes you the rest of the way up.

They really pack 'em in on that elevator but it's a short ride up where we exit in a hallway in the smallish building of the Eagle's Nest. There's a restaurant to the right, restrooms straight ahead, and the exit outside to the left. The path is just big enough for wheelchairs and soon it opens up to a larger open area on the mountain top where we can stretch out and claim a little more personal space for ourselves.

First, we have lunch at the small biergarten outside where we lunch on sausages, mystery game meat,  and dumpling soup. As with most of the food here, it's very good and service is quick, efficient, and friendly.

Afterward, we can explore the mountain top, drinking in the stunning views of the surrounding alps.



The area around the building is accessible and offers a little roaming room for wheelchairs.



A trail winds up to a cross on a small peak nearby before continuing on for who-knows-how-far off into the distant ice-pocked peaks.  This part is not accessible but Letty and I walk up to the cross to get some of these pictures.



You do need to have your wits about you if you wander off the trail, the drops are vertical and long down to the valley floor below.



From up high next to the biergarten, you can look down on the golf course where Hitler's Alpine command post used to sit before it was bombed to oblivion.

When our allotted return time comes, we make our way back to the elevator, down to the tunnel, and catch the bus back down.

The traffic going back to Munich is no better than it was this morning and it starts to rain as we reach the outskirts of the city.  There's no more police drama, though, and we find our way home without too much problem.

We'll continue our exploration of Bavaria's main city after some rest.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

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