The following Grand Tour, Carrera Pan-Alpina, is an enchaînement of locations in Alpine Europa, written in response to a request for the staging of a classical funeral games , the likes of which were held in Antiquity for warriors of renoun. In funeral games, the sports chosen would reflect the sports which the man whose life was being celebrated was most closely associated. In this case, for a Colonel of Marines, the shooting sports and automobile racing.
Until the arrival of the Romantics , mountains were just dangerous wild places on the margins of cultivation. The great Via Mala the »The Bad Road« across the Alps from North to South was half legend, half truth: The mid-point of trade route from the German States, Low Countries and Baltic States to Italy and the sea ports which served the Levant . The mule drivers encouraged tales terrible of the evils of the route, and paintings were made of men and mules clinging to the edge of tiny tracks which circulated through gorges with nothing but space below and cliffs above. The Via Mala (below Chur at Thusis in Switzerland) is indeed a frightening gorge but the crux of the crossing lasts perhaps only five hundred meters. Learned treatise on Alpine flora and fauna as late as the Eighteenth Century devoted entire chapters to Alpine Dragons including eye witness accounts of their sightings. These were the images which the mountainous regions brought to the popular imagination.
Through the passes and valleys through these regions would come conquerors and raiders seeking the richer pasture lands below and thus nearly every Alpine pass of any significance will have a watchtower or small Schloss at its head. The larger the valley, the larger the Schloss. They are everywhere, I am glad to say.
With all this, the Romantics of the 18th Century, as you would expect, began to see mountains as Romantic and gradually they became a destination in themselves.
The Alps themselves crown today's Italy, running from the coast near Monaco in a great arc northwards toward Geneva and then eastwards giving the spine of the Alps - the almost impassable Pennine Alps, all the way to Austria and thence curving South again to meet the Adriatic at Trieste.
The Grand Tour was the progress which brought more and more visitors to pass through the Alps, mainly wealthy Englishmen who passed through in Summer. Since communications were impassible and travel dangerous during winter, there were few parties of travelers to patronize the inns and hotels when the snow started to fall. Travel in the pre-railway age was wearisome enough without Marshall Mud and General Winter as companions. King Alfred the Great when a boy-prince accompanied his father to Rome from England in 853AD , a journey of thirteen weeks.
The arrival of the railways enabled travel in winter but still the hoteliers were not able to persuade the tourists to come in winter. It took a Scandinavian invention and English eccentricity to make the breakthrough: Skiing. The Scandinavians used skis to move around in winter. The prize for the first person to attempt downhill skiing appears to go to the English author Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle .
Some of the locals observing this peculiar English behavior thought they might give it a try themselves, but to avoid the ridicule of other locals, they made their attempt during darkness. And so it was: Downhill skiing would bring the tourists to the Alps in winter.
The memoirs of Edward Whymper , mountaineer extraordinaire and monarch of the Victorian hard-men climbers, give the best insight into the Alpine regions of the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. Most of the population was still involved in herding animals and some descriptions of their primitive lives in the high margins make enlightening reading. Some Alpine regions were not mapped until perhaps the Eighteen Eighties
And to start as the Colonel bids: Chamonix , in Haute-Savoie below the obtuse giant of the Alps, Mont Blanc, 4808 meters (15,774 feet) above sea level. 3759m (12,332 feet) above Chamonix.
The Chamonix valley contains several ski resorts, including the town of Chamonix itself. The Mont Blanc massif attracts mountaineers in droves mainly because the valley which runs away from Mont Blanc to the East contains an array of peaks and faces impossible to find in that concentration anywhere in the world. Every year some tens of mountaineers make the environs of Mont Blanc their grave.
The Mont Blanc tunnel underneath it all is one of the few which pierce the Pennine Alps and brings you out in to the Val D'Aosta on the Italian side. You may have a glimpse of the valleys to the East of Mont Blanc in the Bond movie The World is Not Enough (1999) . The dome of Mont Blanc makes a brief appearance in the background.
With the business at hand there is no more auspicious place to begin. If you ascend the Aiguille du Midi cable car from Chamonix, on reaching the terminus which clings precariously to the top you will see behind you the Chamonix valley, and in front to the south, the highest battlefield in Europe. In the closing days of the Second World War German Gebirgsjäger had retreated as far as this valley on the Italian side as the US Army rolled-up through the Val D'Aosta, preceded by all manner of Italian bandits and insurgents. The Free French forces were closing on the Savoyard side were using the still-operating Aiguille du Midi lift to bring up ammunition and mortars. Some German units had already made it up the opposite side of the Aosta valley and West over into the Gran Paradiso where the remaining German forces were being pressed by US and Free French from the French side.
The glacier is an official German war grave due to the fighting which took place during these days. The only battleground with greater altitude has been the the glaciers in the Kashmir between India and Pakistan, which is nowhere near as steep and angular as this region.
Mont Blanc attracts all manner of attention and Chuck Yager and a fellow pilot took 'a day off' from the war sometime in 1944 and flew their Mustangs across Northern France to Mont Blanc, dropped their drop tanks somewhere on its flanks and then straffed them before heading home to discover the rest of the squadron had tallied its largest series of kills of the war - without them. There have been a number of aircraft accidents up there over the years, and it takes about thirty or forty years for the debris to appear at the snout of the glacier.
