The Kehlsteinhaus Experience

I thought I’d include this little addendum, having read a few negative reviews of the Kehlsteinhaus experience left on Trip Advisor. Many of these, much like reviews for the Hotel zum Türken, have been left by people who could have used a site like this to get some information first before blindly buying tickets assuming that they were going to be greeted at the entrance portal by a grinning Martin Bormann himself accompanied by a troupe of dancing girls dressed in 1930s attire with Zarah Leander’s greatest hits playing on the vintage phonograph.

To those who argue that the house is nothing but a restaurant… Er, no. If you get a little bit of background (you can do little or no better than by traversing this site for starters) you can very easily wander through the house at your own leisure. There are no guides dragging you about on a tight “now you see it, now you don’t” schedule, and apart from not allowed to use a flash in the elevator there are no restrictions on taking photographs. I suppose the owners could at some point open up the basement to visitors outside of certain guided tours, but as VIPs would have never got to see these places back in the day it’s not a massive loss unless you are a serious history buff. Just be positive and consider you will get to see as much as Count Galeazzo Ciano would have done in 1939.

For those that might suggest that there is no history left in the Kehlsteinhaus with the exception of the damaged main fireplace, there is a simple reason for that: very few of the original items would be left after 1945. Even the door handles were spirited away to new homes elsewhere, usually across the Atlantic. Faced with either refurnishing the house and turning it into a kitsch parody – complete with a waxwork Hitler sitting in the study he never used – or using it as intended, the owners decided on doing the latter. Many of the original interior fixtures and items of furniture may have long gone, but the building still remains. This is where the real history lies, in the granite blocks laid down back in during those hectic ten months during 1937 and 1938.

If you want a quick potted history of the house, you will find a series of boards lining the wall on the south-facing sun terrace, as well as rolling stock archive video footage on a small screen in the Scharitzstube – popularly known as the “Eva Braun room”. On the other hand if you are after a museum, you’d do well to check out the dedicated documentation centre back at the Hintereck, which also gives you the opportunity to have a peek in some of the subterranean bunkers that criss-crossed the Obersalzberg complex.

I have been to the Kehlsteinhaus on a number of occasions, including the good old days when you’d buy your bus tickets at the small and rather nondescript booth tucked away in a hidden corner of the Hintereck. The journey to the summit is exactly what you make of it, and if you are expecting to be pampered all the way there for next to nothing then the trip is probably not for you. The price for the bus ticket – which includes entry to the house and the chance to wander around the summit – is not massively unreasonable, and is pretty much par for the course when compared to similar and arguably far less interesting sites across Europe.

Before complaining about the price of the ticket, it might just be worthwhile considering the amount of maintenance work that is required every year just to keep the mountain road safe for the vehicles that use it. When you are in the bus on the way to the summit, just take a look outside and imagine the mountain covered in snow. Then take a moment to think about the work needed just to keep the road open and in good working order.

Then there is the weather, which is not at the beck and call of visitors – much as we would all like it to be. If you have booked a trip months in advance and are greeted by a wall of thick fog when you arrive at the summit, it’s not the fault of the owners or anybody else. OK, Bormann could have ordered the house to have been built lower down the mountain, but that would have been missing the point. In simple terms, the weather can get a little crappy at times.

Unpredictable weather: the dark clouds quickly close in on the mountain

Unpredictable weather: the dark clouds quickly close in on the mountain

As for the restaurant, I have never found it difficult to get a table – even during the busy summer months when all and sundry are making a beeline for the place. The food has always been of a high standard and is excellent value for money, and the staff are as friendly as I and most other Europeans would like or want them to be. If you are after wait staff who will ask if you are enjoying your meal every five minutes in the hope of receiving a massive tip, you won’t find them here. Instead, you’ll be left to enjoy your food in peace. Accompanied by a chilled Hefeweizen or Radler, natürlich.

Much can be said for and against taking one of the many guided tour packages that are on offer. On the upside, you may get to see some areas of the house that those who purchase just the standard bus ticket may miss out on. Conversely, you may end up being tightly tied to an awkward schedule that just doesn’t meet your needs.

OK, I am a history buff and love the Kehlsteinhaus, and don’t need someone who probably knows just as much as I do to lead me around telling me things I already know. But even if you are completely unfamiliar with the location my recommendation would be for you to have a look through this site, pick up whatever tips you need and make the visit your own. If you are driving your own car, better still: you won’t find yourself herded off when it is time to leave, and from the parking lot at the Hintereck you can expand on your Bavarian mountain experience by taking a spin on the beautiful Rossfeldstraße.

Essentials

A day up at the Kehlsteinhaus is a wonderful and highly interesting experience, but to truly enjoy it here are half a dozen helpful pointers from someone who has made the trip more than a few times:

Get to the Hintereck bus terminal early in order to give yourself plenty of time at the summit. You should allow at least two hours, three if you decide to have lunch at the restaurant.

Don’t forget to reserve your return bus trip when you arrive at the Kehlsteinhaus Parkplatz. If you do not get a seat, you’ll have to make your way back down to the Hintereck by foot.

Combining both of the points above, check the timetables and make sure of the departure times. There have been stories of people getting on the late afternoon bus up to the summit, only to find out that the last return journey is about to leave when they reach the Parkplatz.

If you are intending to take a short hike around the mountain, make sure to wear a pair of sturdy shoes or walking boots. There’s no point complaining about being unable to walk on uneven and rocky surfaces if you go there wearing flip-flops, high heels or other unsuitable footwear.

Take a light jacket, cagoule or fleece. Remember that the Kehlsteinhaus is almost two-thousand metres – well over six-thousand feet – above sea level, and even on a warm summer’s day it can get a little bit chilly at the top of the mountain.

Carry a small compact umbrella, as the weather can be very unpredictable at the summit – even during summer months when a thick grey cloud can appear out of almost nowhere.

As I am an independent writer I cannot provide any specific day-to-day information on the Kehlsteinhaus – maybe one day, when I am finally able to afford my mountain-view apartment in Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden or Königssee – but am more than happy to help from my desk or sofa here in England if you have any general questions about the place.

If you have a question about visiting the Kehlsteinhaus, you can send a quick message on either the Contact form or our Facebook page.

Servus und viel Spaß!
Rick

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