Oh this map brings back wonderful memories!
When Roberta and her brother and sister were cleaning out their mother’s house a few weeks ago they stumbled on this map tucked away into a souvenir booklet of the German region of Berchtesgaden. Their mother picked it up during a visit to Germany in the mid-1980’s when we and Roberta’s brother were stationed in Germany with the US Army.
Bertchesgaden has a twisted history. First let me say that the region, nestled in the southeast corner of Germany right along the border with Austria (the city of Salsburg, made famous in The Sound of Music is just a few miles away) is drop-dead gorgeous, one of the most beautiful places on earth. The high Alpine allure of the Bertchesgaden/Obersalzberg region is undeniable. And that’s why one of history’s biggest monsters, Adolph Hitler, chose to live on the Obersalzberg just above Bertchesgaden. While he was an evil SOB it is undeniable that he had an eye for composition and landscape. In the early 1930’s, using royalties from the sales of his book ‘Mein Kampf’, Hitler bought and started expanding a small gasthaus (hotel) on the Obersalzberg, turning it into his official residence known as the ‘Berghof’ (mountain home). Very quickly the upper echelon of Nazi leadership followed, with Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Martin Bormann and even Hitler’s personal architect and later minister of armaments Albert Speer establishing residences on the mountain.
During WWII the Obersalzberg was heavily and repeatedly bombed by US and British air forces on the off chance that Hitler or any of his cronies might be at home. They never did kill anyone important but they managed to reduce the buildings on the mountain to rubble. Then the 101st Airborne showed up (a scene made famous in the book and HBO series Band of Brothers) and took over the town and the mountain residences. We gave the town back, but not the mountain. Frankly, the post-war German government didn’t want it back. Too many bad memories. The US Army turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse and converted the entire mountain into a world class recreation center for American service members and their families. Berchtesgaden became one of two premiere Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) in Germany, the other being Garmisch-Partenkirchen, another former Nazi stronghold and site of the 1936 Winter Olympics,
But Roberta and I especially loved Berchtesgaden and all it offered. While the Garmisch recreation center focused on more intensive sports like skiing and climbing, Berchtesgaden was somewhat sedate and more family focused, perfect for a young couple with a new baby. But what drew me back to the Berchtesgaden AFRC time and again was the history of the place. The main hotel, the General Walker, was a former lodging center for high ranking Nazis and German officers who came to the Obersalzberg to confer with Hitler. When the Nazis owned it they called it the Platterhof, but when we rebuilt it and opened it as a hotel it was named after General Walton Walker, who had recently been killed leading American forces in the early stages of the Korean War.
The main entrance to the General Walker Hotel in the mid-1980’s, as Roberta and I knew it
Roberta on the terrace of the General Walker Hotel, 1984
You could easily stroll from the General Walker to the houses or the ruins of houses of all the key Nazi leadership. The Obersalzberg mountainside was literally littered with Nazi history. The US Army rebuilt some of the structures for their own use, tore down others or just left the ruins in place. On one visit we arrived late to Berchtesgaden to find our room at the General Walker would not be available until the next day, so the hotel management billeted us for the night in what had been Albert Speer’s personal studio, shown in the map above as the Evergreen Lodge. I spent a good part of the night lying awake wondering just what sort of conversations had taken place within those walls as Speer first catered to Hitler’s outlandish architectural dreams and later as the Reich Minister of Armaments he charted the inevitable downfall of the German nation as depicted by the nation’s declining stocks of raw materials and her industrial facilities being pounded to rubble by Allied bombers.
Albert Speer’s design studio, later renamed the Evergreen Lodge by the US and used as VIP lodging on the Obersalzberg. It was located just down the road from the General Walker Hotel
Albert Speer and Hitler conferring over an architectural drawing in Speer’s studio (later the Evergreen Lodge) on the Obersalzberg
But perhaps the most fascinating, and infamous, ruin on the Obersalzberg was Hitler’s official residence, the Berghof. In the early 1950s the US Army blew up the ruins and carted away most of the rubble. However, they didn’t get it all, and some significant remains of the building still stood. While no official US Army map or booklet showed the location of the ruins (note that they are missing from our map above), they were easy to find with just a little research or, in my case, simply by asking the hotel concierge. Immediately below the General Walker terrace (just over Roberta’s shoulder in the picture above) sat the ruins of an old gasthaus known as the Hoher Goll that the Nazis used as an administration office. Just below that, along an abandoned road, sat the remains of Hitler’s Berghof
Gasthaus Hoher Goll, used by the Nazis as an administrative office and a guard house controlling access to Hitler’s Berghof. The General Walker terrace wall is in the foreground. I took this picture in 1984
The Gasthaus Hoher Goll when the Nazis owned it, taken from roughly the same perspective as the previous picture. The German soldier at the gate guards access to the Berghof on the road that goes past the Hoher Goll
The Berghof was an expansive villa, more a compound than a house, and it served both as Hitler’s personal residence and a place where he conducted the business of state. Prior to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1938 and the opening of WWII, Hitler regularly hosted foreign leaders at the Berghof. Most came away impressed by the building and location but troubled by Hitler’s brand of international diplomacy.
