In one of the more delightful events of the summer (and there have been a lot of them) Mark’s brother and sister-in-law came to visit us in Basel. The boys were delighted to have Uncle Erik and Aunt Ellie at their beck and call and subject to their whims. We were delighted to be able to actually hold a real, live conversation with two of the people we love the most.
We saw Erik almost a year ago when he played at a festival in Dombresson and I don’t think Ellie has ever been to Switzerland so we wanted to show them as much as we could in the few days that they were here. One of the few things they expressed an interest in was seeing “an alp.”
Naturally I did research on any and every alp available in the area. That took a month, but I was triumphant!
One of the more popular spots for seeing the Alps is around the Interlaken area. Interlaken is a resort town set between Lake Thun and Lake Birenz and lays along the Aare River. It’s also the doorway into a group of Alps called the Jungfrau region that includes 3 of the largest and most famous Alps: Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch. Jungfrau stretches 4,158 m into the air. Eiger and Mönch are 3,970m and 4,107m respectively. So, freakin’ tall.
In my research I discovered there is one spot where you can see all three. A semi-known alp called Schilthorn.
It is incredibly remote. To get there you must take the journey as part of the experience.
It took us about 3.5 hours to get to the top and we didn’t even hike! We went on:
This kind of travel really gets to see Switzerland. And then once you’re up in the gondolas and on the mountain you’re high enough up to see all the places you can’t quite reach. Schilthorn is a relatively simple location. Only a restaurant, an observation deck, and some trails. The view was amazing! We could clearly see Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. We could even see our old friend Pilatus!
Many people have never heard of Schilthorn. But every James Bond fan has seen it. Schilthorn is the sight of Ernst Blofeld’s clinical allergy research institute/evil lair in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. (Also known as that time George Lazenby tried to torpedo the 007 franchise.)
And, boy! does Schilthorn capitalize on that! They had just finished the gondola system were starting to plan the building when the director came around and said that they would be interested in filming this little movie there. The people in charge did what any prudent person would do and said, “What do you want it to look like and what needs do you have for the movie?”
The interior of the restaurant still has the same fancy screens and materials as they did in the movie. The restaurant serves a 007 burger, with the famous logo toasted into the top of the bun, and a spicy James Bond spaghetti.
There is a gift shop, of course, that is 1/3 Schilthorn memorabilia, 1/3 Swiss items, and 1/3 James Bond merchandise. The boys searched high and low for the perfect gift for Mark. We settled on a Schilthorn pin.
And then there is Bondworld.
It’s a museum in the lower level of the observation center. I wasn’t expecting much. Some displays. Some pictures. But I was totally wrong. It was a huge interactive and high-tech display. Starting with that classic opening bullet sequence from the movies projected onto a curtain that you walk through. The focal point is a giant iPad table Blofeld would have totally stolen that you can touch and pull up different video clips and information files about the characters, the actors, and the making of the movie.
The walls were stainless steel and had really nicely etched pictures and stories about filming and the plot of the film. They also had other touch screens so people could explore other parts of the filming. Plus they had metal and plexiglass cutouts of Moneypenny, Blofeld, Tracy, and Bond that had sensors in them and so they would shout out some line from the movie as you walked by. My favorite was Telly Savalas bellowing out, “Hell-O, Ladies!”
I would say a whopping 90% of the materials were interactive. As you can see below, they even had the body of a helicopter so people (read: kids) could pretend to fly it over the mountains around Schilthorn. The boys were inside there for a full 15 minutes.
After we had captured Blofeld and gotten the girl, we adjourned back to the restaurant and celebrated with ice cream sundaes and hot chocolate.
We were all as tired as H, but unfortunately when an adult lays down on the gondola floor they call the doctor.
Thankfully the trains were just as relaxing and the views were just as gorgeous to look at as they were at 8am.
At the end of the day we all agreed that this definitely was a Taste of Switzerland. Mountains, beauty, glamour, chocolate, and gondola travel.
In our next adventure we explore more about what Basel-ites do during the summer. You won’t believe it!
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