There is a special Alpine pilots license which qualifies the holder to land at various 'Altiports' which vary from short concrete strips to nothing but flat snow on which to land a ski-plane. A friend of mine holds such a license and re-qualifies regularly but not being an Alpinist is reluctant to stray far from the aircraft. I have had a ski-plane land right infront of me on the glacier in the valley not far above Montenvers, turn on the snow without stopping, all in time enough for me to withdraw the camera and shoot a series of frames.
Vallee Blanche: The aircraft has landed uphill and is turning around in a loop in order to take-off again. The tiny black specs to the upper right of frame are skiers on the trail heading down to Montenvers.
Readily available in Chamonix is good Savoyard cooking and fantastic Savoyard smoked sausage and thus we will not be short of fine fare on the evening before the start.
But what of our event ? An automotive biathlon: A feast of rifle, pistol, automobile, skis and crampons. Events at different ranges from 2000m to down to contact distance. Flat-out driving stages on the straight sections of the valley roads and the Autobahns down to tread-stripping low gear over-steer on the narrow Alpine switchbacks.
And so we begin:
From Chamonix let us head for Geneva . Down the valley from Chamonix the grade drops until we reach the valley exit, which like most valleys in the heavily glaciated Alps, is a hanging valley, in that it ends in a cliff, where the glacier in the larger valley below, dug away the shallower approach which once was at its foot.
Today there is a two-lane concrete overpass which carries the autoroute out of the valley of the Arve allowing all the freight trucks to make a better run at the grade up to the Mont Blanc tunnel entrance just below Chamonix. Both lanes of the old road are downward only and switchback against the cliff until they reach the valley floor.
The journey down the valley of the River Arve on the autoroute is flat-out until the border with Switzerland in the southern Geneva suburbs. This brings us into the right side of town, for the newer section of Geneva, across the Rhône as it exits from Lac Leman, with its railway station, large modern hotels and headquarters buildings, is relatively soul-less. The old town of Geneva on this side of the River Rhône, topped with its architecturally eclectic cathedral is one of the best 'old towns' in Europe, Clustered on a mount around the cathedral and festooned with little stone streets, alleys and staircases. At night one can imagine romantic images of Tosca-like figures in silk Opera capes scurrying to assignations. The fortifications surrounding the old town must have been larger and more extensive at one time and during excavation of a underground parking lot, digging revealed some of the old Vauban fortifications, which must have been built-over during the eighteenth and nineteen centuries.
In the above Map, the old Vauban Fortifications of Geneva. The old Town is on the right bank of the River, centered around the Cathedral Mount.
In the above Map, the old Vauban Fortifications of Zürich. Only wealthy towns could afford fortifications such as these to repel Foreign Armies and Bands of starving, looting Mercenaries.
Visible to the north from the old town is the horizon of the Jura. The Jura are a very attractive set of mountains since they do not rise about two thousand meters and they are forested for much of their heights. They are criss-crossed by tracks and scattered with meadows and glades. Chamois and wild boar inhabit them. The Jura valleys are host to an annual cross-country ski race, the Transjurassienne.
The mountain roads cross through passes and the there are restaurants scattered there about in sunny spots which service the flow of sports car drivers and motorcyclists. Per head of population (only 400,000) the Genèvoise must own the highest number of classic sports cars in the world, and in summer you can see all manner of vehicles from the first rank and likely the highest concentration of cars worth individually over a million dollars a piece, anywhere in the world. Not surprising, since there is over four trillion US dollars under management in Geneva alone (1997).
Surprisingly, with the headquarters buildings of so many watch manufacturers present, Geneva is not a very good place to buy watches, although you can buy just about every kind of Swiss Army Knife (both manufacturers). Horologicly, you just as well served in any large capital.
The Jura Mountains run to the North West to the Vallée de Joux which contains many small manufacturers which supply the watch industry and from whence the name horological term 'Valjoux' comes.
If you are shot down by flak over Festung Europa in the next war, then the crossing to Switzerland through the Jura is the crossing of choice. The escapes you see in films like Hannibal Brooks (1969), Night Train to Munich (1939) and The Sound of Music, are largely fictional. The Swiss border from Basel in the north-west to Liechtenstein in the East is given by the River Rhein. The border to the South, by the Pennine Alps. In the Jura, from Basel to Geneva, is the easiest way with the best cover, although a number of the participants in the great post-war Nazi Gold epic crossed into Switzerland by swimming the Rhein somewhere south of Bregenz in Austria. Your next best bet for crossing into Switzerland is the Silvretta group below Bludenz in Austria. Hannibal Brooks is closest to reality in this respect.