So one afternoon while Roberta was taking a nap I wandered down the road past the ruins of the Hoher Goll and soon found myself looking up at this:
The last standing ruins of Hitler’s Berghof, taken in 1984
All that stood was the remains of the garage on the ground floor of the Berghof, seen in the foreground of this photo:
The garage structure has an interesting history because it supported the outdoor patio that Hitler so loved to sun himself on, and on which so many Nazi luminaries were photographed or filmed
In poking around the ruins I found a piece of brick from the garage that had ‘fallen’ from the wall and ‘accidentally’ made its way into my camera bag. It sits on my mantle today as a unique reminder of a fascinating part of American and German history.
Let’s fast forward a decade or two. In 1995, after the fall of the Soviet Union and troop reductions in Europe the US Army decided to close the Berchtesgaden AFRC and turn the Obersalzberg over to the Germans. We spent millions of dollars getting the facilities ready for the turn over. When we handed the keys to the Germans the facilities were in top-notch condition. Still, the Germans wanted nothing to do with the place and all the buildings stood empty for a few years, including the grand old General Walker. Then one year the Germans ‘forgot’ to winterize the plumbing and steam heat system in the hotel. During a particularly cold winter pipes froze and burst all over the hotel. The Germans declared the hotel uninhabitable, tore it down and turned the location into a parking lot. Fourty years of American memories unceremoniously knocked down and bulldozed away. I still have not forgiven the Germans.
In addition to knocking down the General Walker the German government went after all the remaining ruins on the mountain, to include the last remnants of the Berghof. Any remaining ruins were completely bulldozed and the rubble hauled away. The Germans simply did not want any visible reminders of the Nazi era left on the mountain. The last remnant was the ruins of the old Gasthaus Hoher Goll. It had sat a neglected ruin for over 40 years, but the German government decided to renovate it and turn it into something of a museum that describes just what used to be on the Obersalzberg. Known as the Dokumentation Obersalzberg Museum, it showcases the history of the Obersalzberg from the time when Hitler arrived in the late 1920s to when the Americans left in 1995.
So let’s wrap it up here. There’s a lot more I could talk about in regards to the Obersalzberg, in particular the extensive underground tunnel system the Nazis dug through the mountain to connect all the key residences and facilities. But that’s a topic for another day.
Instead, let me leave you with a link to an excellent video produced by Ruiter Productions in Germany that shows how the Obersalzberg looks today in relation to the 1940s. For old Soldiers and their families who spent time at the Bertchesgaden AFRC it is a nostalgic look back at what was.
My dad was posted at the US Embassy in Vienna from 1957-61 and we used to visit Berchtesgaden regularly. It is where my siblings and I learned to ski; back then it was wood skis, cable bindings and lace up boots. We also would go in the summer and were put up in the Evergreen Lodge which was Speer’s studio. Seeing the Obersalzburg film was an eye opener and made me so grateful that we saw it before the place was torn apart. The burnt shells of the houses occupied by Hitler’s henchmen still existed and very visible; we used to spend hours in the woods scrambling in the many disused caves. The salt mines were great fun and we loved coasting down the slides that connected the various caves. For us children it was always a treat to visit General Walker for ice cream as in those days it was not a regular feature in local diets. There was a restaurant in Berchtesgaden that overlooked the town and its main attraction, aside from the food, was locals blowing the very long horns that were the length of a person.
It has been fascinated reading people’s accounts of their time in Berchtesgaden. Like the others, I share the disappointment at the changes that have occurred – it sounds as if the area has become one gigantic car park. Thank you for sharing your account and the film – it brought back many happy childhood memories and I look forward to sharing it with my family.
During the years 64-67 I spent my Army time on the ski patrol in Berchtesgaden in the winter. I also spent some time in Garmish and Chiemsee. I can not tell you how much I grew to love the place.It was a magical time. While my brothers were at war in Nam I was skiing in the Alps. I sort of felt bad but somebody had to do it. Music was changing the world, the young people were growing their hair and we all started dressing like hippies! I was a ski racer a ski patrolman and learned to teach skiing and speak German during my years there. We all had the time of our lives in Berchtesgaden. There were kids from all over the world working for the AFRC. We had a lot of fun having adventures that are not to be repeated. Well, There was Boreman’s Bar and Grill at Sky Top! There were the trips to Turkey to bring back produce. A few of our friends got caught. There was great food, even grater bier and the free love thing. All of this in the shadow of the Alps.
