Holiday in Ruhpolding


So - the summer came, and with it for Peter, came the summer holidays from school.
Harwich - Gateway to Europe
And the holiday began, but not with a trip to the airport - currency restrictions made that too expensive - so it was off to Liverpool Street station, and a train to the coast and a ferry to the continent.

Liverpool Street Station - London
Then it was a journey by train across Europe - and a long journey  - and this was the most exciting adventure that Peter had ever had - apart from flying to France perhaps.
And this involved a crossing of the North Seas by British Rail Ferries (later known as Sealink) and then the train journey provided by a company called 'Blue Cars' - which was a reference to the Pullman cars.

Liverpool Street to Harwich
Arriving at Harwich
Liverpool Street station, in London, was still a place of steam and noise, as the boilers of huge locomotives were fired up in preparation for their journeys.
For Peter, this was the start of a momentous journey, and it was also Peter's first journey on a Pullman train - where you actually slept on the train.
But there was no sleeping to begin with - because first there was a rather boring journey to Harwich.

SS Amsterdam
British Railways Logo - 1950s
As the train steamed into Parkston Quay in Harwich the atmosphere changed completely.
There is nothing like the crisp smell of sea salt and marine diesel, which for many years, for Peter, meant the beginning of an adventure.

Hoek van Holland - 1950s
The next step was to board the SS Amsterdam, one of British Rail's newest ships, and then settle down and prepare for the sea crossing.
This was a daytime crossing, for the trip from Harwich to the Hoek van Holland.
The crossing in those days, took about seven hours, and the SS Amsterdam would reach the Hoek in the late afternoon.
After a good look round the ship, Peter, Jane and John Decided to have lunch.

Dining on Board the Ferry
The SS Amsterdam was a large, new ferry, and had a magnificent dining salon.
Arrival at the Hoek involved disembarkation and customs - remember that this was in that golden time before the European Common Market, and border restrictions were scrupulously enforced on the continent by imposing and intimidating customs officers, in resplendent uniforms, and carrying side-arms.
Jane, John and Peter then re-boarded the Pullman, and prepared for the journey across Europe.
British Railways Dining Car
The Train started its journey, passing through the incredibly flat countryside, dotted with the inevitable windmills, which reminded Peter of the Norfolk Broads.
By then it was getting dark so, before retiring for the night, Peter Jane and John decided to go to the restaurant car for dinner.
After dinner it was time to go to bed - and for Peter, the first 'bed-time' on a train.
Obviously Peter found it difficult to sleep. Obviously there was the noise and the movement, and the dim blue light that remained on in the compartment throughout the night - but Peter also had the urge to peek out through the curtains to glimpse the twinkling lights of the occasional town, village and station.
Then came the oblivion of sleep.......
Now while Peter is sleeping we may consider the strange circumstances of this holiday to Bavaria - or Bayern as it is called in German.
We have already explained how Jane had an antipathy to Germans, and in particular Herr Hitler, as a result of what had happened during the war.
Well now we must consider a little of the recent history of the particular alpine resort that Peter's parents had decided to use as the base for their first continental holiday.
Remember as you read this that there were many other places in Germany that they could have visited, and more significantly many places in Europe other than Germany.
We mention this because Ruhpolding had some rather interesting recent history.

Ruhpolding Hauptplatz
Celebration of the Austrian Anchluß
Ruhpolding Hauptplatz Feb 1936
We know that in 1938, a year after Jane and John married, and the year of the Anchluß  that there was a celebration in the main square in Ruhpolding.
We know this because there is photographic evidence.
Of course, everybody that Peter ever met in Germany, (with the exception of Adolf Lördermann, who we will meet later), made it very clear that they had nothing to do with the National Socialists or the Third Reich, so it's interesting to see evidence of the villagers giving enthusiastic Nazi salutes - and it makes one wonder just who were all those enthusiastic people in the Nürnberg Stadium, (remember Nürnberg is also in Bavaria).

Finnish SS - Ruhpolding
23rd of May 1943
Equally, later in the war the Finnish SS were stationed in Ruhpolding.
That is as it may be, but even more interesting is the link that Ruhpolding had with the highest echelons of the Third Reich hierarchy.
While, in the 1950s, most of the leaders of the Reich and individuals closely associated with Hitler were either dead, or had gone into hiding, usually in some obscure South American state, some of those closest to Jane's much reviled Herr Hitler were actually living in Ruhpolding.

Family of Eva Braun
We are referring  of course, to Adolf Hitler's in-laws.
Yes, - members of Eva Braun's family were living openly and unmolested in Ruhpolding.
And these people were pillars of the community, and were regular visitors to the local Gasthof where, in fact, they met Peter, Jane and John.
So this makes this holiday very strange.

