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Journey to Burg Hohenwerfen
Written by: Jakob Söderbaum
Published: WED - Unofficial homepage
Date: Saturday, August 14, 1999

I spent the Autumn 1998 in Vienna, Austria, working at the local Volvo Truck office there. As this would be a very lonely period, I decided to see as much of the country as I could. And since the castle of Hohenwerfen - where "Where Eagles Dare" was filmed - is situated just south of Salzburg, I decided to go there on one of my sightseeing-trips...

It was a beautiful Saturday in October 1998. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and you could feel Autumn was around the corner. What a perfect day I'd picked for this adventure!

I sat down in the train, I felt I'd just travelled some 50 years back in time! The green and brown coupé with seats I'd only seen in old movies really opened up my mind - this is how it was by the time the action in "Where Eagles Dare" took place! During the 30 minutes I sat on the train, I got used to the era - the ancient villages and alpes passing by the window proved I really had travelled back in time. But I sat like on needles. My mind hadn't gotten used to the Bavarian accents yet, and I was afraid to miss the station, when called up in the speakers. But, asking the girls in front of me if I'd heard it right, they confirmed that the next station would be it: Werfen. Hometown of many a myth and legend - and of my all-time favorite movie "Where Eagles Dare".

Arriving in Werfen
Getting off the train at the Werfen railway station, I felt like a pilgrim on his way to Mekka. But a lonely pilgrim - I found it strange that I was the only one to stop here - this place should be packed with tourists, I'd imagined - but there weren't a single sould to be seen! Still with my mind in the train, where I'd been talking to three fairly attractive Austrian girls, I walked a few steps to get past the train. When I'd passed, I lifted my head and breathed in the wonderful fresh air - the air of mountains and woods and AUTUMN at its best. When I opened my eyes again, I stood face to face with the magnificent and all-genuine Schloß Adler! Or Burg Hohenwerfen, as its real name is. All the old memories of this movie came back to me in an instant, and I didn't awake from the spell untill my neck began to ache. Now I knew what Smith and Schaffer felt when they first encountered the castle from the "woods due west of castle" - it is really a mighty sight! I just had to pick up my camera and save this moment for posterity.

I crossed the railroad and began to walk in the direction of the few houses I saw straight ahead of me, not realizing untill later that I'd just walked the bridge where our heroes almost get caught in an ID-controll in the movie. When I reached the houses, I saw there was some kind of a bus station not far away. Hopefully there would be a site map, where I could find my 'Gasthof' (= Inn). And I did. But I didn't understand where it would be, so I had to ask for the way to it. "Over that bridge (pointing), and up the hill, it's that house you see right up there", a friendly citizen told me. Wow, I thought. That's quite a walk. Just then, I spotted a bus crawling up the slope. I was surprised it didn't tip backwards, that steep was it!

Tough slopes
Well up at the Zaisman Gasthof, I was nearly bathing in sweat. I felt like a mountain climber without equipment, and with two heavy suitcases to carry. Which, in fact, I was. I had to sit down and relax for a few minutes before I could ask the mistress for my room.

When I came to the room, I glanced at my watch. It was twenty minutes to two. I felt a bit stressed. I knew the round trips at the castle went every hour, and three o'clock there would be a falcon-show. So the trip two o'clock would probably be my only chance. I wolfed down the (at this point very sweaty) cheese and ham baguette I'd bought in the morning, together with a Sprite supercan. Then I had to leave immediately. I ran down the 200 m slope - not as much because of the short time-range as the fact that this was the only way to get down if I didn't want to roll. I could feel my lunch swelling in my stomach, but there was no way to stop running before I came down to the bridge. Now I had to search for the way up to the castle.

What I found wasn't very encouraging: a very steep and narrow path through the forrest turned out to be the way up. It was tough, but after a while I reached a paved road, leading the last 50 metres up to the entrance (all in all, I think it was about 400 metres of walk). It made the path in the forrest look like... well, a walk in the park! I experienced it was so steep I could almost lick the ground without touching it with my hands (which, of course, was pure imagination - but the angle of inclination was surely about 20 degrees)! I didn't make it to the entrance. I had to take a break in my climbing on a very strategically well-placed park bench, a few metres from the entrance. I probably sat there for 10 minutes, just breathing.