Two years ago I returned to B’gaden to see what the Germans had done to the Ober Salzburg. I felt like crying. I guess I looked like I was going to lose it because a German man and his wife came over to me and asked me if I had served there. I could only nod. They said that they understood and that they had met while working at the Hof in the Sixties. I cannot tell how much I miss all my old friends, American, German, Austrian, African, Brits and so many more. We lived a dream in the Alps while the world was in turmoil. I grew up those three years in Germany and I am forever thankful.
Amen, my experience as well. It was just about the best place in the world, and best time of my life.
I visited the General Walker while stationed at Landstuhl Army Medical Center from 1992-94. While there, the hospital converted from LARMC to the Landstuhl Military Medical Center…mainly run by Army & Air Force. I also was staying at the General Walker the week that is was announced by AFRC of the closure. Boy, did service go down hill in a hurry. But it didn’t matter, the area was so beautiful and there was so much to do. Gasthaus Hoher Goll was very interesting. I even got to visit the exact spot that Hitler met with Benito Mussolini. Sad that I cannot take my children to see those places any longer.
those of us that visited, or lived there know the history well enough to say we like the article only there are a few facts that need corrections. *In 1950 it wasn’t the US Army that blew up ordnance to level the Berghof, but rather Canadian military consultants after German officials requested it.
Was there October 1988. On quick tour from assignment in Italy. Very nice hotel along with October Fest going on, to include visits through Salt Mines and Eagles Nest. Enjoyed my stay in the General Walker especially the large bathtubs with a window seat.
I worked in the kitchens at Chiemsee (summer 1974), Skytop (each winter, late ’74 thru ’77), and split shifts one summer at The Hof in Berchtesgaden. Wonderful memories, yes indeed, and I would love to hear from anyone who might remember me! Peace and love.
I was an active duty staff engineer for AFN-Munich from March 1987-May 1992. I made many trips to AFRC-Germany sites to do transmitter maintenance on our repeater AM transmitters. Tough duty, but someone had to do it! Though I am a lifelong skier I always enjoyed my transmitter maintenance runs to B-Gaden more than going to Garmisch. What a beautiful town & surrounding area! My three favorite memories were (chronologically): 1) Two weeks in country we had to go down to B-Gaden to do an AFN “news” story about an annual, humorous rodelbahn (sled) race they held just outside of town. Entrants dressed up in various costumes to make it so humorous. I think it was part of Fasching (Carnival/Mardi Gras). A couple of AFRC employees entered their sled, thus it became a US Forces “news” story. 2) Spending the weekend before Christmas 1990 at the Skytop Lodge with my wife and two children, ages 7 and 3. This was just a little before Operation Desert Shield kicked off. The staff accidentally put us in a REALLY nice room that had a small Christmas tree (all decorated) and chocolate mints on the beds. The kids loved it. As we were getting dressed the next morning to go eat breakfast, we got a call from the front desk informing us there had been a mistake and that we needed to clear out as quickly as possible. Turns out that room had been blocked off for some 2-star general who was coming in a day or two. They had another room for us – nice, but not as nice as this one. I knew the General Manager and I jokingly gave him a hard time. 3) Going down with my son’s scout troop on a camping weekend. We set up our tents up the hi
Oops, accidentally hit submit. We set up our tents up the hill from the Skytop Lodge, near the top of the one T-Bars, along a ridge leading over to the General Walker. What a view looking over the town and up the valley that leads to Salzburg!!!
Great article! I was with AFRC on and off from the Fall of 1972 to the Summer of 1976 and was stationed in Berchtesgaden, Garmisch and Chiemsee at one point or another. Quite a time to be sure. We have a website that was mentioned earlier in this string; AFRCSKI.com. To clarify, it is actually mostly AFRC personnel, both military and civilian from all job descriptions that could possibly be done. Hardly just ‘Ski instructors’. Both men and women are among our ranks. Any one with any AFRC ties are welcome to join us at our next reunion. We have done 46 reunions in 46 years and are still planning #47 in March up at Whitefish. We shall see……….
Paul S. Lambres
Hi …Thankyou!!! In 1979 I was told about AFRC while I was working at a restaurant at the top of a mountain near Ramsau. No one spoke english and then one day a man named Freddie Reichentinger came to the restaurant and spoke english and told us that 7 miles down the road was a us army recreation center.
Started as a chambermaid at the General Walker, lived in the basement…went down to the bunker system many times. Then I ran the Evergreen Lodge as a bed & breakfast and hosted 5 star Generals and Ambassador Walter Stossel. Left to travel and came back worked as a Desk Clerk at the Berchesgadenr Hof, called Bingo in the basement, lived in the General McNair attic. Then became a tour guide and enjoyed sharing Obersalzburg, Eagles Nest, pointing out all of the ruins of high ranking officials. Took people on tours of the Salt Mines, Sound of Music sights and Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg, Lake Konegsee, and churches all over the area. Left in 1983 to marry an american afrc winter instructer Jeff Walker, Came back to show one of our children it was all gone…but not the memories and a few pictures!!! Again Thank you
Pauline & Jeff Walker. Montana USA
Also worked as a bartender at the Strub Disco!!!
