A journey to the top of Europe
An epic cable car ride to Schilthorn, setting of the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was the most memorable experience of our week in the Bernese Oberland.
Everyone wants to get as close as possible to the UNESCO World Heritage peaks of the Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau peaks. But not all of us are up for a full mountaineering experience on the Eiger North Face.
A day at Schilthorn provided a breathtaking up-close experience of this iconic Swiss Skyline. The journey to the peak is an adventure in itself. A half our aerial cable car journey takes you across alpine lakes, rocky outcrops, cascading waterfalls and bottomless ravines.
Epic cable car ride to Schilthorn
Arriving at Stechelberg for the start of our four-leg cable car trip, my heart was in my mouth when I saw the almost vertical ascent the gondola was making up the sheer cliff face.
However, like many things this trip, I forced myself to close my eyes and step onto the Gondola with 74 other James Bond fans en route to the summit, as the theme song from the famous movie resounded through the carriage.
Four separate cable cars take you higher into the Alps, as the Lauterbrunnen Valley disappears below. While the scenery was breathtaking, it was also a little frightening to be dangling in a carriage from a wire across an abyss.
The final leg across the seemingly bottomless ravine from Birg to Piz Gloria, at an altitude of 2970 metres seemed somewhat death-defying. James Bond fans would recognise this scene from the movie’s famous cable car stunt. It is truly an engineering marvel that this cable way was every built, let alone the restaurant and tourist complex perched on the highest point of the Bernese Oberland.
Panoramic views of the Swiss Skyline
Once at the top, high in the permanent snow line, we enjoyed 360 degree panoramic views of the Monch, Jungfrau and Eiger mountains and surrounding snowfields.
We were so close to these famous peaks that you felt as if you could almost reach out and touch them. The air was thin and crisp due to the high altitude. Even in the height of summer we needed warm clothing. The mountain peaks were still capped with snow, with drifts remaining along the snowfields.
Hikers took advantage of these trails during summer and paragliders sailed past us overhead, on their way back down to the valley below.
From the viewing deck you have views of over 200 peaks. You feel like you are really at the top of Europe. Climbing even higher onto the viewing platform, we were fortunate that we had a clear day where we could see the Mont Blanc massif in France and the German Black Forest in the distance. Truly a view to infinity.
James Bond World at Schilthorn
The James Bond theme is inescapable, from the time you step onto the first gondola and the theme music starts. Along the viewing deck you find the “Walk of Fame”, with life size figures of the main characters from the movie shot on the site.
The restaurant food, even the toilets are all Bond themed. There is also an interactive display “James Bond World” which chronicles the making of the movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” on the site.
We were too in awe of the spectacular scenery to investigate the Bond paraphernalia too closely, however avid Bond fans would find it added a whole new dimension to the visit.
The eagle eye view of these majestic mountains was more than enough for us. We did however opt for the “007 burger” for lunch in the revolving restaurant as we relaxed and watched the ever changing view slide by.
Thrill Walk at Birg.
Back safely across the ravine at Birg, the more adventurous members of the family took on the “Thrill Walk”. A glass-bottomed cliff walk and netting anchored into the rock face over the precipice below. This was too high for me to even brave photos, enjoying instead a warming hot chocolate in the cafe while our thrill seekers enjoyed their fill of additional adrenalin. The cable car rides were enough of a challenge for me!
As with most things in the Swiss Alps, the cost of getting to Schilthorn was pretty exhorbitant. The cable ride journey is a huge challenge for anyone with a problem with heights, like myself. The multiple cable car connections sound very confusing, but the conductors actually make it very easy. Once at the top however, the views are priceless and the experience is well worth the cost and effort.
Cost: Cable car CHF 105 per person (summer 2017) .Swiss Travel Pass discounts are available.
Getting to Stechelberg.
Drive: through Interlaken 40 Minutes
Train: to Lauterbrunnen then Bus to Stechelberg 1 hour 45 minutes