Now for the next stage. Cross the Rhône on the Mont Blanc bridge and around Lake Leman for another straight-line run along the north shore of the lake. In Goldfinger (1964) this is where Bond in his Aston Martin DB5 chases Auric Goldfinger. The moving-map in the DB5 shows this point on the lake but the editor jumps to Alpine footage many kilometers away down Valais at the Furkapass. However, in Fleming's novel Goldfinger (1959) Bond trails Auric Goldfingers's Rolls Royce in an Aston Martin DBIII across the width of France from Le Touquet to Coppet, just outside Geneva on the North Shore of the Lake.
In the above map, the route taken by Auric Goldfinger and James Bond in Ian Fleming's 1959 novel Goldfinger.
The south shore is France, but for a few miles from Geneva, still Switzerland. The Shelleys lived in house on the lake shore here and this is where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein . The house of the Onassis heiress is situated here as well as the César Ritz Hotel School .
There is a set of interchanges at Lausanne then a very tight clover-leaf at Vevey before which takes us onto the Autobahn for Bern , climbing away from the lake onto rolling farmlands until Bern.
The Chateau Mont Choisi finishing school was located at Laussane (on the Chemin des Ramiers). It was this particular Swiss finishing school which educated daughters of the rich, famous and titled.
We should have a checkpoint in Bern as it is Medieval town perched hundreds of feet up on a rock outcrop which forms a bend of the Aare and accessed by tall bridges. Streets are narrow, cobbled and the shops are arcaded with great stone arches. You can see some of Bern in the scene of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) where Bond burglarizes a notary's office.
Now East up the grade past Thun to Interlaken and turn off south for Lauterbrunnen and the Magnificent Jungfrau region with the Eiger as its center-piece. The valleys are served by a cog railway and you can see Lauterbrunnen station in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) as Bond is collected by Irma Bunt. This valley is perhaps the most glaciated and spectacular in the Alps with huge precipices (over which Bond throws one of Blofeld's henchmen). The village of Mürren is literally up to your right on a precipice and above that, Piz Gloria on the Schilthorn, which was, while still under construction, used as Blofeld's lair. To your left is the village of Wengen, and further over the mountain to your left again is Grindelwald, under the Eiger-Mönch-Jungfrau massif. All served by the same cog railway from Lauterbrunnen. You can see all of this in The Eiger Sanction (1975). Yes indeed there are tunnels and galleries which penetrate out to the wall of the Eiger. At night you can see a little light in one of them in the center of the face of the Eiger. The gruesome story of the conquest of the Eiger is told in Heinrich Harrer's book The White Spider .
In the above Map, the Jungfrau Region with the Film Locations marked.
If you can only visit one place in Switzerland, visit the Jungfrau. The geography looks like something from another planet.
From here our choice of route splits between driving along the Thunersee to take the Brunigpass to Luzern (Meiringen and the Reichenbach water falls where Holmes enters his fatal struggle with Moriarty, is just to your right as you turn left up the side of the valley to climb the pass).
Toward Luzern, our route will take us right past the Pilatus factory at Stans which doubles for Auric Goldfinger's factory in Goldfinger (1964) and we could make one of the checkpoints the Löwendenkmal in Luzern. Then East along the lake as far as Altdorf and up the Klausenpass (The time to beat was set by Rudolf Caracciola in 1934 in a Mercedes-Benz W25 at fifteen minutes and twenty-two seconds). The Klausenpass was one of the inter-war hill-climbs of which there used to be so many more spread from the French Alps all the way to Romania. There was a broader participation in the differing motor sports and the big names and teams from Grand Prix would race in the hill-climbs.
The war, both hot and cold, put and end to these, although the Italians managed to stage the 1940 Mille Miglia (won by BMW). The Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix team were almost stranded in England when Great Britain declared war on Germany. Richard Seaman , the English born Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix team driver had to reassure his fellow drivers over dinner that all would be well if they could not make it back to Germany, he reassured them:
»If it [the war] starts, and you are still here, you won't have such a bad time. We are sportsmen.«
Seaman, driving for Mercedes-Benz, was killed at Spa after rolling his W-154, and becoming trapped in the cockpit as it caught fire. Mercedes-Benz motor-racing supremo Alfred Neubauer visited Seaman in hospital during the night after Seaman regained consciousness, briefly, and managed to converse with him. As Neubauer watched him slip back into unconsciousness he heard Seaman's lungs start to rattle, and having attended the bedside of many injured drivers, he knew Seaman would be dead by morning. Mirroring symbolically the disintegration of Anglo-German relations, Seaman left a young widow: He had married Erica Popp, the daughter of the chief and co-founder of BMW. Seaman was buried at Putney Vale Cemetery in London, his funeral attended by his comrades from Grand Prix racing. Mercedes-Benz dealers world-wide were ordered to display his photograph in their windows. To this day, Mercedes-Benz maintain his grave. I have witnessed this personally - I am not repeating second hand information.
Richard Seaman , racing driver. Note in the portrait photograph he is wearing Luftwaffe pattern goggles.
However, today the route of preference is if we continue along the Haslital past Meiringen then into the thick of 'Pass Country'.
While the entire southern border of Switzerland is given by the Pennine Alps, the north-south vertebral center-line of Switzerland provides a significant but lesser barrier. In winter, driving from one side of Switzerland to the other may require swinging in an arc north via Zurich or swinging south in an arc through Milan and we are now right at the top of that center-line and about to cross the few passes which cut it.