You are a very lucky person!
In 75 or 76 I played harmonica in a jam on that Strub Disco stage! Worked at Chiemsee, Skytop, and The B’gadener Hof from 74 to 77.
Hey Joel, I just saw your name. Hi.
– Darrell, waiter at Skytop and Gen Walker and ski bum.
Pauline, thanks for your wonderful memories!
I was stationed in Bertchgaden in 1966 thru 1968 I was Chaplain’s Assistant and scheduled tours of the area for groups of soldiers and family’s. One of our tour guides was a local named Freddie but can’t remember his name.
You sound like you to lived the dream for those years. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. My wife joined me for the last year of my tour, we have now been married 54 years.
I’m not Freddie, but as a chaplain’s assistant from 1970-72, I was happy to attend religious retreats in Bertchgsden and to enjoy the irony of Jewish servicemen staying at the former Nazi facility.
I went to my first youth group retreat in Bertchesgaden sometime around 1968. It was an incredible experience and completely spoiled me from any other retreat, at least with majestic scenery!
My name is John Frankenstein. I was a kayak instructor in 1979. I am looking for my partners. I knew Freddie RIECHENTINGER and every week I hung out with him at one of the Gasthaus, I don’t remember the name of it. Somebody please help me out here . . . . : )
Please reply.. Is Freddie still Alive ?
Fred passed away several years ago. One of his daughters is in Park City and perhaps both.
Did you do kayak instruction for what was called the Blueberry Tour? If so, do you remember the name of the mountain that the groups climbed up into Austria? Thanks
I awoke early this morning and realized that I had forgotten the place name and hotel name that I worked at for a few months in 1964 prior to my senior year at Munich American HS. Searched AFRC Germany and found this post. Brough back memories. I had a bunk and wardrobe in the attic of a building on Strub Kaserne. I worked as a busboy in a small hotel in the old part of town, long forgotten the name, getting paid about $0.85 per hour and happy to have the job. Stayed at the Gen Walker several times in the winter on learn to ski weeks. Hard to believe that all those places are now gone. Last in Germany in 1980 to 1984. Current neighbor of German origin says we would not recognize Germany now. Thank you so much for posting.
The Bellevue Hotel was in the old part. They had entertainers and floor shows plus good food.
You are exactly correct. It was the Bellevue Hotel. Thank you for refreshing my memory.
I was lucky enough to be assigned to Berchtesgaden in 1980 and part of 1981. I was a Military Policeman. We also rotated to Chiemsee Germany as part of our patrol area. I have many great memories.
I was in the Army in Europe Germany/Italy from 1986-2002 and I still live here (Garmisch) after retiring in 2002. I know.that I had many trips there and watched as all of the old American hotels were torn down. A couple still exist. Sadly the same fate happened in Garmisch. The ones here that are still up are full of refugees.
I too still have a brick liberated from the Berghof in 1986.Sad really what has happened there.
I was stationed in B-Gaden 1966-1968 as Protestant Chaplain’s Assistant. The manager of the Alpine Inn, Herr Boiggs, had lots of accounts of Hitler that he would share. Without a doubt the perfect duty station anyone ever had. My wire joined me there for my last year. Chaplain Kelly made sure I had plenty time to visit several countries while we were there. Our larger Religious Retreats were held at the General Walker Hotel and the smaller ones at the Alpine Inn. The Chapel at the Alpine Inn with Watzmann in background made a perfect postcard shot.
Ron, thanks for that wonderful memory. I agree – being stationed at B-Gaden must have been an absolutely wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience. For both of my tours in Germany I was stationed mainly up around the Frankfurt area, so trips to Berchtesgaden were a welcome respite from the big city rat-race.
Hello Ron and Linda. Do you know soldiers who was as Berchtesgaden from 1956 to 1966?
I was stationed there from Sept 1966 until April 1968 as Chaplain’s Assistant to Chaplain Orris Kelly. My wife joined me in May of 1967.
Living and working in Berchtesgaden and on the Koenigsee in 1973 changed my life forever. I used to work on the bobsled track. One time I was visiting the billeting office in Berchtesgaden, just looking for someone to speak English with for a change, when I literally ran into a guy in the US Army on leave who I went to school with in a little town in California. He almost kissed me, he was so happy to see someone he knew! Living in that alpine setting was so exhilarating. I didn’t downhill ski, but I did go X-C skiing there. I even had a pair of skis made just down the hill from where I lived in town. I loved ice skating at the local outdoor arena. That’s where I went to meet German girls, and to have fun. I was 19. At the time, it was so easy for me to get a job there. I just went into the employment office. They asked me if I could ski, and I said no. Then they offered me a job on the bobsled track. I used to ice the track, and haul the heavy bobsleds to the top of the track with a little tractor and flatbed trailer. I tried the luege several times, but it was way too scary for me. The US team was there practicing. They offered my a position on the 4-man bob. They were short one guy. I thought about it for a day, but after talking with the guys I worked with, I decided not to accept. They told me about guys getting killed while sledding. I wasn’t a daredevil. I met a few US military guys while I was there. And they had the “dream jobs”. They either worked at the small base or compound near town, or at the recreation facilities – some as ski instructors! The last time I was in Berchtesgaden was in 2000. I still have friends there from 1973!
