This is part of a series of posts dedicated to the exploration of Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn, a UNESCO World Heritage site covering an entire area of 82,400 ha. The next few paragraphs will be about the site’s universal value (the reason why it is inscribed on the World Heritage list) and a brief introduction to various viewpoints, hiking trails and attractions in different regions in and around the inscribed area. If you have already read other posts related to the property, please click here to jump directly to the main content of this one.
As the UNESCO comments:
The extension of the natural World Heritage property of Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn (first inscribed in 2001), expands the site to the east and west, bringing its surface area up to 82,400 ha., up from 53,900. The site provides an outstanding example of the formation of the High Alps, including the most glaciated part of the mountain range and the largest glacier in Eurasia. It features a wide diversity of ecosystems, including successional stages due particularly to the retreat of glaciers resulting from climate change. The site is of outstanding universal value both for its beauty and for the wealth of information it contains about the formation of mountains and glaciers, as well as ongoing climate change. It is also invaluable in terms of the ecological and biological processes it illustrates, notably through plant succession. Its impressive landscape has played an important role in European art, literature, mountaineering and alpine tourism.
自然世界遗产少女峰–阿雷奇冰河–毕奇霍恩峰（最早于2001年被列入）从东部扩展到西部，面积从53 900公顷扩展到82 400公顷。该遗址为阿尔卑斯高山——包括山脉最受冰河作用的部分和欧亚大陆山脉最大的冰川——的形成提供了一个杰出的实例。它以生态系统多样性为特点，包括特别受气候变化冰川融化而形成的演替阶段。该遗址因景色秀美、而且包含山脉和冰川形成以及正在发生的气候变化方面的丰富知识而具有突出的全球价值。在它尤其通过植物演替所阐释的生态和生物过程方面，该遗址的价值无法衡量。其令人难忘的景观在欧洲艺术、文化、登山和阿尔卑斯山旅游中起着重要作用。
In order to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the ten Criteria for Selection. Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn meets
Criterion (vii): to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance, because the impressive landscape within the property has played an important role in European art, literature, mountaineering and alpine tourism. What’s the top 1 attraction in Switzerland? The Alps. What’s the most famous part of the Alps? The Jungfrau region. The area around Jungfrau, Aletschhorn and Bietschhorn, which includes the imposing north wall of the High Alps featuring Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and on the southern side many spectacular peaks and a valley system containing Europe’s largest glacier, is globally recognized as one of the most spectacular mountain regions to visit;
Criterion (viii): to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features, because the property provides an outstanding record of the geological processes that formed the High Alps and is abundant in diverse geomorphological features such as U-shaped glacial valleys, cirques, horns, valley glaciers and moraines. 20 – 40 million years ago, through uplifting and compressing, the formation of the High Alps began. Ranging from 809 m to 4,274 m high, the mountains in the property show 400-million-year-old crystalline rocks thrust over younger carbonate rocks due to the northward drift of the African tectonic plate. As the most glaciated part of the Alps, the site contains the largest and longest glacier in Europe – the Aletsch Glacier, which shows a range of classic glacial features. Furthermore, the glacier provides vital information about glacial history and ongoing processes, in particular related to climate change.
and Criterion (ix): to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals, because within the property, diverse flora and fauna are represented in a range of habitats, and plant colonization in the wake of retreating glaciers provides an outstanding example of plant succession. Covering a wide range of altitudes and exposures (such as the dry southern side and wet northern side), the property includes diverse alpine and sub-alpine habitats. On the crystalline and carbonate rocks, a variety of ecosystems have evolved without significant human intervention. Particularly worth mentioning is the upper and lower tree-line of the Aletsch forest, a superb example of plant succession. The global phenomenon of climatic change, which is reflected in the varying retreating rates of the glaciers, is particularly well-illustrated in the region, providing new substrates for plant colonization.
