Friday, August 09, 2013

Sunday August 4th

A Bondian Adventure

Usually I travel to places I want to see - and as a coincidence the same place usually happens to be a film location for some random James Bond movie. But this time it's different.

This time the only reason for this trip is to see James Bond locations - and mainly that of Piz Gloria; Blofeld's lair in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'. In real life a restaurant in the Alps called Schilthorn.
Since Bregenz is "close", I decided to go there as well - and hopefully get a real opera treat at the same time.

My journey starts on a Sunday morning with the first international flight leaving Landvetter airport; the 06:15 to Munich.
It shouldn't be allowed to get up this early on a Sunday morning.

At Munich I transferred to a flight to Zurich. Once there I took the train to Bregenz; my main goal for today.
I had to switch trains twice; first time I had only six minutes to find my new train and get on it. The second time I only had three. Thankfully you can really trust the Swiss trains - I had no problems at either station.

At Bregenz, I went a little further; to a suburb called Dornbirn and my hotel for the night; Harry's Home Hotels.
I got room 234 and it was quite OK (once they cleaned my room which they hadn't when I arrived).

I went out for something to eat and found a nice place where I had a wienerschnitzen and beer. It was pretty good!

Back to the hotel I freshened up for tonight's festivity; to see the opera "The Magic Flute" on the Seebühne stage at Bregenzer Festspiele.

Now; this is the same place where Bond was in 'Quantum of Solace' (although they played Tosca at the time). I was very excited getting there.
My initial plan was to take a taxi back and forth to the opera, but I learned that taking the train took about the same amount of time and the train was free for opera guests (I live three minutes from the train at Dortbirn - and the Seebühne is another three minutes from the Bregenz station). So I took the train and was happy with that.

On site at the Seebühne, I recognize myself at once. It was just like 'Quantum of Solace' (although it felt smaller):

I looked around inside and found several places where they filmed; like here:
Quantum of Solace

And here:
Quantum of Solace


I also smiled my way into Greene's theatre box and was able to sit down for a little while. =)

After all the Bond sightings, I changed focus to the opera I was about to see.

Here is some pictures of the scene:

And then it started. And I was blown away.
This was something out of the ordinary. They really took advantage of the stage in the water - and what they have built on it.

It was AMAZING!!

If you are an opera fan , it is your god-damn duty to see an opera here!

I am a bit worried though, seeing an opera here - will that make all future operas be... not so exiting? Like when you eat the perfect meal - and all the meals you will eat for the rest of your life will never reach that taste. You know what I mean?

After the opera, I took the train back to the hotel. I have another long day of travels tomorrow.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Monday August 5th

Today I am a very happy man. After a long day of travelling, I got to see more Bond locations than expected this first day in Lauterbrunnen.

But let's start from the beginning. I left Bregenz slightly before 9:00. I had a very busy day using nine different trains and buses to reach my destination in Switzerland.

The main reason for this complicated route was that I wanted to tick off a country I haven't been to; Liechtenstein.
The country was actually larger than expected - and very beautiful surrounded by mountains.

I walked around a bit in the capital; Vaduz, before continuing.

After more buses and trains I arrived at Lauterbrunnen at around 16:00.

The kiosk as seen in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service':

And I found more sightings when looking around the station!

This made me very happy!! (but wait - there's more [soon]!)

Leaving the station in euphoria for my hotel; Hotel Schützen, I got a surprise when I got there. This sign was outside the hotel:

Why the heck does my hotel have a sign from the Swedish Ice hockey committee?
The girl in the front desk didn't know, so I'll ask the manager tomorrow.

Rest for a few minutes, then out to eat something - while trying to sort out what I'll do the upcoming days here.

After the food I had some time to look at Lauterbrunnen. I also decided to get closer to one of the waterfalls they have around here; the Staubbachfall (apparently the highest free-falling waterfall in Europe - 297 m).
But before I got there I saw this part of the road:

It felt familiar (doesn't it!?!?) and - oh, yes - 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' strikes again:

This made me look around more closely - and behold; the Bond locations are EVERYWHERE!

After all the photographing was done I actually had to take a minute (or ten) to let it all sink in. I was on classic James Bond territory! :)

Then I continued to Staubbachfall and it was big. Very nice to see.
I then returned to the hotel and three minutes after I got there, this very hot day changed to heavy rain and hailstorm.
Glad I'm not going out more today! :)

This has been a very exciting day. And tomorrow won't be any less - it's time to visit the Bond location; Schilthorn aka Piz Gloria (if the weather works with me...).
I have wanted to go there for like... EVAR!

Until then - ta!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Tuesday August 6th

Yesterday was a good day. Today was even better. Today I fulfilled a 20 year old dream. I visited Schilthorn aka Piz Gloria.
I don't know how to explain this to people that are not huge fans of James Bond, but Schilthorn really is the number one Bond location (to me at least). I can not think of any place more iconic, exotic and thrilling to go in my quest for Bond locations (the new MI6 building in London might come close in iconic, but hardly in exotic nor thrilling).
I actually feel a bit empty inside right now (but the joy to have been there easily overcomes the emptiness).