At the "Castle of Eagles"
When I had gathered my breath, I realized I was too late for the guided round trip. But I was lucky, there would be one last after the falcon-show! So I could start off with about 45 minutes of my own. I picked out my camera, and got to work.

Having photo-graphed half the place, it was time for the falcon-show. Which turned out to be much more comprehensive than I'd expected. Starting off with a couple of smaller falcons, the falconeers (dressed in medieval hunting clothes) presented bigger and bigger birds of prey - and finishing off with eagles and even vultures, ranging up to one and a half meter between the wing-tips! It was really an experience - we had these birds flying just above our heads and landing on the fist of a falconeer in the middle of the crowd! And the falconeers made a lot of tricks with them too, like throwing up pieces of meat in the air, which the falcons could dive after. When the show was over I photographed the rest of the place, and went to join the guided tour.

What can I say about the tour? Well, it was interesting above the expected. I got to see a few places I'd missed (not the golden hall in the movie, though!), and a girl dressed in medieval clothes told the story of the castle in German (see the Hohenwerfen history article!). After that I went to the souvenir-shop (it was closed, but they were kind and let me in anyway) and bought a nice T-shirt and a pin. This wasn't exactly what I'd wanted, but they didn't have much else that interested me. Then it was time for me to leave, and I decided to find the place where our heroes jump into the lake from the cable-car. But when I reached the estimated point, it was too dark to take photos - so I took a few photos of the castle at night (which became too dark) on my way back to the Gasthof instead. Then I had dinner, and went to sleep early - I was exhausted!

Spooky morning
In the morning I woke up to my alarm-clock ringing - I had to get up early so I could also see the city of Salzburg before going back to Vienna. I was quite astonished, facing the cows just outside my window when I rose from my bed! It was a very special feeling, being inside - and yet so close to such large animals! I also noted it was foggy outside, almost a bit spooky.

Downstairs, I had breakfast. I asked if I could sit down by the next table, and got around to chat with three Austrians and a woman from New Zeeland. They had never guessed this was the castle in "Where Eagles Dare", so I told them about it, and how the movie was recorded in these areas. After breakfast, I paid my bill, was wished a pleasant journey by the mistress and my breakfast company, and left. I took a few last pictures of the castle in the fog, and took the next train back to Salzburg and the 20th century.

User Comments:

Simon Howard (2002-10-05)
A very informative and well written article. I have been courious of the whereabouts of the "Castle of the Eagles" for quite some years. The number of times I have stood in a bookshop scanning pictures of Germany's castles whenever I have spotted a book about them,... Now a place just south of Saltzberg will be high on my list of places to visit soon. Thank You. Here's hoping for a release of the DVD soon, but I hope the studio make a better job of it then when Kelly's Heroes was released. Which I must confess I like just a little more than Where Eagles Dare. But only just. Now what would I give to be able to visit the town of "Claremont" where the climax of that movie took place. I heard it was somewhare in Yugoslavia but thats all. well maybe one day. Thanks Again. Simon.
Brilliant article, "Damned idiots for not informing us sooner,.... double damned idiots for ignoring,our advice in the first place"
Neddle (2003-03-13)
Kelly's Heroes?????? You're MAD!
MICHAEL J (2004-01-31)
The Article is very good. That is one of teh great European castles which are very common inGermany and Austria, etc. Many of the medieval towns have castles on a high mountain nearby. Burg Trifels near Annweiler, is one of my favorite, Heidelberg is a larhe one by the river side, there are many and each is steeped in real history going back to the 1500's and in some cases much earlier times in history. If you are in Europe, take the time to see whatever castles you are close to, and bring yor camera! Michael USA
Michael Gruenwald (2004-06-22)
hi! first off all: great article! i realy enjoyed reading it. i live in the town of werfen and i found one thing that was amusing to me. you wrote you wanted to find the place "where our heroes jump into the lake from the cable-car". well, to see that place you would have been walking a long time. the cable-car and the whole upper station was just cut into the film. its located about 100km away of werfen. in fact there is a very small cable-car but at the backside of the fortress and only for goods. if you got a good copy of the film you can see the staion wobbling in front of the caslte. the rest of the film is relativeley authentic. except the landing of the paratroopers. the hut where they land (a realy lovely place) is located southwest of werfen. the first sight of the castle, they take from the northeast. and the railway station lies in the southeast. but thats just a funny detail if you know all that places. in summary it's a great movie and i love to watch it again and again.
Ian Usher (2005-04-03)
Very interesting article - have just watched the film again - how many times now? I've lost count - what a classic. I have now added Castle Hohenwerfen to my "must-see" places list. Thanks for the info. Ian
Dom - The Cyclic Druid (2005-08-28)
I passed the Schloss Hohenwerfen recently whilst travelling across Austria on holiday. My initial reaction on seeing it from the Autobahn was, "Bloody hell. That looks just like the castle from 'Where Eagles Dare'". And lo and behold, it was. The view in this valley is spectacular. On eday I'm going back to visit the Schloss itself.
neil thomson (2005-10-17)
May I add my thanks for an excellent article too.. it is worth a visit to Werfen just to view the castle..
From the moment I left the train at the station I was totally spellbound.. the place just exumes excitement..(You feel you`re actually in the film at some points) only thing missing is the crew and the actors ???
Recommended for all "where eagles dare" fans..
pierre lacabanne (2006-10-05)
hi ,
that is this article which made me feel like going to see hohenwerfen ; I saw the movie about ten times (first in the early's 70..) and it's still a pleasure...
so , in february 2005 , I decided to visit austria with my wife and my boy (11 years old at this time) and landed first in vienna for 3 days ; lovely clean city and kind people. then , I rent a car and straight to salzburg for 3 more days : wonderful city , I really loved it , very good souvenir...
next day we decided to go to werfen see THE Schloß for real this time ! and we've been touched...that was the castle I saw many times since I was kid ...unfortunatly , in february , there was too many snow and it was closed...but anyway I was very happy and I'll return as soon as possible.
thanks to you Jakob.

