Around fifteen years ago, I did a fairly extensive Where Eagles Dare tour which took in Werfen, Ebensee and Lofer. Very enjoyable it was too, but this year's trip should be considered as my - I would hardly say the - definitive tour. It took in Werfen and Lofer again whilst staying in Saalfelden.
I took an afternoon flight from Heathrow to Munich with British Airways. I lost track of the trains I was on as most were delayed but the end result was that I arrived at Terminal 5 at the time I had planned to so all was well. After a delay which seems to be becoming more the norm, the short flight arrived only twenty minutes late and Munich Airport being Munich Airport, I was quickly through and on an S-Bahn train to Neufahrn where I stayed in what I believe is a comparatively new chain called McDreams. It may not be ideally situated to the railway station (and the buses had stopped by the time I arrived) so it was a 20-minute but easy walk there (with thanks to Google Maps once again..)
It was quite a novel experience actually as I checked in online the day before and, on the day, was sent a message with my room number and door code. I don't remember seeing any staff but thought that I was fighting an inevitable battle when the reception door came up with that wonderful word falsch when I put my code in. Trying another door came up trumps (without code: I had the right code but the wrong door and, once outside my room, the code worked perfectly).
There was a petrol station opposite which doubled up with a restaurant called Rosi's. I had a simple Currywurst ( sausage with curry sauce) and French fries and it was quite superb. I hadn't expected much but thoroughly enjoyed it.
Away around 8:30 a.m. the following morning, I took an earlier S-Bahn train to allow myself a little extra time at Munich Hauptbahnhof. I don't know what it is but, even taking into account my dismal sense of direction, I always seem to struggle to find the main concourse for the longer-distance trains. This time was no different and I was grateful for the extra time.
Like the day before, most of the trains were slightly delayed but all the fairly tight connections worked out until the last train at Schwarzach St-Veit when the train became defekt: it broke down. Forty-odd minutes late into Saalfelden wasn't in itself a big concern but I found my accommodation quite quickly.
For whatever reason, I struggled to receive replies to booking enquiries from two or three places but the one which did (and quickly) was the Pension zur Schmiede, just above the beautiful Ritzensee. This is part of, if you like, a mini-Empire of the Kroell family in this peaceful area, and very nice it is too. I had picked it out as good old Google Earth suggested it might look over the mountains and hills where the opening shots (and credits) of the Junkers coming in were filmed. Initially, I thought that my room was looking in the opposite direction but, as it happened, once on the balcony and looking to the left rather than straight ahead, there was the exact view. A nice bonus. All for 39 euros a night, including breakfast.
The better view came later that evening when I walked the twenty or so minutes from the Pension to the signposted viewing point near the Ritzensee Privatklinik. The final part of the walk involves going through a farm with signs understandably telling people to keep to the marked paths and dogs to be kept on leads. Once up the hillock, the views are spectacular. Back in the room later, I for once used the balcony to look out on the lower-level view. Once before, in Stainach-Irdning, I had stayed on a farm where my room overlooked the Grimming Mountain at the film's denouement: I suppose that I can say that I have bookended views from accommodation at the beginning and (almost) end of Where Eagles Dare.
The Pension also included the Saalfelden Leogang Card for guests in the price. This is quite a bonus as it offers free bus and rail transport within the Pinzgau area for the duration of the stay. Another bonus was free use of the Biberg chairlift (although not for the toboggan ride down). As this chairlift appeared from Google Maps to overlook the mountain mentioned above where the film starts, I decided to give it a go. Sadly, one relies on good weather and I was somewhat flummoxed on arrival to be told that it was closed. There was a slight wind but it nonetheless struck me as strange that operations had ceased until the weather changed. Thor, where I was staying in Saalfelden, is quite high and wind there gave me an indication of whether to try the chairlift again. As it happened, I was elsewhere when the wind dropped so never had another chance to use it.
I went on to Lofer, a town used quite extensively in the film. I have been there a few times but this was the first when the weather was good enough to see the impressive mountain range behind the town. Having spent quite a time comparing the film with Google Earth and Maps, I had a much clearer picture of what I was looking for. Lofer's first appearance in the film is immediately after Burton and Eastwood lead the men over the Werfen bridge and, in Lofer, this is in the square immediately in front of the Villa Egger (zum Wilden Hirsch). I also saw the area once again where the woodshed was and the bus escape which starts at the Wirtshaus Zum Schweizer a little further out from the centre. I think that I have also found the area where the commandos are chased from en route to the airport although I cannot quite, in my own mind, settle on which building is the most likely.
The Saalfelden Leogang Card also offers a free entrance to the sauna - it may be one free at both Saalfelden and leogang although I could not establish this as the Leogang sauna was closed due to a technical malfunction. Nonetheless, this small town was extremely pleasant and has a very impressive church (which is remarkably difficult to fit entirely into a photo due to its size and buildings surrounding it).
On the second full day, I toyed with the area of trying for the Biberg chairlift but, for once wisely, settled for a small town called Maria Alm, some three miles from Saalfelden. This delightful spot seems very popular and is close to the mountain scene where Where Eagles Dare begins. Once again the weather was gorgeous and Maria Alm, a very popular place, was a hive of activity. There seems to be plenty of opportunity for walking and a chairlift (this one more open than Biberg, but working) ferries visitors higher towards the mountain.
Pension Zur Schmiede in Saalfelden, where I stayed
For the eagled eyed, the view from my balcony is part of the view from the beginning of Where Eagles Dare

The more definitive view from a Saalfelden viewpoint showing the scene at the beginning of Where Eagles Dare

The beautiful Ritzensee at Saalfelden


For the first time in four or five visits to Lofer, the mountains were visible

Maria Alm

Maria Alm (and a closer view of the Where Eagles Dare opening scene view)

