SHARKHUNTERS International “Patrol” in southern Germany & Austria (plus Italy and Slovenia)
This was probably the most fantastic “Patrol” we’ve ever had in southern Germany and Austria, and this year we added Italy and Slovenia. And now the comments are coming from those who were on this “Patrol“:
Mary Myers has been on other “Patrols” & on this one, she went “bunker hunting” She says:
“The trip was wonderful and I REALLY enjoyed it. Being one of the adventurous ones looking for bunkers was a real highlight for me. Once again thanks for a great tour as always. One I would never trade for a million dollars.”
This was the first Sharkhunters “Patrol” for Bonnie Russell and she writes:
“I just wanted to tell you that I had a FANTASTIC time on the patrol to South Germany and Austria! It was great meeting the veterans and I especially enjoyed the trip to Nuremberg and getting to go INSIDE the Zeppelinfeld Tribune! It was definitely a high point for me. I had a great time and met a lot of very nice people and saw some interesting places where history was made. I would recommend a Sharkhunters tour to anyone who is interested in seeing historical places that aren’t open to the public, and meeting veterans who helped make this history. It’s a trip I would make again.”
Ray Nowak has been a Member since about 1989. He and his son Michael were with us in 2006 and he writes:
“Thanks again. Only those who go on a Sharkhunters ‘Patrol‘ can appreciate it. It is very hard to explain to someone who has never been on a ‘Patrol‘ exactly what it is like…….the people you meet, the places you go, what you see and what you experience are indescribable. They will live in your memory forever.”
U-Boat veteran Erwin Burdt was one of our Members on this ‘Patrol‘ and he writes:
“I had a really good time and my more vivid memory was the Obersalzberg. We must keep the Obersalzberg, München, Nürnberg and Austria in the southern ‘Patrol’.”
10 September through 23 September 2006
14 Days on “Patrol“!
We’re gonna’ go through this “Patrol” report on a day-by-day basis, just as we lived it. Hang on! You’ll love it.
DAY 1 – Sunday: Our participants arrived on their own at the new Franz Josef Strauss Airport outside of Munich and took the shuttle to our host hotel. Each spent the day getting adjusted to the time difference then we met at 6pm for introductions and an overview of our “Patrol“. Then we went to the nearby Italian restaurant for our first group dinner and social time together.
DAY 2 – Monday: We toured the famous places in Munich – some that were not on the normal tours. Naturally we saw Feldherrenhalle (below left) and the buildings of the Reich that are still standing, we saw Hitler’s apartment where his niece Geli was killed. It is reported that she had a torrid affair with Hitler. Did she commit suicide out of grief or was she killed as a possible hindrance? It is the second floor balcony in the photo below right. We saw the house that Hitler bought for Eva Braun in the early days of their courtship.
Naturally, we enjoyed lunch at the famed Hofbraühaus…..with the Bavarian swastika still inlaid in the ceiling. We visited the massive room on the 3rd floor which seats no less than 800. It was in this room where Hitler and the party had their huge group meetings.
Off to the place where it all began – Nürnberg! As we all know, “Eingang Verboten!” means “Sharkhunters Are Welcome Here” and we went places absolutely NOT open to anyone else. We visited the two “tower” museums of our friend Michael Kaiser, toured the castle, saw the imperial crown etc., had our traditional ‘Nuernberger Sausage’ dinner with friends from WW II including Eugen who was a fallshirmjäger (paratrooper) with the Hermann Göring Division but this year no one made an attempt at breaking the Sharkhunters sausage record of 42 set by Steve Riha in 2004. Maybe in 2007 a Member will attempt to break this record.
|A soldier in the churchyard – in memory||In Michael’s Museum|
We visited parts of the massive Congresshalle not open to others, including Hitler’s own entrance (photo below left) and the facade. Then we went to Zeppelinfeld where the rallies took place. We went INSIDE the stadium, off limits to all – well, to all but Sharkhunters. We were in the “Gold Room” with the beautiful inlaid mosaic ceiling including the gold swastikas (photo below right); into Hitler’s personal offices (four photos with posters below) and up the special staircase to the door that Hitler came through for the speeches at the rallies. Nobody – absolutely NOBODY is allowed there, but we were.
We had our lunch in an electric power station (photo below left) designed by Albert Speer – today it is a Burger King!