As you can see from the map above, the inscribed area is huge, so how can we explore it? Before giving you some suggestions based on my own experience and the information on www.jungfraualetsch.ch, let’s first learn some facts about the property:
- surface of the World Heritage area: 824 km2
- Population of the World Heritage region: 40,000 inhabitants
- 23 municipalities in the cantons of Valais (15) and Bern (8) are involved
- 9 mountains within the area are over 4000 meters and Finsteraarhorn is the highest peak (4274 m)
- around 50 mountains within the area are over 3500 meters
- the glaciers cover a total area of 350 km2
- the longest and largest glacier in the Alps, Aletsch Glacier (23 km) is located at the center of this protected area
- 88% of this area is without vegetation
- the Bernese Alps (Wetterhorn – Schreckhorn – Eiger – Mönch – Jungfrau – Gletscherhorn – Breithorn – Blüemlisalp) are considered one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world
As you might have noticed, most of the inscribed area is not accessible to normal tourists as it’s made up of either high mountains or glaciers. However, there are many viewpoints on the mountains around the property, most of which are conveniently connected to bus stops or train stations by cable cars. Personally, I strongly recommend the viewpoints within and around the Aletsch Arena, which provide amazing views of the Aletsch Glacier, Aletschhorn, Bietschhorn, Jungfrau, Mönch, Fiescherhorn and so on, and within the Jungfrau region including Grosse Scheidegg, First, Schynige Platte, Männlichen, Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn and so on, from which you can see clearly the northern wall of the High Alps featuring the signature Swiss skyline of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. If you are a hiker, you have many more options and can get a closer look at the World Heritage site. Besides the numerous hiking trails in Jungfrau and Aletsch regions, I recommend you checking out the Lötschental Valley, Kandertal Valley (Gasterntal Valley and Lake Oeschinensee), and Rosenlauital Valley (Rosenlaui Glacier Gorge).
Exploring the regions I mentioned above will probably take you a very long time because they offer numerous viewpoints, hiking trails and attractions, and after that, I believe you will have a very good understanding of the universal value of the property such as its unparalleled beauty, exceptional record of the formation of the Alps, excellent demonstration of diverse geomorphological features and remarkable representation of on-going ecological and biological processes. If you are still not satisfied and want to have a completer experience, try visiting the municipalities of Raron, Eggerberg, Guttanen (Grimselwelt), Innertkirchen and Meiringen, where you will find more activities closely or remotely related to the World Heritage site. I read from the official website that there’s a long tour which allows you to hike around the property and discover and learn about it in 15 stages. The booklet providing relevant information regarding the routes and attractions is called «Key to the Alps», which is unfortunately only available in German. I think, even if you don’t speak German or plan to take the complete tour, the booklet should shed some light on the planning of your own expedition. Alternatively, there is a fold-out map available in English with overview and tips regarding highlights of the World Heritage site. I can send the digital version to you upon request and I’m sure it will also give you some inspiration.
- To find out the destinations and highlights recommended by jungfraualetsch.ch please click here.
- To find out the destinations and hiking tours recommended by myswissalps.ch please click here.
As I mentioned above, most of the inscribed area is not easily accessible to normal visitors and some parts of it are not clearly visible from the surrounding viewpoints. How can we gain deeper insights into this mysterious world then? Last but not least, don’t forget to visit the municipality of Naters, where the World Nature Forum Information and Visitor Center of the UNESCO World Heritage site Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch is located. In order to protect this extraordinary natural heritage and to promote sustainable development of this region, 23 municipalities within the cantons of Bern and Valais together with the Swiss Federation have agreed to work in collaboration. The World Nature Forum (WNF) is the base camp of this commission and its Information and Visitor Center provides us with necessary knowledge about this region and helps to raise our awareness of the importance of its protection. If it’s inconvenient for you to reach the area, you can also learn about it at home. On the official website, 19 thematic brochures (more in German) giving insights into the uniqueness, diversity and beauty of the region are available and can be downloaded as pdf. The thematic brochures are about agriculture and settlement, tourism and traffic, fauna and flora, water, culture, glacier, climate, and mountains while the regional brochures are about Oberhasli, Naters, Lötschental, “Suonen”, Raron – Niedergesteln, Grimselwelt, Kandertal, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Aletsch Region, and Bellwald.
