Cities / Towns Visited: 21
Countries Visited: 8
Steps Taken Today: 13,652
Steps Taken Around the World: 917,037
When we swept the curtains aside in the morning the mist has lifted, and we could finally see our surroundings, although the view from our room was mainly just an embankment with a little snow and a digger. There was some dappled clouds, and we were unsure as to whether our adventure would end up like Matterhorn, but we walked down to breakfast with hope. Now the benefit to being forced to pay alot for accommodation, due to lack of choice more than anything, was that breakfast was a massive buffet, including: cereal and yoghurt, fruit, cold cuts and cheese, eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, fresh bread and pastries, juice, and a large selection of teas. With stunning scenery accompanying us, we gorged, determined to eat until we felt the sting of high prices lessen.
Full of food and excitement we made our way to the cable car. Clouds had gathered tightly around the peak, obscuring the line of sight once more, and with a little trepidation we set off into the whiteness. Would we yet again spend our day in the mist, unable to enjoy any mountain views? As we prepared for the worst, the cable car lifted gently out of the clouds and into the cable car station at Birg. Unable to see out any windows, we were still unsure of our fate. But as we boarded the second cable car to take us up to the summit of Schilthorn, and it pulled out of its dock, we were delivered into the warm morning sun. It was unbelievable, we were above the clouds.
After a couple of minutes we finally docked at Piz Gloria. Now for all of you James Bond fans out there, that should sound familiar, for those not as knowledgeable on the topic, this summit and its peak station were used as the film location for the 1969 James Bond film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, starring Australia’s very own George Lazenby. As we alighted, it was with a quick clip in our step that we rushed upstairs and out onto the viewing platform. As we reached the safety railing it was all so overwhelming. ‘Oh wow!’ being all that could escape my lips until the initial shock had worn off, my partner simply replying the same. It was like being in heaven. Below us spread a carpet of fluffy white clouds as far as the eye could see, broken up only by the towering jagged peaks of the Alps, piercing the clouds, just as we were. It’s hard to explain the extent of its awe inspiring nature, and even photos barely do it justice, as photos have parameters, whereas the view fills your every sight line, it opens up into infinite space in your peripherals. We gawked for an unmeasured amount of time, skirting the platform which continued almost full circle around the station. Information boards displayed the surrounding peaks, as we matched names to faces, so to speak. We were almost 3000 metres above sea level but the even loftier triple peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, were prominent in the skyline. Stopping briefly to take a few playful shots through the 007 inspired tube they have pointing out over the railings.
Venturing back inside, mainly because of the blinding light reflecting off the snow capped mountains and the clouds, and most certainly not due to any sense of boredom regarding the landscape, we wandered into their James Bond exhibit; a highly entertaining and informative series of displays explaining the filming that was carried out; the stunts performed and how; the fact that they chose the location before the station was complete, and thus the production company paid for much of its fitting out; and the positive affect it had in the town of Mürren. From the giant interactive tabletop which made you feel like you were in the secret service headquarters, to the giant body of a helicopter that you can sit in and flick switches until your hearts content, to a display that makes you feel like you’re falling off a cliff, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Even though I’ve never been the biggest Bond fan, I left wanting to watch this one.
We headed back out to the observation deck, wandering down the steps and out to the other viewing area, which was originally built as the helipad for filming. It wasn’t accessible when we first arrived, but the poor employee we saw clearing the path through the hip deep snow had seemingly completed his task, so off we went. The walk, although short, was still somewhat treacherous, with one unfortunate man ahead of us finding a hollow in the ground beneath the snow and toppling thigh deep with one leg and having to retrieve his ill-fated shoe before, unsurprisingly, deciding to head back. We skirted around the hole he had left and made it to our destination. Once more we spent a long moment just drinking in the indescribable beauty engulfing our senses.
Trekking back indoors once more, we decided that, quite rightly, the revolving restaurant upstairs could really use our attention. Reaching the top we were greeted by a seating area which rotates between the windows and the central service area. We seemingly hadn’t used up all of our good luck on the weather, and had managed to arrive just before a large tour group rushed in and we were placed right beside a window on a table by ourselves. Still rather full from breakfast, we settled on just ordering a board of cured meats and alpine cheese. As is custom, and when we can find it, we ordered a couple of ciders to add to our already spectacular day, and popping them open was like the sound of happiness. Not wanting to leave this world of ciders and panoramic views, we took it upon ourselves to down another round of drinks and an apple strudel each before feeling obliged to give up our table to others who would like to enjoy it, as we had.
With one last look from the observation deck, a packet of Swiss chocolates from the gift shop, and the warm buzz of cider in our veins, we said goodbye to our mountain of success and descended to Birg station once more. The only difference being that we were actually going to stop and enjoy the view from here as well, instead of simply running through. As we stepped out onto the deck, we realised that this view was different but almost better than the one from the summit. From this position we sat just a hundred metres or so from the top of the cloudline. It felt like being in the sky level of Super Mario, and with that adventuring spirit in our hearts we descended down onto Birg’s main attraction; the Thrill Walk. It is a rather precarious looking walkway connected to the sheer cliff face, with nothing but the grate metal floor keeping you from certain death below. At intervals there are certain ‘gauntlets to run’ of you will; one being a wire tightrope (with wires for arm support and a wire fencing safety net below, although this does little to tame your ingrained fear as you cross); another being a clear perspex section of floor, with nothing but anxiety and faith keeping you from doom; and the last being a wire tunnel which is a killer on the knees, but impossible to crouch in if you’re tall, although it does offer a little macabre humour when you look down and see that some unfortunate souls have lost their phones on the trek through, to the rocks fifty metres below. We reached the end of the walk, and after pelting each other with snowballs and snapping a few photos we headed back to the cable car to descend once more, sad to say goodbye, but so thankful and giddy with joy at the success of the venture.
After a little wander of the town, now that the mist had finally lifted, and finding a viewpoint that overlooked Stechelberg, and the lush valley below, we settled at another of the few open restaurants to enjoy a quick dinner. We chatted contently about our day over a delicious plate of raclette (essentially melted cheese with potatoes and bread), and a local speciality of mixed grilled meats with sauerkraut and vegetables.
Wandering back to the hotel and settling into bed I happily reminisced on the day. It was picture perfect on Schilthorn, so much so that they made a film out of it, and this little town deserves, very much so, to be proud of that. These are the days you dream of when you set out on trips like this, the ones that go perfectly to plan, the ones that make you grow and fill your heart with glee, the ones where the stars all just seem to align. It felt like heaven up there, and for us it was.