Gerhard Vierthaler (2007-01-13)
I enjoyed reading your article - especially since I grew up in Werfen and spent many summers with my grandparents in the fortress. My grandparents were the caretakers of the fortress, lived right above the second gates when you first enter through the massive outer walls (2nd picture in your article)for nearly 45 years. They were running the youth hostel (which closed in the mid-eighties)and took care of the enormous compound. You can imagine what an incredible playground we had growing up. I agree with Michael Gruenwald that the movie depicts some untrue features, but you don't have to be a purist. Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton & Liz Taylor were staying at times with my grandparents and Elisabeth Taylor had her hair done a lot in my grandmothers kitchen. - We have some family snapshots with the stars. There was a also a rumor that Richard Burton knocked backed shots of alcohol between takes and that he had a hard time remembering his lines. I now live in Anchorage, Alaska and we take our kids to Austria every couple of years and tour my old stomping grounds in Werfen. They recognize the fortress from The "Sound of Music", they are still too young for "Where Eagles Dare". Hope you all get see this amazing place some time, built in 1077 and here to stay for millenia's to come.
Colin Gilbert (2008-03-02)
I too spent a day going South from Salzburg to see "The Where Eagles Dare Castle". It really is in a spectacular location. However, there is another tourist attractioin just outside the town, the "Ice Caves". These are accessed by walking up the mountain and getting a cable car right to the top. Water comes into the caves and freezes making an "indoor glacier". It is a bit of a hike and not for the unfit (there are nearly 2000 steps inside the caves) but is certainly worth a visit
Our Top Agent (2008-03-04)
My wife, kids & I visited the Tyrol and Salzburg region last August, we went to the Burg Hohenwerfen (Castle)had the tour and lunch there very, impressive! also drove down to the Train Station in Werfen (The bridge is new and replaces the one in WED) Also visited Lofer, which was a super little town, Location of the "Zum Wilden Hirsch",and town location scenes. I managed to get a look inside of the Guest haus used for the external shots of Zum Wilden Hirsch. A great trip.
Edward Lewis (2008-09-02)
I spent last Xmas in Salzburg with my wife and daughter and drove past the town and castle on my way for a day's skiing at Obertaun. When I asked the tour guide why there was no tour to see the sights of the film like they organised for The Sound of Music he just laughed at me - almost like we mustn't mention the war!The locals initially didn't like Sound of Music but there was money to be made out of it and now the Salzburg Tourist Board love promoting it!! Salzburg didn't like Mozart but...!
Our Top Agent (2008-09-16)
Edward, Surprisingly the HohenWerfen (Castle) does recognise is links to the film and has several WED posters on display in the ticket office, and also there is a room in the castle showing clips from the film (on a loop) like a small cinema, all day long.
Jonathan (2009-01-25)
Fantastic artice and a great read! Having been a fan of Where Eagles Dare since bring a very young boy ( I am now 16) I have always wanted to travell there and experience the atmosphere for myself. Ive learnt German for the past 6 years so hope to put that into practice and claim the fortress for myself one day!
Sterling Alexander (2009-05-24)
Thanks so much for the article..the movie is in my top 10...but could kick myself...went to Salzburg..a few years ago..and visited the castle in Salzburg and Mozart's home..had no idea there was another castle...from this movie..was nearby ...DANG
Tanja G. (2009-07-06)
regarding my post to the Hohenwerfen description article, here goes again: If we (Salzburg locals) organized tours to show "Where Eagles Dare" fans all the locations the movie was shot and providing background information, would that be appreciated, would there be interest in such a tour? Pls let us know and feel free to post here.