I hope my introduction above gives you a general idea of why the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region is so valuable and how to explore and learn about it. In a series of posts about the World Heritage site, I’ll focus on the hikes, viewpoints and tours I experienced and provide you with practical information, tips as well as detailed introduction to the geological and ecological processes, geomorphological features and ecosystems which are related to the property.
1. From Lauterbrunnen to Piz Gloria
I still remember the first time I visited Piz Gloria, when it was cloudy and I was standing right in the clouds, “enjoying” the high humidity and heat like in a sauna. I made a promise I would return because without seeing the 40 famous mountain peaks and 20 glaciers including Titlis, Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and even Mont Blanc, a trip to Schilthorn can’t be called successful. In the summer of 2018, I finally made it. No wonder it’s the second popular destination in the Jungfrau region (only after Jungfraujoch) and one of the most popular destinations in the whole of Switzerland, the views and entertainment facilities both at the top and intermediate stations are incredible. Personally, amongst all the mountains I’ve been to so far (November 2018), Piz Gloria and Jungfraujoch are my favorite, not only because of their views but also because of the exciting attractions and activities they offer. Inevitably, because of its high popularity, it attracts a huge amount of visitors, in particular on sunny days. This is also one of the few places in Switzerland where I had to wait for more than half an hour to board a cable car. I’m not sure since when, but currently the Swiss Travel Pass, a rail pass providing foreign travelers with unlimited access on the network of Swiss Travel System, gives its holders one free ride to Piz Gloria and back, which makes the transport even busier. In order to significantly reduce your waiting time in line, I suggest you arrive early in the morning and leave late in the afternoon. In this way, you can efficiently avoid large tourist groups. I admit it’s a very touristy place but still, I very much enjoyed it and would like to recommend it to all the people who want to see the Swiss High Alps or are fans of James Bond movies.
If you plan to take public transport, you will probably stop at Lauterbrunnen, from where there are two routes going to Piz Gloria:
- Lauterbrunnen – [bus] > Stechelberg Schilthornbahn – [cable car] > Gimmelwald – [cable car] > Mürren – [cable car] > Birg – [cable car] > Schilthorn – Piz Gloria
- Lauterbrunnen – [cable car] > Grütschalp – [train] > Mürren – [cable car] > Birg – [cable car] > Schilthorn – Piz Gloria
Below I’ll introduce briefly the highlights in and around the locations mentioned above so that you can find the ones you are interested in and maybe add them to your trip to Schilthorn. In this way, you can also decide which of the two routes you want to take.
- Lauterbrunnen Valley – a classic example of trough valley (U-shaped valley), the Valley of 72 Waterfalls including the Staubbach Falls which inspired Goethe’s famous poem “Spirit Song Over The Waters”, and the Trümmelbach Falls, which are the only glacial waterfalls in Europe inside the mountain and still accessible to the public. I wrote a separate post dedicated to the valley, the attractions in and around it and the Trümmelbach Falls. If you are interested please click here to read more.