Friedrich Braun (also known as Fritz; a School teacher; - Parents: Phillip Braun, Christina Heyser)
Birth: Neckargmund, Germany - Death: 22 January 1964 in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, Germany
Franziska Kronberger - Birth:1880 - Death: January 1976 in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, Germany
Occupation: Seamstress ; Father: Unidentified Veterinarian b: in of Oberpfalz, Germany
Their Children: - Eva Anna Paula Braun b: 6 February 1912 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Margarete (Gretl) Braun (married SS-Gruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein 3 June 1944. born 30 October 1906 in Ansbach, Germany, and died 29 April 1945 in Berlin, Germany.

And then, to cap it all, John arranged for a visit to Berchtesgaden, the ruins of the Berghof, the  Gasthof Zum Türken, and the Adlerhorst (Eagles Nest) on the Kehlstein.
But, of course, while Peter slept he knew nothing of this.
So back to the story ...
Chiemgau Alps - Bayern
Peter woke up early - he could see the sun shining brilliantly through the curtains.
Bleary eyed, Peter opened the curtain just a little, only to get one of the biggest shocks of his life.
Outside the window, above the passing forest were huge, snow-capped mountains.
So then, after dressing, Peter, Jane and John went to the dining car for breakfast, and this would be the last English meal that Peter would have for two weeks.
So it was breakfast while watching the beautiful Bavarian Alps.
By the time breakfast was over the final destination was approaching, and so it was time to return to the compartment and get ready to leave the train.


Ruhpolding Bahnhof - Bayern
Tirolean Band - Ruhpolding Bahnhof
And so the final destination came into view.
A tiny little station, without a proper platform, (on the continent then you either climbed up or climbed down to enter or leave a train).
And on the low platform were a group of Bavarian villagers, and a Tirolean Band.
There, amid the raucous sounds of the 'oompah' band, and the chatter of the villagers, was a very small, dark haired woman, probably in her sixties.

She was looking for 'Herr Crawford', because this was to be our hostess for the next two weeks.
This was Frau Agnes - a sweet little old lady, with dark, 'frizzy' hair, who was dragging a small trolley.
She insisted on loading the cases onto the little trolley, despite John's protestations to the contrary.
She then began dragging the trolley from the station to the road, chatting away all the time in broken English, as they all made their way through the village.
Agness, as Peter learned later, had been married, but her husband, a forester, had been killed in the First World War.
Agness had then inherited a remarkably large house in the centre of the village.
What she had done during the Third Reich and the Second World War Peter never discovered, (but then that was the case with most of the people he met in Austria and Germany), but in the fifties she had supported herself by renting her spacious home to tourists.
And that, of course, is how Peter, Jane and John met her.

Die Gebrüder Grimm
To Peter, Ruhpolding was like a setting for a Brothers Grimm story.

Die Gebrüder Grimm (The BrothersGrimm) - Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who together collected folklore. They are among the most well-known storytellers of European folk tales, and their work popularized such stories as "Cinderella", "The Frog Prince" (Der Froschkönig), "Hansel and Gretel" (Hänsel und Gretel), "Rapunzel", "Rumpelstiltskin" (Rumpelstilzchen), and "Snow White" (Schneewittchen). Their first collection of folk tales, Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), was published in 1812.

Ortszentrum Ruhpolding
The quaint houses, in most case with painted stucco façades and carved wooden, flower bedecked balconies, were set in a lush landscape of pasture of gentle, green hills overlooked by some magnificent mountains.
In the centre of the town was a water trough, undoubtedly originally used for the passing dairy herds, and a strange object which reminded Peter of an Indian Totem pole indicated the various amenities of the village and the surrounding area.
There had, of course, been very little bombing during the Second World War in the rural areas of Bavaria, with the obvious exception of the Obersalzburg, and so all the houses were pristine.
It should be remembered that only fourteen years had passed since the end of the Second World War - and yet, nobody ever spoke of those years of conflict - except an Austrian taxi driver (but that story is yet to come).
And so - what do you do on holiday in the Bavarian Alps in 1959 ?
Well today, of course, there are many leisure facilities in the Chiemgau.

Ruhpolding - Lower Slopes
Chiemgau is the common name of a geographic area in Upper Bavaria. It refers to the foothills of the Alps between the rivers Inn and Traun, with lake Chiemsee at its center. The political districts that contain the Chiemgau are Rosenheim and Traunstein. Wendelstein is the name of a famous mountain close by but not strictly in the Chiemgau, while Kampenwand is actually the most inviting peak south of Chiemsee.

