Salzburg is a place of incredible beauty and tranquility. In August
it comes alive with those who come from around the world to hear his
music, for August is the time for the Mozartfest. We looked over the
town at night from our perch on the side of a mountain and gazed in
awe at the splendor of this place.
The next morning we drove through the mountains we could see from
our balcony, crossing into Germany and the area known as Obersalzberg.
I was on a mission to get to the snow capped alps, but when the
road sign pointed to Berchtesgarden, MRS said "I know that
name, Everyone knows that name. Let's go see it."
I turned left toward the birthday present from Hell. It was supposed
to be a birthday present, but the size of the undertaking probably
made it impossible to be a surprise for the birthday boy.
One writer suggested that it represents one of the greatest "suck
up" projects of all time.
The locals call it Kehlstein, its tourist name is the Eagle's Nest.
Its draw for me was not for the Eagles, or the impressive view,
but the history.
What we don't learn, we are condemned to repeat.
And repeat we have, again and again.
I write today, primarily in response to something I read in the
last day or two. I read about life, and I read about death. From
one particular journal I have read about pain and suffering and
and I cannot imagine how you grow up as a small child and survive
the conflict in Sarajevo, and then move to New York and write about
the First time I saw Death. I cannot imagine running through
town with your best friend and then hearing gunfire, screaming and
running to shelter, only to find you are alone. When you run back,
you find your best friend, lying on the ground, dead.
How is it that we subject each other to such horror and those are
the things that she has to remember?
She wrote under the name of Pravda and recently titled one of her
entries Existential Frustration which could have been titled - Good-By,
So Long, I'm Outta Here. She quoted from Viktor Frankl's book Man's
Search for Meaning and said that she failed to find meaning in her
suffering. (Updated 2003 - the writer's journal has disappeared
from the web)
So what's the connection? How do we get from Viktor Frankl to Kehlstein?
first connection for me between her pain and this place was in the
contrast between what that place was, and some of what I found there.
High in the alps, carved out of granite, the Eagles Nest was designed
as Hitler's 50th birthday present.
I have read that Hitler tired of the project and only visited the
finished site less than 20 times. The project involved building
a road which hangs on the side of the mountain, has multiple hairpin
turns and also required several tunnels to complete.
At the time the project cost the equivalent of 90 million of today's
While Hitler and guests had tea in the alps, Viktor was imprisoned
in a concentration camp.
Later Frankel wrote that "When we are no longer able to change
a situation... we are challenged to change ourselves."
tourists gather at a mustering point and board busses for the 6km
ride to the top of the mountain. They disembark at the end of the
road and then walk through a long cold tunnel that reaches into
the heart of the mountain.
At the end of the tunnel gleaming elevator doors open to reveal
a massive elevator powered by a diesel engine from a submarine.
Quickly they ascend 40 stories and enter the main floor of the gray
Once a home to death personified, today it serves up life, for
the Eagle's Nest has become a restaurant.
But it was not the restaurant that got me thinking about the contrasts
between life and death at the Kehlstein.
this exposed peak of rock, life clings to it's windswept surface.
This summit is virtually treeless, and those trees that survive
the icy winds of winter do not stand in lofty splendor. They crouch,
defiantly behind outcrops of rock.
For six months of the year, the access road is choked off with
Life however, is not choked off of this place. A thin layer of
dirt covers the granite beneath, offering life in the form of shrub
and grass and flower.
It was the picture of the flowers that got me to thinking about
death's pain, and a delicate wisp of life that offers promise of
Pravda finds life in music.
I find life in her survival, and in a delicate blue flower, growing
on the slopes of a place that once harbored death incarnate.
Requiem was to be the music in her final act.
Fortunately it was not.
We need you Pravda.
Your words are agents of change.