We'll take the Grimselpass and the Furkapass . You can see the descent stage of the Furkapass (in high summer) in the scene in Goldfinger (1964) where Bond observes Tilly Masterson shoot at Goldfinger and Oddjob.
Next is St Anton im Tyrol , approached over the Arlberg pass. St Anton had the privilege of being a stop on the route of the Orient Express , which, when it runs on this route down the valley of the River Inn is known as the "Arlberg-Orient".
Probably the most famous route is the Venice-Simplon Orient Express. In Fleming's Novel From Russia with Love (1963) Bond fights it out with the SMERSH assassin in the Simplon tunnel itself.
The railway lines used to run directly through St Anton over a crossing but alas, a huge replacement station has been built toward the rear of the village. The station is pleasant enough and above criticism, but as I am sure that you suspect, change is no friend of mine. The 'Orient Express' exists today since it is a slot, like a flight number and leaves Paris 17:17 HRS every evening overnight for Vienna. The rolling stock of the CIWL were purchased by the present company VSOE and more are being recovered and acquired all the time. The locomotives used were the locomotives native to those regions through which the CIWL passed so there is no specific locomotive associated with the Orient-Express.
FÜSSEN & REUTTE
Next stage is North up the valley of the Lech up to the village of Lech itself thence to Reutte and prime Schloss country.
Schloss Ehrenberg above Reutte. The above photograph I took in 1969, the lower, 2001
Just ahead at Füssen in Germany is where the famous scene in The Great Escape where McQueen/Ekins jumps the BMW/Triumph over the wire. Closer to Füssen itself you can see the fairy tale capriccio castles of Ludwig II of Bavaria: Neuschanstain and Hohenschwangau. You can see both these Schloss in film: In The Great Escape James Garner and Donald Pleasance fly to the north of Neuschanstein and in The Eagle has Landed (1976) the opening shots fly over Hohenschwangau. Hohenschwangau never appears in the final cut of The Eagle has Landed (1976) because the scene was deleted. A meeting of the Nazi Party upper hierarchy was to have been set at Schloss, for which Hohenschwangau had been chosen.
But it is not these now sterile places we seek: We are heading for Reutte and the Ehrenberg Schloss complex.
From under the guns of the Ehrenberg the next stage winds south-east along the River Loisach to Garmisch-Partenkirchen . Garmisch is in a class of its own with respect to Alpine resorts as well as in many other respects. Only the presence of the Zugspitz and a quirk of local weather give Garmisch temperatures cool enough to be skiable. But skiable it is and splendidly so. Garmisch and Partenkirchen are really a town rather than an Alpine village.
In the pre-war era the town used to host the famous 'Round-Zugspitz' air race, famous because in 1934 it was won by Rudolf Hess . Hess knew the Duke of Hamilton through his own participation in air racing and it was he that Hess was seeking when he made his flight to Scotland.
In the Fifties, the famous Garmisch winter rally was held on the many aggregate forest tracks which lace the whole area and thus we can use Garmisch for a similar event to the Coup des Alpes , the 'Alpine Rally' which was famous for everything from fast dry asphalt dotted with black ice to deep wet snow.
Garmisch's finest hour was in the middle of all this, for from 1946 onwards it was at the center of the black market trade in southern Germany, Austria and northern Italy. All manner of black market goods passed through Garmisch from cigarettes food and fuel to morphine, Penicillin, uranium and ..... gold. millions of dollars of Reichsbank Gold.
The market was so lucrative that everyone was in on it from innkeepers up to the head of the occupation administration. Murders and kidnappings were commonplace and bodies turned up all over the surrounding region. Balkan and Italian bandits, lurked in the regions to the south and visits to Italy required travelers to be armed, despite the death penalty for German nationals found in possession of firearms. The whole area was impossible to tie down and un-surrendered Heer and SS troops still lurked in the forests for miles around. You can experience a taste of this time in Carol Reid's The Third Man (1949). The Penicillin ('White Gold') which the events of the movie center around was manufactured in a factory not far south of Garmisch in Austria. Garmisch was a popular night spot and center for RnR for Occupation Troops and the heady nightlife contributed to the atmosphere. The famous Casa Carioca nightclub, with its ice shows, was built in 1946. Most of the fixtures and fittings were traded black market goods and its was rumored that the finance came from the sale of stolen trainload of coal.
From Garmisch, south through Mittenwald past the most famous of the Gebirgsjäger barracks and then over the border into Austria and cook the brakes on the run down the Zirlerberg into the valley or the River Inn and the then East to next checkpoint at Kufstein in its huge castle.
The famous Casa Carioca night club at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 1946. The Casa burned down some decades ago and the site is now the parking area for the ski lifts.
+ SEE ALSO: Skiing at Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Once during the Thirty Years War, many soldiers were camped in and around the castle and everyday at midday, the chapel windows would be opened and the organ played to entertain the soldiers, a tradition which is continued to this day.