In 1959, however, the only option was hiking, or more precisely, walking.
But it was, (and still is), a wonderful place to walk.
And the walking did not require any mountaineering skills.
The foot-hills of the Bavarian Alps are gently sloping, and covered in deeply shaded pine forests.
If, however, one longed for the mountain  summits, then there was always a cable-car to take you gently the the cloud-capped silence of the majestic peaks.

'Wanderkarte' - Ruhpolding
The Chiemgau, in the 1950s, was predominately a tourist destination for people from Germany, Austria and Holland, and these tourists were often inveterate hikers.
For their benefit and convenience markers had been inscribed on trees and rocks  -  colour-coded - to indicate various popular trails through the wooded hills.
And so it was possible to go for long walks through the forest without any fear of getting lost.
So the first thing that John bought was a 'Wanderkarte' - a Walking Map of the area around Ruhpolding.


Armed with their map, Peter, Jane and John set of, for the first few days, exploring the environs of the village.
The longest 'hike' they made was to Maria Eck.
And what is at Maria Eck ?

Pilgrimage Church of Maria Eck
Pilgrimage Church of Maria Eck
Well - very little - but there is a beautiful pilgrimage church - a little gem, hidden in the depth of the forest.
The establishment of the pilgrimage church of Maria Eck goes back to an old legend.
A lumberjack is said to have repeatedly seen a light phenomena in this area, and subsequently the local people built a wooden chapel on the site of the .unexplained phenomena.
The first small chapel on the site of the present church was built in 1618-35 by the monastery Seeon.
In 1803, the pilgrimage church of Maria Eck, in the process of secularization, was dissolved, and much of the interior of the church was either sold or destroyed.
In 1810, the church, and the surrounding land, was auctioned to private individuals, but the auction was actualy cancelled a month later.
The church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is a superb example of South German Baroque.
When Peter, Jane and John entered the church they were totally overwhelmed.
Up until that time they had not been inside any Bavarian churches, and they were amazed at the wealth of gold and colour inside the church.
The outside of the church was plain and simple, but the interior was a riot of gold leafed plaster, and columns painted to imitate all kinds of rare and exotic coloured marbles.
In addition there were Baroque statues and paintings representing scenes from the bible and local saints.


Peter was very surprised at how adventurous Jane and John were when they were on holiday.
After Maria Eck ther were other expeditions.
These were by train, as this area of Bavaria was well served by train-lines.
There were trips to Rosenheim and Traunstein.

Rosenheim is located in the centre of the district of Rosenheim (Upper Bavaria), and is also the seat of administration of this region.
It is located on the west bank of the river Inn, at the confluence of the rivers Inn and Mangfall, in the Bavarian Alpine Foreland.
It is the third largest city in Upper Bavaria with over 61,000 inhabitants and one of 23 administrative centres in Bavaria.
Rosenheim is therefore the economic centre and the busiest place in the region.
At the beginning of the 20th century,Rosenheim had nine breweries which are still preserved in the names of some restaurants (Duschl-, Hof-, Mail-, Pernloher-, Stern-, Weißbräu). The only survivors being "Auerbräu" and "Flötzinger Bräu" and supply, among others, the "Märzenbier" for the "Rosenheimer Herbstfest", as well as the Bierbichler Weißbräu.
Traunstein is the administrative center of a district by the same name.
It is situated at the heart of a region called Chiemgau, approximately 11 km east of Lake Chiemsee between Munich and Salzburg, 15 km north of the Alps, and 30 km west of Salzburg. 
Salt production, as a result of the construction of the brine pipeline from Bad Reichenhall from 1616 to 1619 by the master builder of the court, Hans Reiffenstuel, was for a long time the most important industrial branch, and brought an enormous wealth to the town.
Oddly, both towns had a close association with Adolf Hitler and National Socailism.

Rosenheim - the banner reads
'Here Jews are not wanted'
Hitler held a speech in the Hofbräuhaus, in Rosenheim, on May 2, 1920.
Just after the first NSDAP-division outside München was founded, Hitler spoke in Rosenheim again (on July 21, 1920).
He also spoke in the Hofbräusaal on June 17, 1920.

On August 6, 1920 Hitler spoke at the Pernlohnerkellern.
On the 26th of that month and year he also spoke in Rosenheim.
Hitler spoke at the Flötzingersaal on April 21, 1921.
He celebrated his birthday here on April 20, 1925.
The first time Hitler spoke in public after a critical throat operation was during a mass meeting in Rosenheim on August 11, 1935, in the Flötzingersaal.
Located near the Austrian border in Bavaria, Germany's largely rural and most politically conservative region, Traunstein was for years a stronghold of political parties tied to Catholicism, but the Nazi Party did well here in its formative years in the 1920s because of its opposition to the Versailles Treaty that enshrined Germany's humiliating defeat at the end of World War I, and its perceived championing of nationalist and rural values.