- Piz Gloria – 360° revolving restaurant, amazing panoramic view of the Alps including Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and even Mont Blanc, Bond World interactive exhibition, 007 Walk of Fame, view lounges
- Birg – Bistro Birg, Skyline Walk, Thrill Walk
- Allmendhubel – panorama restaurant, Flower Trail (a walking path to discover over 150 species of mountain flowers including alpine roses and Edelweiss), amazing view of the Alps’ most beautiful peaks, Flower Park (children’s playground), starting or finishing point of the Mountain View Trail to or from Grütschalp
- Mürren – a car-free alpine village characterized by typical wooden chalets, sunny terrace above the Lauterbrunnen Valley with amazing views of the High Alps, starting point of the North Face Trail (hiking trail with amazing views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau and info boards explaining the history of the surrounding mountains)
- Stechelberg – gateway to the World Heritage site Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn featuring six World Heritage Themed Trails (alpine economy, mountain hotels, power spots (for meditators), waterfalls, history and fables, and flora and fauna)
- Gimmelwald – small car-free village with picturesque chalets
- Grütschalp – starting or finishing point of the Mountain View Trail to or from Allmendhubel
For information about the schedule and ticket prices of Schilthornbahn (Schilthorn cableway) please click here. At any of the ticket offices of the cableway, you can get a booklet called “Swiss Skyline – Eiger. Mönch. Jungfrau”, in which maps marked with trails and brief introductions to various destinations, towns and villages are included. In my opinion, it’s a very practical guidebook which will accompany you on your journey and make sure you won’t miss the highlights. Please note:
- Swiss Travel Pass entitles its holders one free ride to Piz Gloria and back;
- if you have GA or Tageskarte, show it to the staff at ticket control at Stechelberg station when going up and at Mürren station when going down. For the rest of the trip, use the Schilthornbahn ticket;
- the round trip between Mürren and Piz Gloria costs only 41.3 CHF with GA or Halbtax (Half-price Card), which is rather cheap considering the wonderful experience it offers;
- check the weather in advance and sunny days are recommended for optimal experience. On a cloudy day, if you are lucky, you can be standing above the clouds. However, the clouds can go up fast and unexpectedly so you might also end up standing IN them like I did on my first trip.
After reading enough background information, now let’s embark on the journey to Piz Gloria and we will make a stop at the intermediate station – Birg.
Birg is the intermediate station between Mürren and Schilthorn and don’t forget to get off here to have a drink and some snacks and challenge yourself on the Skyline Walk and Thrill Walk.
2.1 Bistro Birg
The best feature of Bistro Birg is in my opinion its spacious sun terrace with a superb view of Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau and numerous other snowy peaks. At its edge, you will find an info board introducing the first ascent to Breithorn, which is 3780 m asl. On 31st July 1865, Edmund von Fellenberg, Peter Michel, Peter Egger, Peter Inäbnit and Johannes Bischoff conquered the mountain for the first time and in only ten minutes, the second group of climbers (James John Hornby, Thomas Henry Philpott, Christian Almer, Christian Lauener) reached the top.
2.2 Skyline Walk
The Skyline Walk is essentially a platform situated over a vertical precipice, offering stunning and exhilarating views of the High Alps and valleys. The depth of the ground is not genuinely reflected in the pictures above and when you are on site, you will find it much more scary. Most of the floor of the platform is made up of steel grids but a small section is made of glass, which you can see in the 1st and 4th pictures above. I didn’t feel much thrill standing on the grids even though I could see through the tiny openings but the glass floor did give me a quiver. If you have serious acrophobia, think twice before stepping on it. Here’s some facts I learnt from the info board about the platform:
- overhang: 8 – 10 m
- maximum width: 12 m
- surface area (overhang): 90 m²
- height of precipice: 200 m
- maximum capacity: 360 people
- maximum snow load: 800 kg/m²
- steel weight (supporting structure): 18 t
- total weight (excluding foundations): 27 t
- construction period: May – August 2014
- opening: 15th August 2014
2.3 Thrill Walk
The top attraction in Birg is absolutely the Thrill Walk, which leads down to the vertical walls of the imposing rock massif. Essentially it’s a 200-meter long cliff pathway under Birg cable car station providing visitors with excitement as well as views of unspoiled nature. It reminded me of the Cliff Walk by Tissot on top of First – Grindelwald but gave me a more interesting experience by adding some challenges. On the cable car ride between Mürren and Birg (as you can see in the 1st picture above) and on the pathway (as you can see in the 2nd picture above), I saw how steep and deep the cliffs are, which added “burden” to my mind. The walk on the steel grids wasn’t bad because though I could see through, the holes were too small for me to see the bottom clearly. Nevertheless, on my way back, the flights of stairs made me stop for a second. As you can see in the 3rd picture above, the distance between each two steps was rather big and when I climbed up, I somehow felt they were hanging in the air. As you can see in the gallery above, next to the path there are four optional challenges installed for brave visitors. The sections with glass floor and floor with rather big openings as well as the single-cable bridge were spine-chilling but not frightening but I did hesitate before entering the tunnel made of steel net. It probably doesn’t look too bad in the pictures but when I crawled through, it was hard avoiding looking at the “unfathomable abyss”. I have slight fear of heights and I enjoyed the walk but if you have serious acrophobia, as I said before, think twice before stepping on it. Consciously I knew it was secured. Unconsciously, my legs were shaking. It’s interesting how fear can sometimes take over our body and consequently our actions.
