It’s Monday morning and the plan was to go to the town of Berchtesgaden to visit the ‘Eagle’s nest’ or Kehlsteinhaus. Built by the Nazis for Hitler, it is a chalet on the summit of Kehlstein. A feat of engineering which resulted in the death of twelve of the construction workers who had to work in perilous conditions, which included carrying 50 kilos of weight up the hills and hanging over dangerous heights. It was a fiftieth birthday gift to the Fuhrer.
I go down for breakfast and wait for the others to join me. It was quite a while before anybody else turned up for breakfast. A quiet cup of tea in such a tranquil setting was the perfect start to my day. However it didn’t last long. Due to a miscommunication we end up waiting at the wrong pickup point and miss the coach. Only special coaches can go to this place and there is no point in getting a taxi. Ah well, there is always a first for everything.
At the tourist information centre the guide tells us that the Austrian equivalent of the ‘Tour de France’, is coming to Kitzbuehel today and so the cable cars to the mountain where the race terminates this afternoon is free. We get the Hornbahn cable car or gondola as they call it and reach the Alpenhaus, which is near the summit of the Kitzbüheler Horn mountain. The normal walking trail is cordoned off and decorated for the race, but there are other paths we can take. We even get a free straw hat to mark the occasion. From here we walk up to the summit. It’s a clear sunny day, the views are spectacular and we can see for miles. The dark lake from yesterday does look black from up here. On the way up we stop at the Blumengarten ie the flower garden. Here over 200 species of wild flowers from across the globe has been gathered and planted. It has turned this patch of the mountain into a vibrant haven. The rest of the mountain is covered in yellow, white and purple wild flowers, but here there are in addition blue, red and even flowers with different coloured petals. I see orchids, lilies, edelweiss and Himalayan flowers from Nepal and Tibet amongst others. We get back to Alpenhaus just as the first contestants are cycling through. This is the steepest mountain in Austria and cycling uphill is no mean feat. The contestant’s names boom out off the tannoy as they pass the finishing line. Instead of music, the hills are alive with the announcement of winners today.
We make our way back to base using the return gondola. From here we walk back to the centre of town. On the way we pass churches and chapels. We enter each, say a prayer and Prasanna lights candles for her grandchildren. I, in turn marvel at the decor, oil paintings and painted ceilings. The churchyard cemetery is colourful and pristine with each grave a tiny garden of it’s own tended to with care and love. We get back to the centre of town in time to watch the race contestants ride pass to the accompaniment of police cars and a motorcade carrying their spare bicycles.
After a late lunch we get back to the hotel in time to get hold of Charlie. Despite the fact that I say I need to speak to him, he sets up his little office further away from where I’m sitting and tries to ignore me. I am not going to let him get away with this. Missing the coach today was not our fault and they will need to do something about it. He repeats the same sentence over and over again saying that they are unable to refund the money. I ask to speak to his boss and it turns out to be the lady who we bought the tickets from yesterday. She didn’t need much explanation and offers us a couple of choices. The only suitable option was the trip to Salzburg on Friday. We’ve been to Salzburg a few times and I wasn’t keen. She threw in the guided tour for free and I took it. We can’t have too much of Mozart, I suppose.
The evening was spent in Tirol being entertained by a local singing and dancing group. There was lots of singing, yodelling and folk dancing by men in lederhosen and women in dirndls. The dancing involved a lot of jumping, stomping, thigh slapping, swirling around and shouting, but they look as if they were having a lot of fun. Somebody forgot to tell the men that lifting the girl’s dirndls to see what they are wearing underneath and kissing them without consent is not politically correct anymore. They made music with cow bells, mining equipment and even made chopping wood sound melodic.
It’s been a very long day and we have an early start. Must make sure that we get to the right pickup point tomorrow morning.