We stopped at the ruins of an old Roman fortress in the area (photo above right) and if we let our minds wander a bit, we could almost see the red cloaked legionaries of Rome defending against the Germans of 2,000 years ago.
Naturally we placed flowers on the grave of one of the greatest pilots of all time, Hans-Ulrich Rudel (photo below right). We had our dinner at the same place we always do – at what they call “Hitler’s Train Station“. This was the rail station where he arrived prior to making his appearances and it was the most modern of its time. Today it is a great restaurant (photo below left) where people all around Nürnberg come for supper.
DAY 5 – Thursday: As our bus rolls on southward through Germany, we wonder at all the police at the ramps and other strategic spots along the autobahn then we see three helicopters flying overhead in formation. AHA! The Pope is traveling overhead by chopper from Regensburg to München for his flight back to Rome.
Soon the rolling hills give way to the foothills of the majestic Alps and we cross into Austria. Everyone is in awe of the beauty. We stop for lunch at a rest stop along the Autobahn then to Klagenfurt, the capitol of Kärnten, and we do some souvenir shopping…..and sampled some of the great ice cream of the region. According to local legend, a dragon roamed all through Europe during the Middle Ages but it could only eat virgins. The legend goes on to say that when the dragon reached Klagenfurt, the poor thing died of starvation! It is now just made of stone in the city center (photo below left). The legend also says that if a virgin walks past, it will wag its tail. The tail has not wagged in fifty years………………so the legend goes.
Our first evening in Kärnten was spent enjoying a great meal in Landskron Castle where the Polizeichor (Police Choir) sang for us through our meal – photo below right. Outstanding music, as always.
DAY 6 – Friday: After a nice breakfast overlooking the Austrian Alps, we set out for the shooting competition and this time, the Austrian Army etc. participated……but didn’t win. The results were:
RANK NAME COUNTRY
1. Harry Cooper USA
2. Joe Boyer USA
3. Robert Maier Austria
4. Eduard Kummer Austria
4. Dieter Rosellen USA
Tie for 4th
6. Loren Charles USA
7. Rolf Rosellen USA
7. Chris Banda USA
Tie for 7th
9. David Groepler USA
9. Mary Myers USA
Tie for 9th
11. Erwin Burdt Canada
12. Ray Nowak USA
13. Andrea Crandall USA
14. Mike Nowak USA
Not everyone participated of course, but those who did had a blast. We shot four different weapons – the Luftgewehr, the Armbrust, 9mm Glock pistol and the famed K-98. The Armbrust (crossbow) was tough, but the K-98 Karabiner that was used by the German Army in both world wars was a great weapon to fire. After the competition ended, each shooter was given one shot with a muzzle loader using black powder. What an experience…..and that weapon was loud!
|Flag of theshooting club||Castle Hochosterwitz|
When we finished shooting, we visited the Castle Hochosterwitz, a medieval fortress castle that has been in the same family for centuries. In addition to the foreboding walls and massive cannon works, there were fourteen fortified gates leading up the mountain to the castle, making it impregnable to attack. In addition, the Captain of the Guards was an impressive 7 feet 4 inches tall – at a time when the average man was just a smidge above five feet tall. His massive sword weighed more than 30 pounds. He died a rather questionable death however – shot in the back with a crossbow by one of his own men – fragged even before that term was invented. From reports of the time, the Captain of the Guards was a really mean guy to his men and they ‘removed‘ him.
Some of our tougher Sharkhunters Members made the climb all the way up and then all the way down, stopping for photos at each gate. The rest of us ‘assaulted‘ the castle the easy way – we rode the tram up and down.
DAY 7 – Saturday: FANTASTIC! We were guests aboard a large cruise boat on the Worthersee with more than 100 veterans and their wives. Enrico Costa, the “Golden Voice” roamed throughout the ship with his accordion, singing all the old songs. The veterans and their wives sang along with them as did several of our group who were originally from Germany during the war. In their minds and hearts they were young again, in their twenties and filled with life. After a superb three-hour tour we docked at the local yacht club and had a great lunch with many of the veterans.