Besides having fun, don’t forget to embrace the marvelous scenery around and below you. Don’t be too nervous to enjoy the unobstructed view of Schwarzhorn, Wetterhorn, Rosenhorn, Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Gletscherhorn, Mittaghorn, Grosshorn, Lauterbrunnen Breithorn, Tschingelhorn, Gspaltenhorn, Wyssi Frau, Blüemlisalphorn and Doldenhorn. Take a close look at the 3rd picture above, can you see a tiny snowy peak to the right behind Doldenhorn? That’s the highest mountain of the Alps – Mont Blanc (the White Mountain 4810 m asl.). Can’t match the names with the peaks? Don’t worry. At the Skyline View Platform at Piz Gloria, you will have a panoramic view of 40 famous mountain peaks and 20 glaciers and from the info boards on site you can learn about who they are. Now let’s continue our journey up and many more attractions are awaiting us.
As I read from the booklet, in 2018 some new projects are being implemented around Birg such as an Igloo (snow house or snow hut) Village featuring winter activities including snow tubing, sledging, skiing and zip-line sliding and a walkway to Lake Grauseeli around which loungers as well as a photo point will be set up. If you are a hiking enthusiast, instead of taking the cable car, you can ascend (350 m) to Piz Gloria via the challenging summit hiking trail, which rewards you with fantastic views of the alpine panorama.
3. Schilthorn – Piz Gloria
This is the final destination of our trip and you will have a lot of fun here. After leaving the cable car, you might wonder where to go. Considering there are four levels, the location of the attractions and facilities can be quite confusing. During my visit, more than one tourist asked me where to find the toilet or how to find the cable car station again. The floor plan is shown on the info boards close to the lifts and in the booklet (p. 6 – 7) I mentioned above. You can always refer to them when you need to find something.
- Level -2: exit and entrance to the cable car, skier exit, IGLOO7 (a snow igloo on the summit)
- Level -1: toilet, Bond World interactive exhibition, Bond Cinema, 007 Walk of Fame, Piz Gloria View, View Lounges
- Level 0: Skyline Top Shop, Skyline Takeaway, Skyline View Platform
- Level 1: 360° revolving restaurant Piz Gloria
If you want to have a normal meal, you should visit the revolving restaurant and try to take a table close to the window. The food and service were average but the view was superb. Alternatively, if you just want to have something simple, you can grab a sandwich or salad at Skyline Takeaway. Surprising, they even had Chinese instant noodles, which were a good option for people who are not used to western food. The highlighted attractions above are the ones I found interesting and you shouldn’t miss them. Now I’ll introduce them to you one by one in detail.
3.1 Skyline View Platform
As you can see in the pictures above, the Skyline View Platform, which provides close and clear panoramic views of 40 famous mountain peaks and 20 glaciers, is certainly one of the best in the whole of Switzerland. On a sunny day, you can even see Mont Blanc, the Jura Mountains, Thun, Lake Thun and the Black Forest. Walk around the platform and you will see info boards attached to the guardrails, some of which are marked with names of the peaks while the others tell stories about them. To see and to learn. Isn’t it the meaning of traveling?
