Monday, June 12, 2023

The Eagle's Nest: Sweet Little Teahouse, or Diabolical Lair

By Kathy Kovach

High above the town of Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, Germany, sits a man-made structure known as the Eagle’s Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus. Now an eatery, it once hosted the most influential figures in Nazi history. First and foremost, Adolph Hitler.

In fact, it was built for the reviled leader by his private secretary who was head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, Martin Bormann. He, along with the SS (Shutzstaffel, which is German for Protective Echelon) built it, some say, to inaugurate his birthday on April 20, 1939. Others don't subscribe to that belief. Our tour guide the day my family visited, a middle-aged German national with a sharp wit, leaned toward the former. He stated that when he turned 50, no one gave him a tea house atop an alp. At the time, it cost 30 million ℛℳ (Reichsmarks) to build, which is about 247 million USD today. 
Hitler's summer house, Berghof, in Obersalzberg
Whatever the reason, Hitler only visited fourteen times, thirteen of them before the declaration of war in 1939. The chalet is literally on top of a mountain with fantastic panoramic views in 360-degree splendor. Hitler had vertigo and couldn’t remain up there for long. He preferred the Berghof, his summer house below the mountain in Obersalzberg, where he resided most of his years as Führer.

How does one reach the rocky outcrop ridge known as the Kehlstein (hence the naming of the house) at 6,017 feet above sea level?

By elevator.
Inside 407' long tunnel.

Tunnel entrance during WWII.

Tunnel entrance today.
Yes, the SS thought of everything. They drilled a tunnel below into the mountainside. At the end of the tunnel, they drilled straight up and installed a large elevator shaft that ran directly into the house. The tunnel was large enough for automobiles to drive into so the glorious leaders of the Nazi regime need not walk the 407 feet into the mountain. However, the vehicles then had to back out as there was nowhere to turn about.

Marble lined the tunnel as nothing about this project was done halfway. The beauty of the architecture was marred, however, by the knowledge that machine gun nests were also installed at the end of the tunnel, hidden behind a false wall. No one was getting to the elevator who didn’t belong.
Brass thirty-five-person elevator
Speaking of ornate, the thirty-five-person elevator was surfaced with polished brass, Venetian mirrors, and splendid green leather. However, Hitler refused to use the elevator, frightened that a lightning strike would hit the wench mechanism at the top and make him plummet to his death. There were a couple of instances of lightning during construction, but no one had the nerve to inform him of those for fear he'd never visit. In the decades the elevator has been in operation, there hasn’t been a single incident of malfunction. It’s said that he took a car up to the summit, but if the road is still there, it’s not accessible to the public.
Red marble fireplace marred when allied forces removed chinks for souvenirs.
Inside the Eagle’s Nest, one was greeted in a reception area with a red marble fireplace, a gift from Benito Mussolini. The floors were heated, as well, creating a cozy atmosphere in the often frigid area. A large oriental-style carpet, a present from Japanese Emperor Hirohito, covered the reception hall floor. The main floor of the lodge only had six rooms and a terrace but was adequate.
Kehlsteinhaus terrace today, with umbrellas.
Even though the birthday boy rarely visited, choosing only to do so when entertaining high officials or plotting dastardly deeds, others took advantage of the stunning space. Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, made the place her own and even offered it to her sister for her wedding ceremony.
Obersalzberg raid
Then came the end of WWII. On April 25, 1945, Allied forces sent a bombing raid, concentrating their efforts on Obersalzberg where Hitler had set up his operations and lived in his summerhouse. However, the little tea chalet remained untouched.

Allied armies captured this mountaintop paradise and used it as a military command post until 1960. Little regard was taken upon seizure. Chinks of red marble were broken off the fireplace for souvenirs. Art disappeared. And the stash of expensive wine was taken and consumed as victory.

In 1960, Kehlsteinhaus was released back to the state of Bavaria. Now owned by a charitable trust, the Eagle’s Nest is a popular tourist stop, housing a restaurant and beer garden.
One of five tunnels on the Kehlsteinstrasse (the road leading up to the Eagle's Nest.)

Hairpin curve on the Kehlsteinstrasse.
I’ve personally been there twice. Once with a club I belonged to, and then with my family. The harrowing road up the mountainside is just as dangerous as it was in the 1930s and 40s. The only way up is on a bus made especially for the narrow, one-way road and a dizzyingly sharp hairpin curve halfway up. At one point, I was looking straight down into a ravine as the bus’s body swung out and over nothing but air.

I loved it!

Despite the evil plans that were perpetuated in that charming tea house, the Eagle’s Nest has been redeemed and now provides comfort and refreshment for all who enter.

Did I mention the heated floors?

Here is an excellent video of a vlogger visiting Kehlsteinhaus. It’s about thirty minutes, but you can fast-forward through some of the talking. Be sure to hang in there for the tour outside and take in the stunning views surrounding the area.


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Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Kathleen and her husband, Jim, raised two sons while living the nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years in the Air Force. Now planted in northeast Colorado, she's a grandmother—and soon-to-be great-grandmother—though much too young for that. Kathleen has been a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God's peculiar people.


  1. Thank you for posting today. This building is amazing. You didn't say whether the trust company was able to repair the damage. It is too bad that it was damaged for souvenirs but I guess that is the wage of war. At least it wasn't bombed!!

  2. The only structural damage that I know of was to the fireplace, which they left. But thankfully, the teahouse itself fared very well and it's beautiful today.