Sölden, in Austria’s Tyrol, Scotland on Sunday travel
When seeking locations for the 24th James Bond film, Spectre, there was a hunt for “extreme and new territory”. And as I stand more than 3,000 metres above sea level up the Gaislachkogl Mountain in Sölden, in Austria’s Tyrol, admiring the striking glass facade of the ice Q restaurant, it’s no surprise as to why it was an obvious choice of setting.
The building serves on the silver screen as the Hoffler Klinik, the location for the initial meeting of Daniel Craig’s Bond and Léa Seydoux’s Dr Madeleine Swann, with both building and surrounding snowcapped peaks mirroring each character’s frosty, steely exterior.
The location’s starring role has prompted the creation of an adjacent, permanent and state-of-the-art installation known as 007 ELEMENTS.
Cast dramatically into the mountain landscape, Tyrolean architect Johann Obermoser and his team – also behind ice Q – brought it to life and it’s inspired by James Bond production designer Sir Ken Adam. The focus is inevitably on the film in which it featured, Spectre, but I’m pleased to see nods to the rest of the Bond canon.
We arrive after riding up the mountain by cable car, following in the footsteps of Q in pursuit of 007.
Bond art director Neal Callow explains that the installation seeks to have a cinematic feeling rather than being a conventional museum, making visitors feel part of the James Bond world. That movie-style feel is clearest in the initial Barrel of The Gun room featuring title sequences, plus the Lair section whose innovative immersive digital theatre incorporates a transfixing combination of mirrors and screens highlighting iconic scenes.
007 ELEMENTS rekindles my love for all things Bond and over the course of the trip my companions and I debate our favourite actors, films, scenes and quotes from the franchise.
It even has a Tech Lab with various pivotal items on display – including, of course, a golden gun. It also lets you have your spy skills “assessed”. My predicted career capabilities include £178 million in casino winnings, and my number of “amorous liaisons” and villains terminated both come in at a (rather ominous?) 19.
The striking showpiece of the installation harks back to one of Skyfall’s most memorable scenes – a plane piloted by Bond smashing through a mountainside building – which is rendered in suspended animation in the Action Hall to dramatic effect, looking out over the Ötztal Alps and locations used in the making of Spectre.
In addition to plenty to entertain Bond fans of a range of devotion levels, there’s also more technical detail on the complex mechanics of filming Spectre’s action scenes.
Our visit concluded, we have a three-course lunch at ice Q, inevitably including a smooth martini shaken tableside, cushioned by mains including corn-fed chicken with mushroom risotto, and we sample the PINO 3000 that’s matured on the summit of the Gaislachkogl. Described as “a distinctive, full-bodied, yet unobtrusive Pinot Noir, which has a story to tell and is expressive”, I’m not inclined to disagree.
Our accommodation, Das Central, a five-star hotel in the heart of Sölden, is vast and modern, with my huge room complete with its own living area and balcony, where I sample the clean, Alpine air.
We eat in both its Feinspitz and Ötztaler Stube restaurants, with one meal including a spectacular “Apricot Tree” dessert, which includes chocolate soil and a gravity-defying, intricately-crafted tree with branches dotted with fruit and leaves.
The hotel has a huge spa area where I try several of the ten saunas and steam baths. It’s a welcome chance to ease any aching muscles after sampling some of the outdoor activities offered by the area’s stunning scenery. These range from mild strolls to white-knuckle adrenaline rushes, various forms of the latter available at AREA 47 – at nine hectares, Austria’s largest outdoor leisure park.
There’s plenty for daredevils such as a”mega swing” involving a freefall of more than 12 metres – it may as well be hundreds for me, so terrifying does it look.
Thankfully, there’s plenty for the more cautious, and we try white water rafting, a just-thrilling-enough ride through the waves, and head for the wakeboarding area where participants glide across the water and tackle obstacles in effortless and elegant style. So easy do they make it look that I have a shot – in the beginners’ kneeling position – but despite the encouraging words from the instructor, I’m off the board within seconds.
The overall effect is less suave Bond and more disaster-prone Frank Drebin of The Naked Gun fame. After a second, only marginally less disastrous, attempt I realise I’m much better-suited to watching the experts at work, a relaxing and hypnotic activity in its own right.
On the last day of the trip the area’s scenery is showcased on a walk, and we stop off for breakfast at the Gampe Thaya mountain hut.
All dishes are prepared with products from its own farm or other Tyrolean producers, and we sit on the terrace working our way through a spread spanning many of my favourite food groups – bread, jams, cheese, ham and omelettes made to order – as well as Kaiserschmarrn, a delicious scrambled pancake dish served with cranberries.
Before heading home – I flew direct on the Edinburgh-Munich route, with Das Central a few hours’ journey away and Innsbruck 90 minutes – I pop into Sölden to wander around the shops, and stop at an unassuming café to admire the baked goods and order iced coffee. It takes a while and am delighted to see why when it arrives – a spectacular sundae-style concoction topped with whipped cream and sparkly decorations. If I ever become a Bond-style secret agent, this will join PINO 3000 as one of the top contenders as my bar order of choice.
Or, more realistically, it would be a great accompaniment to watching No Time To Die, the forthcoming 25th addition to the film franchise – a drink that’s as cool as both Bond and the chilly mountainous setting now home to a cinematic installation in his honour.
Das Central Hotel, Sölden, Austria has double rooms available from €170 per person/per night (summer) and from €200 per person/per night (winter), based on two people sharing on a half-board basis. For further information and bookings, visit central-soelden.com.
For more information on 007 ELEMENTS, with an adult ticket starting at €22, see www.007elements.com.
Admission to the AREA 47 (area47.at/en /+43 5266 87676) including water slides, wakeboarding and cannonballing starts from €22 per adult per day.
Stay at Das Central Hotel and they will arrange a day of activities at Area 47 Adventure Park with the Ötztal Premium Card (premiumcard.oetztal.com).
Main courses at ice Q restaurant (www.iceq.at/en/+43 664 96 09 368 - open 9am to 4pm) start at €24.
Bikes can be hired from Sport Glanzer.
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