- Mont Blanc (4810 m) (a tiny peak which you can see in the 1st picture above): Situated at the border of Italy and France, it is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of Russia’s Caucasus peaks. The first ascent was made by Michel-Gabriel Paccard and Jacques Balmat in 1786 from the French village of Chamonix, site of the first Winter Olympic Games. The “Tour du Mont Blanc” is one of the most beautiful and well-known long-distance trails in the Alps. For alpine travelers, the mountain has always been a symbol of great magnitude and for artists, it has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration. The alpinism and alpine tourism started in Mont Blanc.
- As you can see in the 2nd and 3rd pictures above, in the north and west, we can see numerous lower peaks of the Bernese Alpine Foreland, the Jura Mountains, the Vosges Mountains in France and the Black Forest in Germany. Standing 2970 m above sea level in front of the main chain of the Alps, Schilthorn is the highest summit of the Bernese Alpine Foreland, which is why it gives such a unique 360° view. On the large plain, you see the town of Thun and Lake Thun.
- Myths and Legends: The wild and rough mountains have often been mysterious to humans and therefore myths and legends were created to explain the then unexplainable geological phenomena such as the snow eyes on Schreckhorn. (I’m not sure why the legend of Schreckhorn is told here because from Schilthorn, the peak is hidden behind Eiger and can’t really be seen.) On the info board, you can see two spots of snow seen from the north and they are said to be the souls of two nuns from the former Interlaken Convent. They lived an immoral life instead of keeping their vows to God and were banished to the mountain top to remind the girls in the valley to keep themselves as pure as freshly fallen snow.
- James Bond and Piz Gloria: In 1968 and 1969, Schilthorn was the filming location for the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. The panorama terrace was the setting for the famous attack scenes in its finale. Press the button at the back the model of James Bond and you can hear the original sound track. At Tschingelhorn, Tschingelgrat and Petersgrat (as you can see in the 9th picture above), most of the ski-run scenes were shot, which became famous later. Local ski instructors and the world’s best skiers were used as doubles for the stars such as George Lazenby, Telly Savalas and Diana Rigg. Several explosive devices were installed at Tschingelgrat to cause a man-made avalanche for the shooting and 200,000 m3 of glacier snow were sent to the valley. The demolition can still be seen nowadays. If you are interested in the James Bond movie, you will see more attractions related to it such as the 360° revolving restaurant Piz Gloria, Bond World interactive exhibition, Bond Cinema and 007 Walk of Fame. In fact, it is the movie that gave Schilthorn its nickname, “Piz Gloria”.
- The Bernese Alps: The western Bernese Alps with the highest peak being 3250 m consist of isolated lime massifs which are karstic and only sparsely glaciated while the eastern Bernese High Alps with the highest peak being 4274 m (Finsteraarhorn) are approximately 4000 m high and all the pass saddles are glaciated. The Jungfrau railway and Schilthorn cableway are examples of development in high mountain transportation but apart from them, most of the high peaks in this area are only accessible to high-alpine hikers. It’s also worth noting that since 2001, the mountainous area seen from here between Wetterhorn and Doldenhorn has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage site Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn due to its universal value.