Adolf Hitler - marked with an X
Adolf Hitler was guarding Russian prisoners of war at Traunstein camp after the first world war.
After returning to München, he became a part of the local army organization, which consisted of a group of people (the Thule Gesellschaft) who did not want the soldiers to turn towards communism or pacifism.
He had to influence the returning soldiers to become anti-socialist patriots.
His first political speeches were held for the sodiers in Lechfeld, nearby.
Later on Hitler held three speeches in Traunstein, the first one on 8 December 1922, in a crowded hall of the gym-club.


Peter's first trip up a mountain was to the Rauschberg - the mountain that overlooks Ruhpolding.
A short trip by bus was needed to arrive at the valley station of the Rauschbergbahn.
From there it was just a matter of buying a ticket and getting on the cable car.
In the twenty-first century it require a long wait on a fine day to get onto the cable car.
In the nineteen-fifties it was just a matter of stepping on.
The Rauschbergbahn takes the ascent in one run, with no middle station.

Rauschberg Lake
The Rauschberg is 1,671 m (5,482 ft) high, and on the summit there is a restaurant and viewing galeries.
The views from the summit are, not surprisingly, breathtaking, and for a boy who had previously been frightened of climbing the stairs in a double-decker bus, Peter had no problem with the height.
What he did find most noticeable was the strange silence that pervades the atmosphere on the mountain peaks.
One image taht always haunted Peter after his holiday was that of the Rauschberg lake - a tiny little lake near the valley station, which on a fine day sparkles like a briliant turquoise jewel, as one descends in the Rauschbergbahn car from the heights.


Going further afield, John then proposed a trip to Berchtesgaden - of all places !
Now for the few that do not know, Berchtesgaden was Hitler's favourite town in Germany, and the place where he had his famous mountain retreat - the Berghof.

Adolf Hitler at the Berghof
The trip to Berchtesgaden involved a train ride through the valleys.
Berchtesgaden was a beautiful little place - more a village that a town - full of people pretending that they had never heard of Hitler - (remember that this was only fourteen years after the end of the second world war).

The Watzmann
Berchtesgaden is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich.
Berchtesgaden is often associated with the Watzmann, at 2,713 m the third-highest mountain in Germany (after Zugspitze and Hochwanner), which is renowned in the rock climbing community for its Ostwand (East Face), and a deep glacial lake by the name of Königssee (5.2 km²). Another notable peak is the Kehlstein mountain (1,835 m) with its Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest), which offers spectacular views to its visitors.

Hitler's involvement with Berchtesgaden began with his friendship with Dietrich Eckart - the dramatist - who had a home called the 'Sonnenhauesl', or as Hitler called it, the "Sonnenkopfl," at Lockstein.
Subsequently, Hitler rented 'Haus Wachenfeld', a small vacation villa across the valley from Mount Untersberg, for four years.

'Haus Wachenfeld',
The Berghof
In 1932, with proceeds earned from royalties from 'Mein Kampf', that Adolf Hitler purchased 'Haus Wachenfeld', which would later be known as the 'Berghof'.
Some typical Third Reich buildings which remained in Berchtesgaden in the ninetee-fifties included the railway station, that had a reception area for Hitler and his guests, and the post office next to the railway station.
The Berchtesgadener Hof Hotel was a hotel where famous visitors stayed, such as Eva Braun, Erwin Rommel, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, as well as Neville Chamberlain and David Lloyd George.
(The hotel was demolished in 2006).
Much to Peter's disappointment there was nothing left of the Berghof, because, somewhat like the Berchtesgadener Hof Hotel, it had been demolished by the American Army in 1945.
Apparently the Americans were afraid that the Berghof would become a shrine to Hitler's memory.
Oddly enough, however, the Americans decided not to demolish Htler's other house, which was situated on the Kehlstein summit, known as the 'Kehlsteinhaus' or 'Adlerhorst' (Eagle's nest), which subsequently did become a shrine to Hitler's memory.

Now the great thing about Berchtesgaden, for Peter anyway, was the fact that there was a 'chair-lift' from the valley to the summit of the Jenner Berg.
This was not like the Rauchberg, with a single cable and an large, enclosed car.
Instead it was a cable on a series of supports, with a number of small, enclosed cars, each one looking, to Peter, suspiciously like little UFOs.

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