The Austrian Tirol – Licensed to Thrill
Part of the new thrill-packed James Bond film Spectre was filmed in the Austrian Tirol. The Foody Traveller sent a spy there to discover more about this beautiful mountain area.
Set high, very high, on the Obergurgle mountain, way above Sölden’s magnificent ski and hiking area in the Austrian Tirol, is a restaurant – Ice Q.
It is a stunningly good restaurant too, worthy of its reputation as ‘gourmet’: a restaurant with attentive staff, beautiful cooking, fine wines and thrilling views.
It would no doubt have suited the suave and sophisticated James Bond perfectly.
Indeed the restaurant is associated with James Bond – it features as a clinic in the new 007 film Spectre.
All James Bond film locations, one way or another, are spectacular and the Ötzal region of the Austrian Tirol offered the stunning scenery that was needed for the dramatic snow clad mountain shots required for the film.
Presumably when the film makers first spotted the sophisticated and stylish, Ice Q restaurant perched 3048m above sea level, and the equally futuristic gondola station they knew they had found at least one location suitable for the film.
Futuristic Ice Q and Gondola Station
The cube-shaped, almost transparent, restaurant emerges from the Gaislachkogl, blending even on a summer’s day, almost seamlessly with the surrounding snow and ice. From its huge panoramic windows is a thrilling view of mountain peaks of three countries.
The ride to reach it is no less thrilling either. Gondolas suspended on three cables carry passengers higher and higher into the mountains to the ultra-modern cable car station next to Ice Q.
Three is a significant number for Ice Q – mountain peaks of three countries and three cables support the gondolas. Plus the restaurant serves a very special wine – Pino 3000 – a cuvee wine from grapes of three different vineyards and countries and stored in the Gaislachkogl wine cellar for three years! James Bond, would not doubt have ordered a bottle – or three.
Apart from Ice Q there are lots of other places in the Austrian Tirol guaranteed to thrill, either because of the stunningly beautiful scenery or indeed through the wealth of activities on offer. Of course it is noted for its winter sports – but don’t discount the summer months.
Apart from its suave hero and dastardly villains beautiful women have their role to play in 007 films. Glamour and sparkle go glitteringly hand in hand. And one place in the Tirol, and indeed the world, that glitters more than most is the Swarovski Crystal World in Wattens.
In its grounds floats a crystal cloud made up of some 600,000 hand-mounted crystals which shimmers in the sunshine, whilst inside the underground Chambers of Wonders are chamber upon chamber of glittering objects and designs created by international artists and designers.
Adrenalin charged Area 47
Anybody thinking of training for an action-packed role in a future James Bond film might like to visit, or stay at, Area 47 in the Ötztal valley. Incidentally this adrenalin-filled park also offers a wide range of accommodation from tipis to lodge log houses, plus some lively evening entertainment.
Area 47 has a fantastic indoor off-road area where bikers can practice taking jumps at speed and negotiating rough terrain. Or there is the 20,000sq metre water area with a giant slide, a 27m high diving tower, a speed slide for surf and body boards, plus a scary looking water catapult. Want to learn how to climb? The adventure park has thought of that too with a 27m high ropes course, a rope swing, and a 320m Flying Fox line. The whole park has been designed to thrill.
Even more thrilling in many respects is the white water rafting which takes place on the open waters of the close by Imst Gorge on 14 km of the Inn river. The experience starts off quietly enough before the rafts hit the whirlpools and torrents – real adrenalin stuff.
A walk side walk and turbulent waters
A less adrenalin invoking trip, but nevertheless part of which is pretty dramatic, is to take a walk beside the Piburger Lake also in the Ötzal valley. It is a small, exquisitely pretty lake that also offers the warmest swimming water in the Tirol.
Not, you could be forgiven for thinking, much of an adventure here. But a number of trails lead away from it including one through the forest to the rapids and a walk beside and across the surging water of the Stuiben waterfall. Signs on the overhanging cliffs warn walkers of the danger from falling rocks.
A walk on the Highline
It is all too easy to imagine Highline 179 appearing in a future James Bond film, or indeed any other adventure-packed movie come to that.
Highline 179 is reached after a steep, 15 minute, uphill slog.
At 406m the Highline is Europe’s longest suspension footbridge connecting the ruins of Ehrenberg Castle with the opposite hill.
Unfortunately it also involves walking back across the see-through swaying bridge, so as to get back down the hill to the carpark.
Proper scary stuff, and definitely not recommended for anybody with a fear of heights.
However, for anybody not able to climb the hill or brave enough to tackle the bridge, close to the car park is a visitor centre as well as a rustic restaurant (the Salzstdel).
Dramatic scenery and a Nature Park
It is the scenery that provides the drama at Pfafflar. This pretty little hamlet is reached by the scenic Hahntennjoch panoramic road. It is inhabited only in the summer months and is one of the oldest, high altitude Tirolean settlements. Some of its simple wooden homes date back to the 13th century.
Follow the Hahntennjoch down to Elmen and the lovely Nature Park with its cycle and walking path running alongside the outstandingly pretty River Lech. The river constantly reshapes itself forming gravel and sandy banks a haven for all forms of wildlife from plants to birds and animals.
For another thrill, head for the dramatic views from the Zupspitze, at 2962m Germany’s highest mountain. Visitors can reach the top terrace by taking the spectacular cable car ride from Ehrwald, in the Tirol. The views are stupendous.
Big black choughs perch on available railings before taking flight and soaring effortlessly but slightly menacingly over their mountain. For the really brave there is a narrow pathway that climbs to the actual summit.
Even in the height of summer it can be cold at that altitude, but there is a cosy restaurant and also a museum given over to the history of the mountain. The latter offers a fascinating insight into the courageous construction methods used for the cable cars and supports.
Mountain biking down the Nordkette
There is another cable car opportunity too, a few minutes’ walk from the centre of the city of Innsbruck, the region’s provincial capital, and a delightful city in its own right.
The Hungerburg funicular railway carries visitors up the Nordkette mountain from which they transfer to cable cars up the Seegrube, some 1905m high. At the top is a restaurant, a great place for an early supper – the food is good and the sunsets spectacular.
From the top and the cable car there are glorious mountain and valley views but notice the tracks down the mountain side. These tracks are beloved by cyclists who take their mountain bikes up in the cable cars and then make their own two-wheeled adrenalin filled adventures by swooping down the steep and uneven mountain sides at speed, as if they are James Bond in a desperate chase with the villains. Thrilling stuff indeed.
Austrian Tirol: www.visittirol.co.uk
Hotels: highly recommended hotel accommodation:
4* Hotel aDLERS, Innsbruck. A stylish modern, centrally located, Design Hotel, family owned, with comfortable well-equipped rooms within easy walking distance of the Hungerburgbahn. Very helpful staff, plus a bar, restaurant and terrace affording stunning views over the city and mountains. www.deradler.com
Aqua Dome, Längenfeld, Ӧtztal Valley. A 4*hotel with modern but traditional-style architecture, generous sized comfortable well-equipped rooms. A thermal resort offering facilities for swimming, wellness, fitness and beauty, with several on-site restaurants ranging from snacks to fine dining. www.aqua-dome.at/en
Mohr Life Resort, Lermoos. A supremely comfortable resort hotel offering spacious suite-style accommodation. Treatments include beauty, massage, body and wellness/relaxation. There is also an Italian inspired café and a restaurant serving superb buffets. www.mohr-life-resort.at
Flights: EasyJet flies direct from Gatwick to Innsbruck. www.easyjet.com