Our Top Agent (2009-07-08)
Tanja, Thats a great idea, maybe you could talk to the Hohenwerfen Castle officials to link up with them and offer visitors an additional tour once they have done the Castle Tour? If you could work together with them you could help each other and capitialise on there visitor numbers? We are visiting Lofer in August for a family holiday but may not make it over to Werfen, this year. Regards, Andrew
Tanja (2009-07-08)
Dear Andrew, yes, having a specialized tour of Hohenwerfen for WED fans (more movie facts and less about archbishops etc.) would have to be part of the concept. I am sure that wouldn't be much of a problem as the castle guides are often asked about WED which makes them curious about the whole story anyway. I am waiting for more feedback here and if it turns out that there is significant demand we could work something out. Have fun in Lofer this year and let me know if you make it to Werfen!
Edward (2009-08-28)
Just visited Werfen. Number of WED fans no doubt much smaller than SoM and judging by number of folk watching the WED video loop at the castle, interest from Germans is small. I suspect it\'s the Brits and Americans who would be interested (rather like the SoM tours). But how about adding Werfen to the SoM tours? The big problem is the time it takes to travel to and from Werfen from Salzburg I guess. SoM is mentioned a lot in Austrian tourist publicity but why not add WED in the same publicity?
w_schmaltz (2009-09-11)
Made my WED pilgrimage June2009. Didn't know the cable car scene was filmed elsewhere, so that was a bit of a surprise to NOT see the cable car. Took the tram to the castle and the boring tour. Tried to sneak around and see the movie settings. I think the Telefunken room (where the Burton tells the helicopter pilot "there's a message for you") is now a men's urinal.
Clayton (2009-12-25)
I stayed at this youth hostel back around 1977. Your story matches mine closely. I got off the train and I thought I must be in the wrong place. I was the only one who got off and the site was all but abandoned. I asked for directions to the jugendhostel and someone pointed to a castle on a hill shrouded in dark storm clouds. Your photo of the wooded trail up the steep slope looked familiar. You did not mention the canon sticking their noses out from stone walls. A memorable (but steep) walk.
Steve Hutch (2010-05-08)
Good article. Makes me want to visit, though will have to wait some years I think. All time favourite film I first saw when it came out around 1968 at the age of 8 "Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Broadsword calling Danny Boy" also Burton saying "Just a waste of good skapollamene, SIT down gentlemen". The music and scenery, in fact everything - breathtaking.
mrsriddle (2010-10-16)
My father and I pushed my mother up the steep slope in a wheel chair to the castle gate. We had to stop and rest many times. Imagine the surprise on the face of the cashier when I asked if the gate could be opened for a disabled person, she expected to see a car. We had to push up a final slope of cobbles. At this time we were surrounded by Italian children and their teacher, who pushed and pulled the wheelchair, my father and me up last few yards. It was hard work but well worth the effort.
asdfghjkl <3 (2011-03-04)
Err hi there;D there are alot of people who read your article huh? well yeah its been?... 13 years? ahaha anyway nice article. :D
penis (2011-03-04)
Robin Cundall (2012-01-21)
Smashing article! Just watched the film for the first time in ages. Now keen to make the pilgrimage myself. Thanks for giving me some tips in this regard.
Stephen Foreman (2012-05-02)
I think the writer got it just right this is a fantastic place to visit in its own right. There is plenty to see and be engaged in within the tour but the Eagle display at the end will last with you the rest of your life Go and enjoy
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does anyone know where I can get a Where Eagles Dare mug and T shirt
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