- The Swiss Skyline (as you can see in the 6th picture above): One absolute highlight of the Skyline View Platform is its terrific view of the famous giant trio of the High Alps – Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The highest of the three mountains is Jungfrau (4158 m), which was first ascended in 1811. Since 1912, the Jungfrau railway has been plying its way through a 7-km-long tunnel inside Eiger and Mönch to the highest station in Europe, the ultimate excursion destination in the Bernese Oberland. If you come to Switzerland, this is an experience you shouldn’t miss. Eiger is mostly famous for its 1,800-meter-high north face of rock and ice, which is also the biggest north face in the Alps. The first ascent of Eiger was made by Swiss guides Christian Almer and Peter Bohren [de] and Irishman Charles Barrington, who climbed the west flank on August 11, 1858. Considered amongst the most challenging and dangerous ascents, the north face was first climbed through the “Heckmair Route” in 1938 by an Austrian-German expedition. Before their success, most of the attempts ended tragically, for which Eiger was highly publicized. Since 1935, at least sixty-four climbers have died attempting the north face, earning it the German nickname Mordwand, which means “murder(ous) wall“. Mönch got its name from the geldings, the so-called “München”, which once browsed the alpine meadows at its foot. If you want to know more about any of the members of the giant trio, press the button on the corresponding info board behind you and listen to the audio introduction, which is available in German and English.
3.2 007 Walk of Fame & Piz Gloria View
Through an easy path, you can walk from Skyline View Platform to Piz Gloria View Platform. The path is the world’s first 007 Walk of Fame, where the cast and crew members of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” left their traces at the legendary James Bond filming location. On the circular trail, the panels show the 3-D fist-prints and handprints of the stars both in and behind the scenes as well as their comments about shooting the movie at Schilthorn. Based on what I read, everyone loved the team and the shooting location and was particularly impressed by the views at the summit. For example, George Lazenby, the youngest actor (at age 29) to have portrayed Bond said: “Scoring the role of James Bond in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and doing my first acting part was quite life changing for a motor mechanic, car salesman and model from Australia like me. Tons of fun as I was fortunate enough to work with the most professional and likable bunch of film makers. With six of the nine months shooting schedule being at the Schilthorn and staying in a pleasant happy location like Mürren truly made me feel at home and I fondly remember the fantastic views that welcomed me when I awoke each morning.” By the way, it was interesting to find out that George Lazenby has a really big hand.
At Piz Gloria View Platform, you can see the summit of Schilthorn including the revolving restaurant and Skyline View Platform with Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in the background. This is also a photo point and all you need to do is to start the timer, stand back and smile. You can buy your photo at the Souvenir Top-Shop later or download it online at www.schilthorn.com for free from the next day. Please note, if you visit the Walk of Fame in the winter season, it will be covered in snow and slippery. Use the guardrails and walk cautiously.
From Piz Gloria View Platform, you can see four spacious lounges on the Schilthorn ridge. If you want to run away from the hustle and bustle of the summit, they are the ideal destination with mountain and lake views stretching to the horizon. I’m not sure if this attraction is open in winter but if yes, watch your steps because there are no guardrails and the slopes on the sides are long and steep.
3.3 360° revolving restaurant Piz Gloria
In winter, you probably don’t want to stand on the summit 2970 m above sea level all the time. The 360° revolving restaurant on level 1, one of the world’s first revolving restaurants, is an ideal place because it not only keeps you warm and offers nice food and drinks but also allows you to see all the surrounding peaks without moving your feet. Most of the tables and chairs are designed to rest atop a broad circular revolving platform that operates as a large turntable. The building remains stationary and most of the diners are carried on the revolving floor. The first time I visited Piz Gloria I tried Spaghetti Bolognese and the second time I tried the signature 007 Burger. Both times the food was ok but the service was a bit slow. I can understand because during lunchtime, there were really a lot of people. The view was spectacular so I didn’t mind that much waiting for around 20 mins. My suggestion is if you are in a hurry, reserve a table or avoid the peak lunchtime. If you are lucky you can get a table close to the window. By the time you finish a nice meal and a glass of wine and/or a cup of coffee and dessert, the floor should have revolved more than 360 degrees (normally its takes around an hour) and in my opinion, that’s one of the best experiences on Piz Gloria.
