Glorious Piz Gloria

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Where better to see in the New Year than atop the stunning Schilthorn, towering 2,970m in the heart of the Bernese Oberland.

From up here the view from the Piz Gloria restaurant is incredible. As you rotate slowly in one of the world’s first revolving restaurants you will see, on a clear day, a host of peaks including the Jungfrau, Eiger, the Monch and perhaps even Mont Blanc.

Local legend has it that the Monch (or monk) is there to protect the Jungfrau (young lady) from the dreaded Eiger or ogre.

Getting up to the summit of the Schilthorn is an adventure in itself. The journey takes you by a series of cable cars across the most spectacular countryside imaginable. Take the narrow gauge train to the village of Mürren, then the cable car to Birg, where you change for the top.

mürren_img_0265_webalbum_gallYou can ascend via Stechelberg where you are whisked up 2,100 metres in just 30 minutes. To see more of the area, go down via Grütschalp.

Or in the summer you could hike to the top of Schilthorn along a series of waymarked paths,  which takes around five hours from the town of Grimmelwald.dorf_gesamt rf (3)

Mürren itself is a delightful village where cars are banned. Peaceful on the surface, but a home for adrenaline junkies, being the home of the Inferno Race. What a name!

The Inferno Race was founded here back in 1928 by a bunch of British ski enthusiasts. The start is at Schilthorn (2,970m) and the finish at Lauterbrunner (800m), a drop of 2,170m and a length of 14.9km, the longest ski run in the world. What a ride!

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The Devil is paraded through the village before being burnt to bring good luck to the skiers.

It’s now so popular that entries are limited to 1,850 skiers with hundreds of applicants rejected each year.

This year the event takes place from 23 to 26 January. But you’re too late to enter – it was already over-subscribed back in October. One of the main races is for the Sir Arnold Lunn cup – he was the inventor of slalom skiing in the 1920s.

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The Inferno Race is the biggest ski race in the world with 1,850 entries

In summer, the Inferno triathlon takes place featuring a swim in a lake far below in the valley, road bikes, mountain bikes and a run up to the summit. You’re not too late for this one – it’s on 16 and 17 August 2019. What a brilliant setting but not for the faint hearted. Check it out: http://www.inferno.ch/en

If you’re after something less energetic you could try the Thrill Walk at Birg. Does the name provide a clue of what is involved? There’s a steel and glass bridge on a 200 metre long structure fixed to the side of the sheer mountain. In one place there is a mesh tube suspended over the valley to crawl through. On another stretch there is a steel rope to hang on to for support. But don’t worry, there is a safety net if you lose your footing!

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The Thrill Walk at Birg clings to the side of the mountain

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At the summit the spectacular revolving restaurant was featured in the 1969 James Bond classic ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. In fact the film production company financed the completion of construction of the restaurant in return for the right to film there. It was portrayed as an allergy-research institute operating as cover for a germ warfare factory run by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the head of Spectre, assisted by the scary Irma Bunt. A black ski run starts just below the summit and was used by James Bond (played for the only time by George Lazenby) to escape from Blofeld and his henchmen (and henchwoman).

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Piz Gloria bar and restaurant

The restaurant has retained Ian Fleming’s Piz Gloria name. To commemorate its origins you can visit a James Bond exhibition on a lower floor featuring memorabilia and film clips. There is also the “007 Walk of Fame” opened in 2015 at an event attended by George Lazenby and members of the original film crew. This is a circular trail around the summit of Schilthorn with information on the key protagonists in the movie.

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Summer or Winter, this is a fantastic place for adventure seekers and anyone after spectacular scenery with infinite views and fresh air.

Many thanks to Sam Bischel of the Inferno team and to Marco Zurschmiede of Schilthorn Cableway Ltd for the superb photographs.

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