Schloss Kufstein from the north. There is a Hutte high on the flank of the mountain facing us, right of frame. The path zig-zags up the face.
Rudel's house on the Stimmersee is on your left as you approach Kufstein . Now we go back out along valley roads passed Ellmau, St Johan im Tirol through Lofer where some of the scenes in Where Eagles Dare (1968) were filmed, then over the Steinpass to Berchtesgaden in Germany.
The first stage out of Bertchtesgaden takes us up past Hitler's Berghof on the Obersalzberg back above Berchtesgaden , and then up again on the single-track asphalt mountain road to the Kehlsteinhaus - "The Eagle's Nest" for lunch. The road out of Berchtesgaden to the Berghof is actually steeper than the road from the Berghof to the Kehlsteinhaus, which itself was carved out of the mountain solely to access the Kehlsteinhaus by road. In fact some sections of that road up the Obersalzberg are the steepest I can think of.
Looking north the Kehlsteinhaus from the ridge behind it. The Berghof and Berchtesgaden are below in the valley.
The Berghof in 1945. The figures on the steps are sight-seeing Allied servicemen
Back down the mountain to Berchtesgaden then East along the valley road toward Hallein and along the River Salzach, past the splendid baroque palace of Schloss Klessheim just outside Salzburg, formerly Himmler's headquarters in Austria and now under new management: A hotel and casino. Hitler, Mussolini both stayed here. Von Manstein visited Himmler here late in 1944. And into the old town and up to the great Schloss of Hohensalzburg for parc fermé.
A short step East down the Autobahn to toward Linz , out of sight to your right on the Fuschlsee is von Ribbentrop's country house Schloss Fuschl .What few people know is that the Nazi war machine was not brought to its knees by hundreds of thousands of tons of Allied bombs, but by the cost of Frau von Ribbentrop's continual redecoration of Schloss Fuschl . Mrs von Ribbentrop must have done something right as Schloss Fuschl is now a splendid hotel. Guests may ask to be given a tour of the extensive network of tunnels which were dug into the rock under the Schloss. Gerhard Zauner, the leading Austrian lake diver and a historian of wartime Austria has a map of the network of tunnels but I notice that he has not included in his excellent reference work Verscholene Schätze im Salzkammergut.
Then we are into Linz and the forge of Austria. Just after Linz at Enns we reached the point of no return or what was the point of no return: The bridge over the Enns was the entrance to the Soviet Zone. There was no respite until you reached Vienna and the Allied zones therein. At the border of the Soviet zone Joseph Cotton was hauled off the train in his nightclothes on the Semmering Pass on his way to film The Third Man (1949) in Vienna and just missed being left behind by some fast talking, so it was not just the characters in The Third Man (1949) who had to stay one step ahead of the Soviets. Take a look over this bridge and smell the dreamy air above the lazy Danube as it winds away east to Vienna, for this is another country and another set of tales. Last time I drove East across this bridge I had the highly auspicious pleasure of seeing an Aston Martin DB5 in British Racing Green (with British plates no less) coming the other way. To this day it is my great regret that I failed to react quickly enough to take a photograph of him. The camera was in my hand and loaded because I was taking photographs of the bridge. I could have sent it to the Aston Martin Owners Club and the driver would have had a splendid photograph of his car crossing out of the Soviet Zone.
Austria - Partition under Allied Occupation 1945.
Note the Enns Bridge at Linz as the entry point from the American Zone into the Soviet Zone, and the pass on the railway at Semmering as the entry point from the British Zone into the Soviet Zone. Unlike Berlin, Vienna had a central zone which was patrolled by all three powers jointly: Each JEEP would contain three soldiers, one from each of the occupying power. Outside of this central International Zone was the four zones of the British, American, Soviet and French occupiers.
Linz contains the giant Voest-Alpine steel-works and just a few miles further down the Danube at St Valentin is the Nibelungenwerk where the Jagdtiger were rolled out in the closing stages of the war. The Jagdtiger at Aberdeen Proving Ground was captured not far east from here.
And finally, just south of Enns, the half-way point: Steyr , home of the Steyr Scout , with the control in Schloss Lamberg .
East out of Steyr through Bad Hall and Pettenback on secondary roads and back into the mountains at Gmunden on the Traunsee then along the lake to Ebensee which is where the cable-car scenes in Where Eagles Dare (1968) were filmed. You can see the village of Ebensee and the lake in the frame just as Burton and Eastwood jump on top of the cable-car. The actual cable car used in the film was replaced in the Eighties as well as various improvements made to the winding stations. The tension for the new cable car is different and thus the new cable car descends to the lowest station at a different angle to the one seen in the film, where the troops fire on an empty cable car believing Smith and Schaffer to be inside. However Saulire cable car at Courcheval , in the Haute Tarentaise , which descends and docks at exactly the same angle and has every nerve in my body waiting for the officer to give the order to commence firing.
DDAC 1939 road map of the Reich. May 1945: Otto Skorzeny's route from Vienna along the Danube to the Bad Aussee in the Salzkammergut is shown in purple.