Leogang, close to Saalfelden

Inside Leogang's Church

Burg Hohenwerfen - next time I hope to have a higher view


The climb which the stuntmen had in Where Eagles Dare

Eastwood and Burton outside the Funkraum? With Florian Willim, tour guide at Burg Hohenwerfen

I did manage to relax my fairly weary limbs in the Saalfelden spa in the Ritzensee complex later that day as well as having a further look around Saalfelden. Quite a number of the restaurants in Saalfelden have Sunday as a day off and I did spend quite a time trying to establish that this might be a problem or not. As it happened, a deeper look off the main thoroughfare revealed more restaurants of which some were open so the problem went no further.
Monday was the main highlight of the trip. I had contacted the Burg Hohenwerfen (Schloss Adler) in Werfen to ask if there was a chance of seeing the film locations within the castle which are not all included in the guided tour. I was not surprised to be told that I could not do this alone but was when offered the services of a guide who would show me them if we could establish a mutually-convenient time and date. I was very happy to fit in whenever the guide was free and so it was this last day of my holiday that I went to the castle once again.
I should first like to thank Marie-Theres Sempl at the castle for her kind suggestion of meeting with the guide, Florian Willim, and arranging it. Florian is an interesting chap and one I take my hat off to. He too is a big fan of the film and therefore decided that, after working as a chef, would pursue his Where Eagles Dare dream and applied for a job as a tour guide at the Burg Hohenwerfen. Lucky man. Lucky me as he very kindly gave me a Where Eagles Dare tour in place of the normal guided tour (although I was still offered that later). I must stress here that some of the places I saw are not available on the normal guided tour or on one's own and I have reflected these places under the photo caption on this article and in my Where Eagles Dare section by adding that these are not available to the public.
My day started off in further glorious weather and being in Werfen well before my 2 p.m. tour. It was a shame to see that the houses at the top of the road leading from the station (and which appeared in the film) have been knocked down. My plan was to find the two spots earlier in the film which can be classed under East of the Castle (where Burton and Eastwood first view the Schloss and afterwards where a radio message is relayed alongside the view from the binoculars). Well, kind readers will not be in the least surprised that my appalling sense of direction has not improved but I do believe that I was on the right track which may signify progress.
I chose the radio message place first. Up hill, down many dales and possibly out-of-bounds at times. One short cut brought me back to, I thought, where I had started. Not so, especially when a dog barked so much that its owner came out to see what the trouble was. Freely admitting that I was lost, the owner was actually very friendly and pointed me in the right direction (which was along the road which I should have come in on but for the short cut. At least I found out that I hadn't walked past a glaringly obvious sign saying Privat or Verboten). Did I find the spot? Possibly, but as I felt that I might have going into someone's private property despite there being no signs saying so, I didn't linger. Another time. There's always an excuse for another such trip.
I feel that I might have made the second point with its higher location. After my usual and earlier faffing about, I was a bit short of time and the road was too winding so that too will have to wait until the next visit. I did, though, try to take a similar view lower down and had to run up a slight incline to reach the trees. Not so fine coming down. Making sure that no-one was about when I trod carefully down, I nonetheless tripped up over something which sent me flying and writhing about in the road just as a motorbike came along. The damage to my knees was secondary to my pride and another pair of trousers will be required - I neither care for nor am, I suspect, young enough to wear those curious trousers filled with holes...
After the earlier exertions, I bought - by mistake - something calling itself energy water which was not only expensive but singularly failed to make me reach the Schloss any quicker and certainly not feeling any better by the time I had made it. I was just about in time for my guided tour.
Florian showed me the Mary Ure window and took me into the bell tower and attractive chapel. It looks simple enough from the outside to see what you are looking for but it is less easy to pinpoint the exact locations. Having inevitably relived the film since, another spot has come to light.
The main highlight was going outside to the bottom of the wall with its surrounding grassy area. This is where, in the film, the top of the cable car station was situated. Rungs a few feet from the ground show where the actors climbed up from whence the stuntmen did the hard work. It was impressive being allowed to visit this area not only for it being a new one for me but also for the terrific view upwards and sideways of the castle.
Florian and I had our photo taken by the Funkraum, now a men's toilet. Do we look like Burton and Eastwood? Well, I like to think so... The other position just up the stairs from the Funkraum is where the same actors stopped and I too had my photo taken there and can jest that I look more like a fifth-rate punk.
It was a terrific afternoon and my thanks go to Florian and Marie-Theres and all the other Burg Hohenwerfen staff for giving me this opportunity and for being so welcoming. Florian runs a WhatsApp group for people like me - well, not me, at least yet, as I have yet to fathom out the delights of WhatsApp.
The return journey saw the train again delayed at Schwarzach St-Veit. As the train I would have to take the following morning for my return journey to Munich would come through Schwarzach and would only leave seven minutes connecting time at Worgl, I thought it best to try my luck for an earlier train as I would be struggling to make the flight had the connection gone awry.
That home-returning day was the first wet day. I was allowed on the earlier train by a very friendly conductor and all went smoothly. Well, other than being given a disparaging look in Security when a knife was discovered in my cabin bag. It was only for my biscuits and pate and, as I had been unable to even find it for my lunch, I had - wrongly - assumed that it was in my checked bag. Whoops, I was made to feel quite naughty even though it was a genuine mistake. I am not like Morris Schaffer with a knife but I suppose that the lady was only doing her job. also came up with another snippet of information on another filming location of Where Eagles Dare, the bus escape to the airfield. I do not mind in the least making plans to return again and, of course, to try my luck again with the "East of the Castle" places.