Also worth noting is that the room, which was called the Alpine Room in the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, was featured in a series of scenes, which you can watch on the TVs attached to the vertical steel columns. The movie production team found the restaurant partly constructed, and contributed financially to its completion in return for exclusive use for filming the movie (released in 1969). Afterwards, the restaurant retained the Piz Gloria name as in the movie and acknowledges the film’s significant contribution to its commercial reputation.
3.4 Bond World interactive exhibition & Bond Cinema
On level -1, you will find the Bond World interactive exhibition and Bond Cinema, which invite visitors to look behind the scenes of the movie. Between October 1968 and May 1969, the majority of the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was filmed at Schilthorn. For the first time in history, a James Bond movie was shot mostly on site instead of in the comparatively safe world of Pinewood Studios in London. The protagonist was the then completely unknown Australian George Lazenby. The imposing mountain range, the revolving restaurant and the Schilthorn cableway gondolas were the impressive background.
The exhibition is divided into several sections such as the “007 film locations” which shows the striking shooting locations for each film, “approach to the Schilthorn” which explains how the film’s Piz Gloria was discovered, “finale in the bobsled” which explains how the speedy bobsled scenes in Mürren were shot and so on, and introduces the production crew members, the cast, the characters, the plot and the shooting. You must be wondering why it is called an interactive exhibition. Personally, I’m not a huge James Bond fan but several entertainment facilities here did make me laugh. Trust me, the key to having a good time here is “Don’t be serious and just have FUN!” The first interactive game you will encounter is a full size replica helicopter in which you can use the controls to navigate the flight over the Schilthorn and press the control stick trigger in response to the instructions on the video screen. Fortunately there was no line and I gave it a try. What I liked the most here were the photo section where I could put my face into certain Bond scenes and a sleigh at the end of the exhibition which I could sit in and film my very own version of the bobsled getaway scene. As for the photo shooting, I could always see myself on the screen and adjust my head to fit in, but for the video, I could only see it after I finished the whole “slide”. Both results were funny to not only me but also the people around and as I said before, don’t be embarrassed and just have fun. If you want, you can save the photos and download them on www.schilthorn.ch/photopoint from the next day for free but if you want to keep the video, it seems you need to buy a souvenir USB stick. Please note, the photos saved will be displayed publicly on the website, so make sure you are comfortable with it before clicking the button. I have to say some people are so talented because when I was downloading my photos the other day, their hilarious poses and facial expressions made my day.
After returning to the starting point of the exhibition you can enter the Bond Cinema, which shows two short movies. One of them is about the history of the Schilthorn cableway and revolving restaurant while the other one features scenes from the James Bond movie. After all the walking and playing, it’s nice to take a seat and have some rest.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the UNESCO World Heritage site Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn covers a huge area (82,400 ha.) and can be admired from numerous viewpoints and explored through many hiking trails and tours. In this post, I focused on introducing the second most popular destination among tourists in the Jungfrau region – Schilthorn, which is famous for the 360° panoramic view at the summit and its role as the filming location of the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. At the intermediate station Birg, challenge yourself on the Skyline Walk and Thrill Walk and on Schilthorn, allow yourself to be amazed by the unparalleled views at Skyline View Platform and Piz Gloria View Platform, treat yourself to a nice meal and a glass of wine at the revolving restaurant and have fun in the Bond World interactive exhibition. Both at Birg and Schilthorn, you can see clearly the mountainous area from Wetterhorn to Doldenhorn including Eiger (3970 m), Mönch (4099 m), Jungfrau (4158 m), Gletscherhorn (3983 m), Äbeni Flue (3962 m), Mittaghorn (3897 m), Grosshorn (3754 m), Breithorn (3780 m), Tschingelhorn (3576 m), Gspaltenhorn (3436 m), Bütlasse (3192 m), Wyssi Frau (Weisse Frau 3650 m) and Blüemlisalphorn (3661), which is now part of the World Heritage property. In the future, I’ll keep discovering interesting and impressive viewpoints and hiking trails in and around the property, and I’ll make sure to keep you updated. To be continued…