Along the Traun to Bad Ischl in the thick of lake-country, an Austro-Hungarian Imperial favorite and clustered with splendid tea-rooms. During the last days of the war, the Nazi currency counterfeiting operation, Operation Bernhard , was being shunted around Austria on trucks and a convoy of wagons ran into trouble near here and had to dump their load into the river: English white cotton five pound notes. The river flowed with them and locals and soldiers alike swarmed into the river to recover them and dry them out.
Turn south toward Halstatt and East along the valley of the Lammer .
At Halstatt, the King of the Austrian lake divers, Herr Zauner , has his offices. Zauner has almost single-handedly performed the post-war archeology of the Austrian lakes and documented what he has found in his book Verscholene Schätze im Salzkammergut. In the final days of the war, the Austrian lakes were one of the few unoccupied pockets and many of the Nazi Party big-wigs, special units like Skorzeny's Amt VI-S , or the Operation Bernhard Counterfeiting operation, had clustered here to await the end. Consequently when it was time to don civilian clothes and make a run for it, a lot of material was dumped into the lakes, varying in size from a document stamp and a honor ring to 128mm shells from the Jagdtiger, cases of counterfeit bank notes and complete artillery pieces. The fine sediment and lack of oxygen preserve materials in better condition than if they were exposed to air, and even bluing remains on some firearms. Zauner's office is incredible, its walls lined with a huge array of lake-bed objects including rows and rows of ammunition.
Much like the recent discovery of Ithaca demonstrated, burning boot-leather and pressing the flesh with the locals can pay huge dividends. Skorzeny's memoirs (and indeed several others) are a little light on their whereabouts and activities in the closing days of the war but Herr Zauner has found the Gasthof which Skorzeny used in Bad Ischl after escaping the Soviet encirclement of Vienna and before making for Radstadt and the Radstadter Hütte above it, overlooking the Dachstein . In addition Herr Zauner has found various small items from men in Skorzeny's unit while lake diving which tell us exactly where they were at war's end. Of course, it helps that an uncle of Herr Zauner's was in Skorzeny's unit.
Then out at Golling and thence south to Werfen with the giant Schloss Hohenwerfen towering above the valley atop the rock boss. You can get a good look at Schloss Hohenwerfen in Where Eagles Dare (1968) in the scene were Eastwood and Burton descend through the trees to glass the area through binoculars.
After Skorzeny had surrendered to US forces at Radstadt his initial debrief was in a house above Werfen, thence to Salzburg.
DDAC (wartime ADAC )1939 road map of Deutƒchen Alpenlandes. The Salzkammergut , the Austrian Lake Region, is between Salzburg (center of map) to the north-west and Linz to the north-east.
ZELL-AM-SEE & GROSSGLOCKNER
South East along the valley of the Salzach to Zell am See. SS Headquarters at Schloss Fischorn is visible just to your right at the village of Bruck as you approach Zell and up to your left before you enter Zell is the tiny chapel and shrine of the Porsche family, who were landholders in these regions.
In the above photograph, the Porsche Family Tomb on their Lands above Zell-am-See.
Porsche Family tomb at Zell am See.
Peter Mason's hunt for SS Standartenführer Walter Rauff in his book Official Assassin starts at the small airfield in front of Zell, and he heads south from here, but I have spent days researching his route and cannot find any single route which contains all of the features in the correct order. Someone has forwarded a letter to Peter Mason on my behalf seeking clarification. It could be that my route-finding is lacking or perhaps there is an element of inaccuracy in Mason's memoirs. It is not easy to tell.
At the close of the war, US Army units closed from both Bavaria above, and more slowy from the Italian Lakes below. There was not a great deal of fighting, partly because the German troops were now without heavy weapons, but also because in Bavaria, the US units had started to telephone the next village on their line of march and inform them that if they did not surrender, then they would receive an artillery barrage until they did. Usually, this worked and many villages were saved. In Italy, there was even less contact, but the partisans and bandits were enough of a problem for the retreating Germans. The collapse was imminent, and highest in the Axis mind was the importance of not being captured by the Soviets, who had captured Vienna and were making their way into Ober-Österreich, and Tito's partisans , pushing through from Trieste in attempts to slaughter as many of their political opponents as possible as well as pick off pieces of Adriatic Italy which had been disputed during the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire . The last serious fighting against the Soviets was by Army Group Center under Generalfeldmarschall Schörner, trying to break out West of Prag. The last armored units ran aground in Bohemia somewhere south of Budweis and many made it back on foot over the mountains into Bavaria . All manner of uniforms were at large in the mountainous terrain and Mason's description of his unit's mode of travel indicates this and fits with the facts.
For example, on 02-MAY-1945, a convoy of SS trucks left Hitler's Berghof , loaded with documents, for burial in glacial moraine within a high valley above the Zammersgrund , above Mayrhofen , and yet the day after, Innsbruck only slightly further East, fell to the US Army. SOE liason agents were operating with Italian partisans throughout the Italian Alpine regions, and 8th Army reconnaissance and intelligence detachments were at large under their own steam. This fits with the apparent proliferation of liaison aircraft overhead during Mason's hunt for Rauff.