Carol Bumgardner Stadum – AFRC Secretary and Disco Girl – 1966 – Thanks for the memories of beautiful scenery, happy times, endless adventures, and wonderful dear friends. In the winter I loved going to Rossfeld and walking through a tunnel of snow – then “rodeling” back to town. I often regret that I didn’t stay longer – It is a magical place. Are any of the AFRC folks still in contact? Would love to hear from them.
Man, rodeling down the mountain! Thanks for the memory. Several times I rodeled down to B’gaden from near the General Walker Hotel. I learned to ski at the Rossfeld.
Carol I was Protestant Chaplain’s Assistant to Chaplain Orris Kelly from September 1966 thru April 1968. Office was at the Alpine Inn.
Thanks for sharing memories from the most amazing time and place in which I ever lived in 1966. I have been back twice (1974 and 1985 – once to introduce my daughter to the mountains and people of the region and a second tour after I had become a university professor – teaching geology/paleontology. That tour included marine fossil deposits in Solnhofen north of Berchtesgaden and the alps around Berchtesgaden. A mountain road-cut had exposed marine invertebrates fossils. A local B’gaden fossil collector we met had a large collection of locally collected fossils. I hope these specimens are now on display in town.
I was sorry to read about the passing of Freddie…he was a good friend who always kept us entertained. Hedi, who managed the bank in the basement of headquarters, and I have kept in close touch – she lives in Arizona now and plays golf every day. We would like to know where Heidi Runge is (Heidi was a bar-tender in the Bellevue Hotel in 1966) – she was in southern California but we have lost contact with her.
I am retired and live next to a beautiful, wooded golf course close by the ocean.
My time in Berchtesgaden was all a very happy, beautiful time and I would love visit it again. I especially enjoyed going to Salzburg on Saturdays to the farmers markets and to concerts in Mirabell Palace.
I would enjoy hearing from anyone who knew me those 50 plus years ago. Time goes by too quickly.
During two tours in Germany (Baumholder ’79-’83 and Heilbronn ’87-’91), I was an Army Chaplain Assistant, and the USAEUR Chaplains and assistants always had conferences at the Berchtesgadner Hof. I saw the Walker on a few trips but first stayed there on a family vacation to the area in ’89 or ’90 and wandered the hills, finding the foundation of the Berghoff and a few other buildings, including what we think was Goerings’ house. But while at the many conferences in the Hof, I recall finding a theater in the hotel basement, one of those very distinctive old looking theaters, not all that large but still elegant. I have found a lot of information on the destruction of the two hotels, but find nothing in all the pictures of the Hof of any theater. My kids are grown, with kids of their own, my son now retiring from the Navy, and I just hope they remember our wandering around Berchtesgaden and the grounds around the General Walker. That second tour, we had our VHS camcorder and recorded much of our wandering, with a bored teen daughter and a boy who wanted to touch everything, so there is a lot of the bored teen not looking at things, and the boy being told don’t touch that. Fond memories for my wife and I anyway.
Thank you so much for posting this. My wife and I spent many a long weekend at the General Walker in the 1980’s. We are on our way back to visit the area and wondered where everything was now. Sorry to hear the dreadful demise of the beloved General Walker hotel.
An enjoyable description of the AFRC, where I spent a big chunk of two 30-day leaves in 1968 and ‘69. I was stationed in Stuttgart. My then-wife and I (and our newborn daughter in ‘69) stayed at the General Walker. Truly first-class in every way. Although neither of us was a skier, we used to get a kick out of riding the Jennerbahn cable car to the top, just for the view. The remains of Hitler’s Berghof were still around—just foundation work and large stones, nothing to really see. The town of Berchtesgaden was—and I’m sure still is—a beautiful place to visit though, in ‘68 and ‘69, had older residents who were not very friendly. Their memories of WWII were still fresh. I know from friends who’ve been there recently that this has all changed.
i was tdy there in 79, we did a drainage project on the 9 hole golfcourse there, i plated once there, it was my first ever round, 1 e-8 7 enlisted, we ate at general walker hotel, lived in old german military barracks, tdy pay was 1.50 a day. best duty ever, never got to ski, no snow,but was best duty ever, i could have been a lifer if it was all like that. loved the alps, traveled to many areas near there, dated a great girl while there. regret letting her get away
This is awesome. Brought back so many memories. Station in Kaiserslauten Germany. I was part of a group of food service soldiers to help with the over load of troops coming in for retreat. We actually lived in the barracks. Visited so many sites within the six months. Eagles nest was quite a trip but we managed. I spent my 1st day there across from the hotel in what was called the villa. Very spooky place. Lights on and off, baby cribs moving. Believe me 1 night. The barracks was quite spooky as well especially venturing on the top floors. I have rocks as well from Eagles Nest. Thank you for wonderful memories. This is a keep sake. Thank you!
