The Spectre of James Bond looms large on the summit of Gaislachkogl 3,056 metres above sea level in the Austrian Tyrol. The most recently released 007 film was shot here, on the Rettenbach glacier, and in and around the nearby ski resort of Solden.
Designed to look like a villain’s lair, 007 Elements was created after filming finished in 2015 and the museum is dedicated solely to celebrating all things Bond. Visitors are guided through a series of galleries with a focus on Spectre, but also featuring other titles in the long-running franchise. For example, the golden gun famously brandished by Christopher Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun is here.
Rooms include The Lair, The Briefing Room and The Tech Lab. In The Action Hall, visitors are taken through the process of filming one of Spectre’s most dramatic scenes, in which Daniel Craig’s Bond pilots an aircraft in hot pursuit of the bad guys and their captive Bond girl Madeleine Swann, played by Lea Seydoux. Visitors are given a behind-the-scenes look at the exact make-up of the chase sequence, which was filmed in the area and which culminates in Bond crashing the plane (the remains of which are in this room) through a barn to intercept the baddies in their 4x4s.
A stone’s throw away is the futuristic glass restaurant ice Q, which served as the private Hoffler Klinik where Bond was tortured with a drill by his nemesis Blofeld. In reality the hospitality is far better as the building houses what must be Austria’s highest gourmet restaurant and diners are surrounded by more than 250 3,000m-plus mountains. I had beef tartare with mushroom truffle purée and beef consommé roasted sea bass with saffron purée, topped off with carrot cake, all of which was delicious and faultless.
I was increasingly amazed there was a restaurant here at all – let alone one of this quality – given that everything must make its way here by cable car. Inevitably, on the journey down, thoughts turn to the Bond villain Jaws, played by the late 7ft 2in actor Richard Kiel. It’s probably best not to dwell too much on the scene in Moonraker in which he tries to bite through the wire holding Bond’s cable car in place.
Fortunately my car makes its way unmolested down the mountain to Solden, which is strung out along the road to Obergurgl. In the heart of this pretty, typically Tyrolean village is the Das Central Hotel, which owns Ice Q Restaurant. The hotel, which was listed as one of “the 100 greatest experiences in the world” in this year’s Harper’s Bazaar Travel Guide, offers guests a choice of individually furnished rooms ranging from modern design to Tyrolean cosiness against the spectacular backdrop of the Ötztal mountains.
The fine dining restaurants match the standard set more than 3,000 metres above sea level at ice Q as they are run by the same team of chefs headed up by Michael Kofler, who is renowned for his passion for regional produce and traditional Alpine delicacies.
The hotel also prides itself on its wines. Das Central was named “best wine hotel in Austria” in 2016 by the restaurant guide Gault Millau and with a cellar of 30,000 bottles it’s not hard to see why.
The hotel’s “water world Venezia” boasts ten saunas and steam baths to help ease aching muscles after a long day on the slopes. The spa covers three floors and 1,500 square metres and offers a vast array of massages, beauty treatments and potions for detoxing, cleansing and pampering in general.
Solden is known for being very “snow sure” – so much so that the first Alpine World Cup races of the season are usually held here each October. The hotel has its own shuttle service to the lift stations, each guest has their own personal ski locker, ski passes are on sale at reception and ski hire is available next door.
The most striking figure on the slopes takes the form of an elephant, made from ice, whose presence is down to Hannibal’s journey with the animals from Carthage, through the Alps and into Italy in 218BC. The feat was marked with a spectacular show earlier this year.
Our instructor turned out to be one of the world’s most accomplished skiers. Ingrid Salvenmoser raced competitively for 17 years until 2001 and was ranked third in the world three times during her career. By the end of our time with her we were blindly following her wherever she went, black run or not. The hardest runs seemed to suit good intermediate skiers – there was no crazy stuff – although we never went off piste.
In April, to coincide with the end of the season, is the wine and gourmet festival Wein am Berg, when some of the world’s finest chefs join gourmands, wine growers and connoisseurs for a bacchanalian blow-out. The wine flows freely, even high up on the slopes, where a selection of delicious Italian whites were kept crisply chilled in the snow, possibly contributing to those final black runs being just that little bit more hazardous. Last April’s theme was Austria Meets Piedmont and in 2020 it will be Austria Meets Benelux.
Pride of place at last season’s Wein am Berg was Pino 3000, which takes its name from the fact that this vintage is made from three wines from three countries (Austria, Germany and Italy) and matures at 3,000 metres by the peak of Gaislachkogl. The altitude is credited with helping to create the wine’s strong character as viniculturists seem to agree that wine simply tastes better above 3,000m. The festival concludes with a “Big Bottle Party”.
With Craig’s final Bond film No Time To Die due for release next year, this winter will be the last chance to experience this corner of the Alps as a setting for 007’s latest outing. And to really make the most of it there is no finer place to stay than Das Central during Wein am Berg.
Price: The Wein am Berg package starts from €1,726 per person in a double room at Das Central including three-day Wein am Berg programme and a two-day ski pass**. For further information and bookings, please visit central-soelden.com
**Price without ski pass is from €1,615 pp.
2020 Theme: Austria meets Benelux, 23-26 April 2020