All this means that the region of the Alpenfestung at this time had more uniforms operating within it than a militaria show. Only the Japanese were missing.
Mason lands at Zell am See which is supposedly a US forward airfield during these days and then hunts Rauff through the mountains to Italy over war's end. None of this is impossible but its plausibility will be valued according to whether it is supported by facts or further elements of doubt.
Many mysteries concerning events at the end of the war start at Schloss Fischorn just outside Zell. Much documentation was burned in the furnace, probably the Hitler diaries from the Berghof. It is very likely Skorzeny visited here while he was camped in his special train in a siding at Radstadt .
-Standartenführer Josef Spacil who had retreated to the Schloss was in possession of Reichsbank and assets, varying from precious metals and currency to jewels and such a surplus of riches was there that he was handing them out in bucketfulls to anyone who called. Within days, the Allies would have arrived, all would be confiscated and they would be swinging at the end of a rope, so it mattered not what happened to the valuables. Volumes could be written about this subject but it seems likely that Ernst Kaltenbrunner , Eichmann , and Skorzeny received some, as well as numerous other hangers-on, and this was not the only reserve of valuables in the 'Alpenfestung' at this time, their being the respective Reichsbank and Foreign Office hoards as well as the 'Gold Train' from Budapest. Some got away. Many did not. One author who researched counterfeiting operations after the war mentioned that he met a number of former intelligence operatives, from both sides, who did not seem to have worked since the war's end. This, he surmised, was due to the quantity of 'unvouchered funds' necessary to run intelligence operations, and the difficulty in accounting for them once they have been released. The local press occasionally carries stories of new 'finds' where hoards of valuables are unearthed during refurbishment work on buildings in the region.
There is more than gold and jewels buried in these mountains and valleys as during the Cold War, espionage equipment and supplies was buried in 'ammunition' tins at various places for use by 'stay-behind' agents. An example worth emulating as a small quantity of food, money or ammunition can go a long way during an escape.
Now directly across the valley from Zell south up the long and grueling road over the Grossglockner pass onto the southern flanks of the Alps then through Lienz into the Dolomites at Toblach (Dobbiaco) and up to Cortina D'Ampezzo . The limestone Dolomites are the prettiest mountains in the Alps and Cortina itself is most pleasant. Gustav Mahler had a summer house in the German speaking region of what is now Italy somewhere near Toblach , the peace and beauty of which he used for composing.
DOLOMITES & CORTINA D'AMPEZZO
There used to be a rally called the Coppa D'Oro Dolomiti which ran a circuit through the Dolomites, starting at Cortina and swinging in a loop southwards, but it was only ever run by Italian entrants. The only foreigners to participate were are few entries by the English running Aston Martins. The whole area is criss-crossed with winding roads and passes and could not be better suited to such an event.
The route of Coppa D'Oro Dolomiti was usually: Cortina -> Cimabanche -> Misurina -> Auronzo di Cadore -> Calalzo di Cadore -> Longarone -> Belluno -> Feltre -> Fonzaso -> Primiero -> San Martino di Castrozza -> Predazzo -> Canazei -> Passo di Falzarego -> Cortina.
Away to the East (above Longarone) are the battlefields of the Great War of which Rommel writes in his memoirs Infantry Attacks. After the Great War he travelled the region again via motorcycle, his wife riding pillion, in order that they could scout the battlefields again and add more detail to his memoirs, which are well written.
Some movies were shot in these valleys surrounding Cortina d'Ampezzo, probably the best example being the Spaghetti Western The Great Silence(1968) as well as one of the Post-Connery Bond movies For Your Eyes Only (1981) and the first of the Pink Panther movies. Hammond Innes's (indifferent) novel The Lonely Skier is set here in the years just after the war. The Great Silence (1968) gives you the best taste of the Dolomites in the thick of winter (The Dolomites stand in for Utah).
Through this region ran the bulk of the escape routes for wanted Nazis pursued or aided by the NKVD / MGB , MI6 / SOE , CIC / OSS ; Zionist terrorists and gangs smuggling Jews trying to reach Palestine pursued by the British; Anti-Communists from Czechoslovakia and Hungary pursued by NKVD and freelance kidnap gangs in the pay of the Soviets, all making for ports like Genoa , Bari , Brindisi . The routes used were the same ones used by wine smugglers for centuries and escapees would stay in village Gasthof and mountain Hütte, sometimes even escaping Nazis and escaping Jews at the same time.
One of the many 'sightings' of Martin Bormann was made at a Gasthof in Toblach (Dobbiaco) where the truck driven by him and several others pulled up for the night. The two MI6 operatives then followed the truck all the way to Bari, but claim that they had orders not to intercept him. There are a number of 'certain' sightings of Bormann, all of them contradictory.