I was lucky to have been a ski instructor at AFRC Berchtesgaden 1975-1976, and also was at Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Chimsee for about two weeks each on the way to Berchtesgaden. Swimming in Bad Reichenhall, visiting crazy Ludwig’s castles, skiing Austria and Italy. Having a few beers at the Hobelbank Bierkeller. I think we were staying in the Skytop Lodge. We were told the ski area/golf course had been a demonstration farm. At the end of the ski season we had a ski jump into a pond. I then returned to Wildflecken, another beautiful part of German, at the very north part of Bavaria. Super memories, thanks!
I fondly remember my days as a ski patroller during tdy at AFRC Berchtesgaden 1980-1981, and also at Chiemsee. A wonderful time in my life with the army.
The “Slush Bowl”! Many made it out of the pond. I didn’t. Thanks for the memory, Mike. Those years in Berchtesgaden were the greatest.
Hi. John here. I lived briefly in Berchtesgaden in 1973 – 1974. I worked on the bobsled track on the Koenigsee. I’m from California. I had an American friend, former military, who worked on the Jenner , I think, as ski patrol or whatever you call it. I heard he got killed maybe in 1974 or 1975? when he hit a lift structure while skiing. I can’t remember his name. Did you happen to know him, or hear about his accident? I really liked the way he taught himself German while working and living near the ski slopes there. The last time I was back in Berchtesgaden was in 2000. Although my German was ok, I learned German for 3 years prior to going to Germany when I was 19, I could not understand the dialect in Berchtesgaden. Most of the people I knew there or that I worked with spoke high German with me. I loved living there. I left my job there to go explore other countries in Europe, but I always regret not having stayed longer in Berchtesgaden. I’m still in touch with a couple local friends there that I used to ice skate with.
Mike. I worked at the Skytop and the Wlaker in 75′ – 76. Probably served you a ‘Berchtesburger’ several times. Thanks for the memory of the ‘Slushbowl’!
Hello from Germany. I would like to write a book about the actress Romy Schneider and her Volkswagen Karmann Ghia from 1956. As I read on the internet, the US Army was based in Berchtesgaden. Who knows soldiers or other members of the army who were in Berchtesgaden in 1956 and later and may have pictures of the wanted Karmann Ghia? It was a very eye-catching car as it was painted in pink with a white roof. Can someone help me or make contacts?
please contact me with email to email@example.com
Thank you for the great article. It brought back many memories as I was stationed in Berchtesgaden in 1980 and 1981. I was a Military Policeman.
I was there with two friends in 1972 and will never forget that beautiful place .The restaurant was a magnificent place with old world charm. The view of Berchesgarden from the hotel was breath taking with all that snow .
Excellent article on the history of the GW hotel. Recently recalled a ski week I spent there Dec ’74. Was wondering if it had survived the 80’s troop draw down and was hoping it might still be a functioning MWR facility that I might visit – sadly not in the cards.
The Walker was torn down. It’s a parking lot now, and there’s a museum there too, I think. I used to sneak into the Walker 2-3 times a week to take a hot shower. I rented a little room on Doktorberg Strasse in Berchtesgaden back in 1973 when I used to work on the bobsled track on the Koenigsee. One of my favorite things to do was to hangout occasionally at the bar in the Walker and drink spatzie sodas. I was 19. It was nice to hear and speak in English occasionally. I spoke German but not much Bavarian dialect. I’m from California.
Was especially sad to hear about afrc. I was director of hotel and restaurant operations for all of afrc from 1981 to 1984. At that time we had hotels in garmisch,munich,lake chimsee,and berchesgarten. Was like living in a Christmas card. Have some fond memories
John, Would you be able to provide me any information or links to information on AFRC recreation programs during the 70s and 80s? Or could you suggest someone who might have information? I am looking for details on a “Blueberry Tour” that we made in 1974. Thanks!
Elaine—we had so many programs it is hard to remember them all–ones I can remember are the ski packages from beginner to expert–these packages included equipment and instruction–we even had our own tour buses that would travel to the various military bases and furnish free transportation. Lake Chiemsee offered sailing,water skiing,and cross country skiing–we also had golf,tennis,kayaking.bowling, and various tours. Don*t know of any contact to get info although you might try AFRCSKI.com(a web site for former AFRC employees,especially ski instructors). Hope the info was helpful.