In the evening, we were guests of Honor at a dinner with hundreds of veterans – fallshirmjaeger (paratroops), Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops), Waffen SS (Green Berets of their day), Luftwaffe (air force), U-Bootwaffe and others. Sharkhunters President Harry Cooper spoke for a few minutes with Peter Stockner translating, and he told why he formed Sharkhunters in 1983 – to tell the honest history of the U-Bootwaffe without propaganda and without politics. When he said that it was known that the members of the Wehrmacht were honorable men and that it was wrong to call them criminals and crazy men, he received a huge ovation. Many veterans gave hand signed photos of themselves to our Members, such as these.
|Karl Schmidt – 10th SS||Gerhard Sellin – 5th SS|
Afterwards, there were groups of young people doing folk dancing and it was great to see that the old traditions will not be allowed to die. We went well into the night, making new friends and hearing their memories.
DAY 8 – Sunday: ULRICHSBERGFEST! This is the day we waited for! This is the memorial service atop the highest mountain in Kärnten (southern Austria) where the veterans remember all who fell in battle. This year a large group of about 200 communist loonies, mostly impressionable young people, stated that they would disrupt these solemn ceremonies. Their slogan is;
“It would have been better if none of the veterans had come home.”
How stupid! The Austrian police, Army and Gendarmerie did a superb job of keeping the lid on these clowns and kept them bottled up in one small village. There was no trouble, no interruption of the ceremonies and basically, the only protesters we even saw was a small handful on their way to jail.
Our group, again, was seated in the honors section and President Harry Cooper was invited to sit between the President of the Ulrichsberggemeinschaft (the organization that presides over the Ulrichsberg ceremonies) and the Oberst (Colonel) of the Austrian Army in the front row center. The ladies naturally, were selling schnapps and since the money going to the veterans’ organizations, we felt it necessary to buy a lot of schnapps. As always, when the Austrian Army Band played “Ich Hatte ein Kammeraden” (Once I had a Comrade) and the 21 gun salute was fired, it was the most solemn moment of the day.
When the ceremonies concluded, we walked down to the high mountain meadow and enjoyed a great lunch with hundreds of veterans. The food was great, the atmosphere superb and the new friends we met was an unequalled experience. Sharkhunters is the only outside group invited to participate in this event.
During the evening’s gathering, our friend Paul Rösch called for our President Harry Cooper to come on stage and say a few words but Harry was at the bar in the next room. He came running out and when he put his Coke down on the table, Paul laughed and said;
“Only a cola? Here we should drink beer.”
He asked Harry again about the purpose and goals of Sharkhunters and various other things, then he asked Harry to say something in German to which Cooper said;
“Ich bin ein Amerikaner mit mein Hertz in Deutschland und Österreich!”
(I am an American with my heart in Germany and Austria) which was greeted with rousing applause. Thanks again to Peter Stocker for his translating the majority of what Harry said.
Again, many veterans gave wonderful gifts to our group. A veteran of the Flanders Regiment gave Harry a jacket patch, a lapel pin and one of his own commemorative medals. The veteran’s wife gave Harry two beautiful flags of the Flanders Lion. We later learned that some of the wives and widows of the veterans, short little old ladies, were taking turns on trying on Harry’s uniform hat in the coatroom. They were so cute. Austrian TV reported that a group of Americans was at the Ulrichsbergfest.
the Flanders Lion
DAY 9 – Monday: We rolled into Italy – to Redipuglia, site of a World War I battle in which young platoon leader Leutnant Erwin Rommel greatly distinguished himself and earned the Pour le Merit (the Blue Max). The road now runs along what was then the battle lines and on one side of the road is the massive memorial, the largest in all Italy. From the road, some 337 steps lead to the top of the memorial a good half mile up the hill on what was the Austrian side of the lines. Here are the graves of more than 100,000 Italian soldiers who fell in this massive battle – the identities of only 39,857 are known. On the opposite side of the road on what was the Italian side of the battle line, the trenches still exist and we are in them. There is also a museum of historical artifacts as well as a church. This must have been a terrifying way to fight a war.
After a nice lunch there at Redipuglia, we headed for Trieste. This was once the major naval port of the Austro Hungarian Empire but after World War I, it was ceded to Italy. It was here at the castle Miramare where Emperor Maximillian lived and it was from this very dock that he set sail in the middle 1860’s for his empire – Mexico! As we know from history, he never returned from Mexico, being executed in June of 1867. We toured this magnificent palace and all agreed – Maximillian should have stayed at home.
the Palace Miramare
Late in the afternoon, our bus rolled into Slovenia (photos below left) where we had a great dinner – lots of good food, and since Slovenia has not switched to the Euro yet, it was really reasonable.
