Berliner Hut - the birthplace of alpine sport

The Berliner Hut is not only the oldest of the eight huts along the Berliner Höhenweg (high alpine hiking trail), it is also the most historically significant. The hut embodies the spirit of the pioneer era of alpine sport and has a protected status. Read on to find out exactly why it looks more like a castle than a hut and why it has such a fascinating history.
Berliner Hut in Zillertal

©Elisabeth Frontull

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Ostentatious, grandiose and surrounded by countless mountain peaks of over 3,000m, the Berliner Hut is eye-catching even at a distance. It truly deserves its reputation as the most historically significant hut on the Berliner Höhenweg: a mystical place where, over 130 years ago, mountaineering began and which still attracts many visitors today. 

 

©Elisabeth Frontull

A "Castle" amongst apine huts

 

The Berliner Hut and its outhouses stand majestically against the incredible mountainous scenery of the Zillertal Alps. Its imposing façade makes me pause for a minute before I enter. It is so different from the classic image of an alpine hut, I can’t imagine how such a building was built by hand. A quick look in the history book tells me that the hut actually had quite humble beginnings. The original hut, just 10 x 6 meters small, underwent a radical conversion in 1910 to assume its current stature. Looking closely, I discover an inscription on the gable on the valley side of the guest house which reads “dem Sturme Trutz, dem Wanderer Schutz” (“defend against storms, protect the hiker”), a reminder of the motto from the opening ceremony in 1885. With great anticipation, I enter the wood-paneled hut. 

 

Top tip: Make sure to enter the Berliner Hut through its main entrance. You will be instantly transported back through time.  

Berliner Hütte
©Berliner Hütte
Speisesaal der Berliner Hütte
©Berliner Hütte
Schlafzimmer der Berliner Hütte
©Berliner Hütte
©Elisabeth Frontull

Entrance hall in 20th century style

I am standing in a huge room with high ceilings, historic paintings and a sensational wooden staircase. It all reminds me more of a manor house than a lodging for mountaineers. A large wooden chandelier lights the entrance hall. Just next to the entrance is a kind of reception where the landlord, Rupert, who is wearing lederhosen, greets me in a friendly manner. He tells me that in the 19th century this room was the post office. He also explains how the hut got its own telephone connection in 1898 and also used to have its own cobblers. After Rupert has given me the key to my double room, I set off to explore the other rooms in the ‘castle’. 

 

STATELY DINING ROOM 

The dining room is the heart of the Berliner Hut. The historical pictures on the walls make me feel as though I am back in the early 20th century and I imagine how the nobility, wearing coat and tails and glamorous dresses, had celebrated back then. There is so much attention to detail in the fine carpentry, frescos on the walls and old paintings which create a unique atmosphere. It is so difficult to imagine how a building like this could have been constructed at an altitude of 2,042m in this era. “The fittings and furnishings haven’t really changed much since the time of the pioneers”, explains the landlord. 

 

Top tip: Allow time to explore every room! 

©Elisabeth Frontull

Drawing room from the 20th century

On the way to the drawing room I meet a waitress who explains to me that, “the ladies needed a separate room where they could be in each other’s company – that’s why the room is called Damensaal (“ladies’ room”) in German. The men had their space in the larger dining room.” For almost 130 years the drawing room has hardly changed. This is obvious from the baroque chairs, landscapes pictures and rustic lamps, all of which are reminiscent of the era around 1900. 

 

Luxury in the mountains: a double bedroom  

Rupert takes the time to show me to my double room. As we climb the wooden staircase, the landlord informs me that, “200 hikers – women and men- can stay overnight in the hut. There are family rooms with bunk beds, dormitories and double rooms.”  

After Rupert personally sees me to my room, number 37, I enter my chamber for the night. The furnishings are simple in comparison to the grand entrance hall and the ornate rooms downstairs. However, it is well-furnished with a chest of drawers, a desk and a double bed. I am immediately drawn to the window which has an incredible view of the surrounding mountains. Fantastic! 

A concise history of the Berliner Hut:

  • 1879: the Berliner Hut was opened as the first alpine refuge hut in the Zillertal Alps.
  • 1885: the first extension was completed and the inscription „Dem Sturme Trutz, dem Wanderer Schutz“ was engraved on a gable. 
  • 1892: the three-story guesthouse was built 
  • 1897: the Berlin Section of the German Alpine Association received more land. A second dining room, the ladies’ room with space for 82 people, and a dormitory were added. 
  • 1898: the hut was given a telephone connection, a post office and a cobblers
  • 1910: the building received its own hydroelectric power generator. A short while later electric heating was installed. 
  • 1956: after the world wars the hut was returned to the Berlin Section of the German Alpine Association. 
  • 1967:  a new hydroelectric power generator with an output of 40 kilowatts was built. 
  • 1997: the Berliner Hut became the first and, until now, the only alpine hut to receive protected status as a site of historical significance.  
  • 1998: the first goods cable car was installed. 

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