Happy Independence Day, everyone. Sorry for wishing you all the best a bit late. We dressed in red and blue that day, but strangely enough, we couldn't find any fireworks. ;) They did have flashing light up things in Venice that they projected far into the air with rubber bands, so we pretended those were fireworks!
We got off the train in the morning and found our B&B with no problems. It was nice to navigate public transportation so easily. Once we were checked in and settled, we headed into Salzburg to see the fortress. Most of what we had seen were castles and palaces, so it was pretty refreshing to see a very old, but more utilitarian building. Of course, there were more spiral staircases!
Being a fortress, we learned quite a bit about its defenses. I found this fascinating. This is a picture of the outside of one of the walls - definitely not easy for an army to scale!
Like any good defensive structure, it had an excellent view of the surrounding area.
These were the battlements: troops could move from place to place in these long, narrow hallways. There were also several small windows in which archers could be placed to assist in the defense of the fortress.
Once we finished up, we did a little strolling in Salzburg. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw this, being a huge Lord of the Rings fan. My interpretation was the surprised eye of Sauron and the sad Ringwraith who had failed in his duties. There was a plaque on the statue, but we couldn't understand what it said.
The next day held a trip to Berchtesgaden and the Eagle's Nest, a complex of buildings and bunkers Hitler and his forces used during the second World War.
We joined a formal tour for this one. We took a bus up to a couple of locations. During this time, our tour guide gave us background information and pointed out where buildings stood or used to stand. Many of them were destroyed during and following the war. Our first stop was a museum describing the Nazi party, how Hitler rose to power, their involvement in World War II, and the consequences of their choices. This is a picture of how the "undesirable" portions of the population were labeled.
The Eagle's Nest itself was a 50th birthday present to Hitler from the Nazi party. Interestingly enough, he rarely visited it as it was simply inconvenient to reach. There was a tea house (no longer standing) where the officials in the party would meet to plan instead. For security purposes, there was a series of bunkers built beneath many of the structures in the area. Some were not even uncovered until 1990. This is a diagram depicting the known tunnels.
The next series of photos is intended to give you a little perspective on the bunkers. The first shows a room where a safe once was. It was destroyed by the Allied Forces. The second's purpose is to show a sense of perspective. These bunkers were huge and long. The last shows unfinished bits of bunkers. The level of construction that went into these was incredible. They survived direct hits by Allied bombers.
We had an opportunity to take a brief hike outside the area. There is a memorial to mountain climbers who passed away and a few trails. The view was definitely incredible and it was a little easier to smile when you weren't in one of the areas that was a nexus of Hitler's power.
Finally, the time to leave came. We descended in an ostentatious elevator and walked through a long tunnel that was built just for Hitler's car to speed him up to his hideout. It was a sad and educational experience. Ultimately, I was happy to get back out into the light.
After our tour, we headed back to our accommodations and had a lovely cold dinner of sandwiches with our traveling buddies. We relaxed, played board games, and discussed what we'd seen. We learned that one had been to the Eagle's Nest previously and was surprised to discover the hotel he had previously stayed in had mostly been torn down and converted into the aforementioned museum. In Germany, they have torn down many buildings associated with Hitler and his "Final Solution." It is illegal to publicly display a swastika. It is obvious that the actions of the Nazi party have been acknowledged as a serious misstep, one the country will not suffer repeating.
We are currently in Florence. Tomorrow we've got a bit of a hike planned, possibly a museum, and dinner with another CouchSurfer. Other than that, it is a "vacation from our vacation" in which we plan to relax, nail down lodgings for the future, and hopefully get this blog up to date!