Then over the Alps to the town of Krumpendorf where we were welcomed into a large dining room filled with veterans, wives, families and friends. This was an evening of fun and fellowship with no structure and no formalities – just a lot of singing, beer and friendships. Enrico Costa again entertained us with his accordion and his singing, accompanied by his beautiful sister-in-law Marianne. Then came the high point of the evening!
Actually, what happened next was one of the highest of the high points of this or any other “Patrol“. Our friend Paul Rösch brought our entire Sharkhunters group into a side room where the President (RegR Engelbert Tautscher) and Vize President (Major d.R. Wolf Dieter Ressenig) of the Ulrichsberggemeinschaft waited for us. In one of the most impressive moments of any Sharkhunters “Patrol“, they presented two awards to Sharkhunters President, Harry Cooper. The first was the Ulrichsberg Great Cross in Silver, seen below with the document.
|the Award Document||the Medal|
The second was even more impressive. They awarded the Kaerntner Cross in Gold to Harry Cooper as well (seen below). The awarding of these two beautiful medals was a huge honor to Cooper.
|the Medal||the Award Document|
Then the Ulrichsberg Cross in Silver was awarded to each and every one of our Sharkhunters on this “Patrol“. What a tremendous honor! You would have received one of the magnificent medals – if you had been with us. After the awards ceremonies we returned to the festivities and watched the clock pass midnight before we headed back to our hotel – really tired, but extremely happy.
DAY 10 – Tuesday: This was an easy day. We slept a bit later than usual, had a leisurely breakfast and relaxed for a while before setting off in a northerly direction on the Autobahn. Our destination was the Hotel zum Türken, owned by our dear friend and LIFE Member, Ingrid Scharfenberg. The hotel is photo left below and the photo right below is the famed ‘coffee nook‘ where Hitler, Göring, Himmler, Bormann, Hess and others met and talked…..and we were there! After we got checked in, we took the bus to town and enjoyed a great dinner in the beautiful little town of Berchtesgaden at the foot of the Alps. It was also time to begin our souvenir shopping……………
DAY 11 – Wednesday: The bunkers! There are miles of bunkers winding through the mountain known as the Obersalzberg, and here is a diagram of just a few of them. These begin in the cellar of the zum Türken and include several different levels, all some three or four stories beneath the mountain – and we are there!
Deep, deep beneath the ground in Hitler’s bunker
In the afternoon, we went high, high in the Alps to visit the famed Eagle’s Nest. Photos below.
Dinner this evening was at the nearby Holzkäfer – an excellent restaurant…..named for an insect that eats wood. Go figure……………….
DAY 12 – Thursday: Some relaxed this morning but some of us, the more adventuresome, went on their own along the mountainside behind where Hitler’s Berghoff once stood, looking for anything new and undiscovered. They found numerous air shafts and various other man-made works – AND a new entrance into Hitler’s personal bunker! In the photos below, you see all that remains of Hitler’s Berghoff. Below left is the retaining wall that kept the mountain in place. The trees are growing where his home once stood. In the photo below right we see a bouquet of flowers that someone placed on this wall. Almost every night candles are left burning here and nobody knows who is responsible.
By noon, our entire group was in nearby Salzburg doing…..souvenir shopping! What else.
DAY 13 – Friday: OKTOBERFEST! Who doesn’t know that word? We enjoyed a day here on the weis’n with the beer tents to overflowing capacity; the music; the food and souvenir stands; the rides; the beautiful horses with their beer wagons – the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful experience.
What’s NOT to love about Oktoberfest?
Then of course, was the sad evening and the farewell drinks with newfound friends in the hotel. This wonderful time was all but finished. A quiet breakfast with new friends who are soon to depart to their respective homes, then all are off to the airport and their flights back home.
This was a tremendous time in southern Germany and Austria with a day in Italy and Slovenia added. All who came had a great time, made new friends, took a ton of photos – and left with memories that money can’t buy.
But it isn’t over! We return year after year for a very similar program. Will YOU be with us?
Our friend and bus driver Eddie Kummer goes to the maximum to give us the best possible ride but it takes its toll on him. Poor Eddie! It is sad to see what’s left of Eddie after two weeks with our wild and crazy group.