ANYHOW - this is what happened today:

I took the cable car + train to Mürren just before 10am. Going up there I am really enjoying the sights. Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries I have even been to - it might even be #1.

I walked through the small village of Mürren and got to the next cable car that would get me to Birg (you know - that was how far Campbell got when trying to follow Bond).

At Birg it was time to get the cable car to Schilthorn. This was it. Finally! The moment I had been waiting for so long.

Now some information; since the opening of Schilthorn (which happened after the James Bond movie 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' was shot there 1968/69) they never played heavily on the Bond-card, but that has changed now.
As of 2013 they go all out and have a large OHMSS-exhibition (under the old helipad) and many 007 things to buy. I wasn't sure if I would like that or not, but in my opinion they haven't crossed the line to cheesy (but were close several times).

My joyness were all over the place when I walked around up there, many things had of course changed in the last 45 years, but some had not - for instance the stairs were basically the same:

but restaurant was...not:

The helipad is not used any more, but still looks pretty similar:

and so on...

It's really hard to describe my feelings, but I was very happy (did I mention that already)?
I had some food in the revolving restaurant (48 min/round) and of course I bought some souvenirs.

Naturally I also looked a lot at the scenery which really was amazing:

I spent around two hours up there I think.

Then it was time to head down again; I took another route back to Lauterbrunnen; this time via Gimmelwald and Stechelberg (pitstop for 'The Amazing Race' 14x01 for all you who do not care).

The reason for this was two-folded.
1) Another Bond location:

2) I wanted to see the Trümmelbachfälle; 10 waterfalls that is inside the mountain. You can actually go inside the mountain yourself and see them.

This I did, and it was really nice to see (a must if you ever come here!).
I tried to take pictures, but none of them made the waterfalls any justice - and it didn't have the roaring sound that completely filled the caves (the videos I made had the roar, but still no image-justice).

Then it was back to the hotel. I had actually planned to do some paragliding this afternoon, but unfortunately it was not to happen. Maybe I can do something else another day.

Oh yes! I asked the hotel manager about the Swedish Hockey sign outside the door and apparently Arne Norberg (the director of the "Swedish Hockey Pool") stayed at this hotel many times with his family and was friends with the manager here.
Didn't sound to me that it had that much to do with hockey though, more about business.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Wednesday August 7th

No plans for any Bond sightings today, but still a busy schedule.

I got up before 8am so I could go to Jungfraujoch early (the train takes two hours one way).

Unfortunately it was cloudy with a slight rain, but I was worried about not being able to see the view, but the weather forecast told me that tomorrow would be worse so I figured I might as well do it today.
Even though there were no clear sky, I still had a beautiful view from the train.

I travelled past Wengen, changed trains at Kleine Scheidegg and went up this amazing train ride.

The train to Jungfraujoch goes seven kilometres totally inside the mountains of Eiger, Münch and Jungfrau. It has two stations inside the mountains where you can get off and look out through several panorama windows.
Fortunately it was currently good weather conditions at this altitude:

Then we reached our final destination; Jungfraujoch, a tourist site - as well as an research station (weather, environment etc).

I walked around the station and its tour. Unfortunate the weather up here was lousy again. It was cloudy and windy with rain so you couldn't see anything at all.

I still went out there to have a look though.

Note: When you go to Jungfraujoch, unless you are a viking, I suggest wearing warm clothes - especially in bad weather conditions like this.

I was the only one in the whole station wearing only t-shirt and shorts - and I still got out to have a look (many others peeked out the door and ran screaming back in again).
I think there were a few people thinking there were a mad man running loose.
It wasn't warm, but the coldness here never really bothered me.

Continuing the tour, I got to the Eispalats - a place that went through the side of the mountain and directly into the glacier outside. Inside the glacier they had cut out these maze-like tunnels - and in the walls they had made several ice figures.

The Eispalats was really cool and alone worth the trip up (I mean, how many can say they have been inside a glacier?!)

After this I took the two hour train ride home again.
The part inside the mountain takes 30 minutes + the two stops at the panorama stations going up (five minutes each). Amazing accomplishment - and it was all made a hundred years ago!
Btw; why isn't this railway in the "Seven technical wonders of the modern world"??? It should!

Back home, another adventure waited. I had signed up for some canyoning this afternoon.

I went with a company called Alpin Raft (they also do other things besides canyoning) which were very good - I highly recommend them!

They had a few options of canyoning and I have chosen the shorter 3,5 hours tour, since I didn't have time for the longer ones (later I learned that the canyoning themselves were almost the same length, it just took longer to get the other canyons).
 I went with two families from the US and our two tour guides from New Zeeland (Bez & Reuben) (plus the photographer Tat) and we had a great time!

We repelled (around 9 meters), jumped (highest jump was about 6 meters) and slided down this canyon called Saxeten (I would guess the canyoning-part of the tour took almost two hours).

Very, very fun! :)

After this exciting trip I headed back to the hotel for some blogwriting, reading - and fooding.