The mountain you climbed was probably the Zugspitz(highest peak in germany) which was half in Austria and half in Germany
Elaine, I was a Chaplain stationed in K-town in the mid to late 80’s. The Blueberry Tour was very challenging. I took a group of 50 soldiers there on a retreat, and the tour starts with a hike to a glacier and we spent the night in an Alpine Haus on the glacier (not sure what the name was). However, the climb was EXHAUSTING. It started off level, but to make a long story short, you were climbing up the side of an 80 degree slope, hand over food at one point. The next morning, breakfast in the haus, and then a relatively easy hike down to an ice cold river, not sure of the name but think something starting with a “J”. We got to the edge of the river, had to jump in the river and swim to the rafts to prove we could swim…the water was freezing. After that we rafted down the river, with a few class 3 rapids along the way. An exhausting and amazing tour provided by AFRC.
Daniel, Thanks so much for your reply. I think you’re the only one to have actually done the Blueberry Tour that has responded. You were there about 10-15 later and it clearly had changed some, but we also did spend the night in an alpine hut and we did hike and then kayak in a cold river. Maybe one day someone will be able to tell me the name of the mountain we climbed. It was a great experience!
I did the Blueberry Tour in 1978. After a lot of research, I discovered the name of the lake, river and mountain involved. Here’s what I’ve written about the experience: the Blueberry Tour, a 3 day course in hiking and kayaking. The first day was spent learning to kayak in Lake Saalach and then “running” the lower 4 miles of the Saalach River. The second day, we hiked for 4 hours from valley level out of Berchtesgaden to the top of the Reiter Alpe mountain, 5100 ft elevation. It was steep and EXHAUSTING. We were climbing up the side of an 80 degree slope, hand over foot at one point, and gained 2800’. There we stayed overnight in a “hutte” (a hut for hikers to eat and sleep in.) Simple food and even simpler sleeping accommodation; one 50 foot long mattress-with 25 pillows and blankets spaced along one side! Since we’d all gotten acquainted climbing an Alp and dunking our kayaks, it was like a giggly slumber party, but we were tired enough to get to sleep quite quickly. The third day we hiked across the ridge line and up to 6300 ft, down the Alpasteig, crossing into Austria, and were met further up the river by trucks with our kayaks. We then descended the Saalach River by kayak for eight miles, with huge boulders and whirlpools!
Hope that helps! it was a terrific experience!
THANK YOU!, NANCY!!!! I have been looking for this information since 2016, LOL. I see now that your last post is from April of 2021, but it appeared in my email box only today, a year later. Anyway, I’m so grateful, and I’d love to know “how” you were able to find the info. I tried for so long. Thanks again. Elaine
Great post but I noticed an error in it. Germans invaded Poland in 1939 on the 1st of September. In 1938 they annected Austria.
Thank you for the article and photos. I was the AFRC deputy comptroller from 1973 to 1975 living in Garmisch but spent time at all the AFRC facilities in Berchtesgaden as well as those in Munich and Lake Chimsee.
Earl, I hope that you can help me. I have been trying for the longest time to find someone who can answer a question about the “Blueberry Tour” that my husband and I made from the facilities in 1974. We practiced kayaking on a lake one day and then climbed a mountain and stayed in a hut overnight before hiking down into Austria the next day. I’m trying to learn the name of the mountain that we climbed. Would you be able to tell me that? Thank you so much! Elaine Phillips
Elaine, I just stumbled across your message. I lived in Berchtesgaden from 1974 to 1976. My father was commander of AFRC Berchtesgaden during those years. He and I participated in the “Blueberry Tour” and remember it very well. Although I didn’t get to kayak (because I was only 12), I thoroughly enjoyed the hike and spending the night in that hut on the mountain. I also remember “skiing” down patches of snow in our boot on the way down to the hut and sampling my Dad’s Radler at the hut. Great times.
Thomas/Tom, I just stumbled across this site and noticed your reply. I remember you and your sister. What a nice family. I hope you have been well all of these years.
I do wonder whatever came of Al Kamps. Speaking of which, did you participate in the ski trips to Maria Alm? Do you remember taking part in a music study by a group of post docs at the Orff Institute of Music? Shoot me an email.
Thank you much for the refresher of memories so sad to hear about the general walker I did two tours in Germany and visited many times with family and friends very well done video!!👍
Thank you so much for this article and pictures. I was stationed In West Germany, Bindlach, Delta FIST, 1st Squadron, 2 Armored Calvalry Regiment from summer of 82-summer of 84. I went to Berchesgarten both winters and stayed at the General Walker. I recall my leave in winter of 84 when I took the train from Bayreuth by myself all the way to Obersalzberg. What a great experience. One morning after a heavy snow, I decided to try to find the Eagles Nest. I got some general directions and started hiking up the mountain through the snow until I reached it. It was secured but I was able to take a few pictures and crawl over a barrier and stand on that rear deck and view the mountains. I am deeply saddened that the Walker Hotel was torn down. I have my opinions about why it was demolished but thats for another day.
Thank you again – it meant much to me to relive those few moments again.
A very nice article, well written, thank you. I stayed in the General Walker Hotel in 1982 for several days. I was led to believe that Hitler finished writing Mein Kampf in the basement or bottom floor of the General Walker, but was always skeptical of this assertion. Plus, was there a guest house for the high ranking SS officers near the General Walker location?
Carl, Hitler used the profits from the sale of “Mein Kampf” to buy the property that eventually became the Berghof, so I doubt he sat in the basement of the gasthaus that became the General Walker and finished the book.
Hitler wrote Mein Kampf part II across the street up hill from the General Walker, at a tiny cottage called Kampfhauserl (missing an umlaut there). The hotel at the site of the General Walker was called the Pension Moritz at that time. The foundation of the outline of the cottage is still there, although tourists have been taking the remaining stones away. I was there in June 2017. Ruiter has a now and then showing how to get there.
Hitler wrote some of Part 2 of Mein Kampf at a small wooden cabin back in the woods across the road from the Walker Hotel (then the Pension Moritz). The foundations are still there. Guest house for high ranking SS officers – you may be thinking of the Gaestehaus Hoher Goell, where the Dokumentation Obersalzberg museum is today. But it was mostly used for a few diplomatic guests, and for administrative offices.
In the early 70s, I believe, my husband and I participated in an AFRC “Blueberry Tour.” We climbed a mountain, stayed in a mountain hut, and the next morning the group hiked (and briefly kayaked) down into Austria. We cannot remember which mountain we climbed. Do you have any information on this tour or know where I might find it? Thanks!
Hi Elaine. I was station in Berchtesgaden ’83-84. I wasn’t part of AFRC but I believe you kayaked on the Konigssee and the mountain was probably the Watzmann Mtn. right to the east and within the Berchtesgaden National Park. I used to see folks doing this regularly. You probably didn’t kayak into Austria (wasn’t allowed and no direct water connection.) But Austria was VERY close. AFRC had bus rides to Salzburg on a regular basis too.
IF, you were instead in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you probably climbed the Zugspitze and paddled the Eibsee. Also very beautiful and right next to Austria. If you remember the kayaking with LOTS of people, it might well have been Eibsee.
Hope this jogs the memories a bit… it did for me!
Thanks so much Franz. I have searched information on this for a couple of years. Another friend suggested a couple of mountains, one of which was also the Watzmann. We were definitely in Berchtesgaden, not Garmisch, and both my husband and I remember climbing the mountain and staying in a mountain hut at the top—or at least at the end of our climb. The next day we hiked down and we both believe we hiked into Austria at some point. Is this a possibility from the Watzmann? There was some kayaking at the end but we don’t recall the river. Any additional thoughts are appreciated. Elaine
Dont know if you are still searching for info about this. The Stars and Stripes ran a big story on the Blueberry Tour on 5/21/78. Unfortunately, it doesnt name the mountain nor tell the distance of the hike. I did it in 1979, and you are correct-the third day we hiked across the border into Austria, then were met with kayaks to finish the trip. A big thrill!
Wow, Nancy, thanks for your response. It’s been a few years since my initial inquiry. Yes, I’m still interested in finding out the name of the mountain. I’ve hiked a few mountains since then and would like to put the name on the list. It was an unforgettable experience!
Here’s another bit of info: https://www.munich.travel/en/pois/lakes-mountains/the-mountain-of-destiny Blueberry tour mountain was Watzmann (8900′); hutte is at 6332′.
Thanx for sharing our video of Obersalzberg Now & Then 1933-1945.
Please note that the URL has changed:
Would you be so kind to change the URL? Thanx in advance.
Jeroen, thank you for the update and the blog post has been updated with the new link. An excellent video, by the way!
Thanx Brian for the update and compliments! :))
Watching the video brought back MANY MEMORIES.It is sad that they destroyed the General Walker, I stayed there on many times.1978/79-83. While as a dependent, I the military, I’d travel to Berchtesgaden about one a yr+ for a convention..I enjoy the surrounding area and took many of the historical sights, being a WWII “buff” it was very enlightening to be among the history of that place. That step hill with the hairpin curves up to the Keihlhase was interesting to say the least. An Excellent video that brings back the memories.
I never made it to the AFRC Berchtesgaden on my first or second tour of Germany. I did make it while on leave from Ft. Sam Houston, TX back in 1990. I’m glad I made it before it was gone. We were book into the General Walker but when we arrived we found out we were overbooked and sent to the Pension Belvedere in town. What an upgrade. A two room suite on the top floor overlooking the town. Best week ever. While there we had the opportunity to use the facilities at the Walker, when gave time to explore the few remaining ruins left in the woods. Even then, tunnel rats had little holes and tunnels dug in the woods all around the Berghof trying to find souvenirs. I still have a small piece of ceramic tile I picked up from one of the dirt heaps. Interesting times.
My one regret from my Army service is that I was never assigned to duty in Germany. I certainly would have been here often!