Most historians do not realise is that many Germans escaped to Cairo and Damascus, not South America. This information may be sifted from various memoirs and intelligence documents, but the most interesting evidence manifests itself in the creation of one of the most fabulous wrist-watches of all time: The Egyptian Navy. The Italian company Officine Panerai in Florence had manufactured submersible watches for the famous Italian Tenth Flotilla , which wrote the book on underwater warfare and whose divers scored many notable and embarrassing successes against British Shipping (portrayed in film in The Silent Enemy (1958) ). 'Officine Panerai' continued to make watches for the military after the war, as well as torpedo fuzes and complex timing and navigational equipment for navies. In the early Fifties, an order came through from the "Egyptian Navy". The first samples sent were returned with a request for something far more substantial. In response, Officine Panerai designed the very heavy "Egyptian Navy" submersible watch and one or two must have been retained by the company as evidenced by the fact that they are in circulation. The Italian Tenth Flotilla trained the smaller German Kampfschwimmer unit which operated as part of Skorzeny's commandos and in the years after the war, the militaries of Syria and Egypt absorbed greedily those members of the Axis seeking employment.
More recent (2002) villainous visitors to the Dolomites include a conference of the Russia Mafia, all of whom were busted by the Carabineri and Italian police force. What the charges were I have no idea. Probably something immensely offensive to Italian sensibilities, such as having no dress sense. Don't tell me they arrested them for .... wait for it ... breaking the law ?
West from Cortina there is a plethora of routes but to make for Meran we must head for either Bozen or the junction with the A13/A22 Autobahn at Sterzing and thence over the Jaufenpass. I like the fast uphill approach to Meran from Bozen but the northern route takes us over the Jaufenpass. This cuts out Meran's entirely unprepossessing southern entrance. They really do need to sort this out as it is a mess of indifferent workshop buildings and construction sites. Meran, or Merano in Italian, is in the Vinschgau in 'occupied South Tyrol', which stretches down the valley of the River Adige as far as the north end of Lake Garda, the region being annexed by Italy from the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1919. The Vinschgau is German-speaking and the Italians bussed-in Italian speakers from everywhere the moment it was theirs. The South Tyrol is a political hot potato, locally, to this day.
One of the Schloss overlooking Meran. Schloss Labers is down to the left of camera. Note the Fastigiate varieties of trees which give the Italian horizon its distinctive look. They are so redolent of Italy that when filming Spartacus, the California hills could be made to double for Italy by decorating the horizons and high ground with stage-prop Fastigiate trees.
Meran was made a popular resort by the patronage of Sissy, Empress Elizabeth , wife of Emporer Franz Joseph. Strangely enough, in 1898 the Empress Elizabeth was stabbed to death in Geneva while waiting to board the steamship for Montreux.
Like many ski resorts in the Alps, Meran attempts to drum up a bit of summer-time business for hoteliers by holding some sort of event and Meran's is a wine festival. The vineyards on the surrounding mountainsides are dotted with splendid houses, villas and a Schloss or two, one of them being Schloss Labers. This castle was used by SS Sturmbahnführer Friedrich Schwend as his headquarters for distributing the output of Operation Bernhard . Early in the war Hitler had forbade the program be used to undermine confidence in the Allied currencies but the branch of the SS which ran the operation knew that the most important fuel for running intelligence networks is cash cash cash. The counterfeit notes were used everywhere but Italy soaked up more than its fair share.
SS Obersturmbannführer Willhelm Höttl in SS Intelligence used counterfeit British notes to 'learn of the whereabouts' of Mussolini after he was captured. There is not enough time to enter the murky and extensive underworld of wartime and post-war intelligence and espionage here, but believe me, there is a lot of it.
After his wartime and Cold War intelligence activities were over, Höttl became a schoolmaster at a boarding school in Alt Aussee and penned his memoirs. He lived rather well for schoolmaster I am told.
Schloss Labers reverted to family ownership and use as a hotel after the war and both Höttl and Schwend used to return to Schloss Labers to stay. But sadly both are dead now, taking any untold secrets with them to the grave. The proprietor has a little exhibition of photographs, books and articles relating to Schloss Labers' more exciting days.
Ahhhh.... smell the warm air among the vines and listen to the buzzing of the insects. No wonder it was an Imperial favorite.
With an overnight at Schloss Labers under our belt, the next day is one of the big passes.
Head West up the Vinschgau and we face a decision on the route as we are spoilt for choice here.
We can turn left onto the 38 at Spondinig or continue up to the even narrower 41 at Schluderns. If we take the 41 it flicks through tiny hamlets, including one bend where the road splits and half of it kinks under someone's farmhouse, and thence to the strange medieval walled village of Glurns in the Münstertal .
Glurns, taken from the new road
There is a 'bypass' now which takes the round around under the walls but until a few years ago you had to drive through the gateway in the wall and at walking pace turn through the tiny streets like every other mule and cart for a millennium. At night, in deathly quiet, it was as though you had driven through a time warp, with all the windows shuttered and only the occasional light, not even a dog barking.
Continue up to the border post and then left in St Maria and over the Umbrail pass.
The alternative is left onto the 38 at Spondinig and the huge Stelvio pass with its fifty or so continuous hairpins on either of its flanks. Now the second highest pass in Europe at 9042 feet (2,756 meters), after the construction of the Col D'Iseran military road above Val D'Isere in the Thirties, which is 46 feet higher. However, the Stelvio is by far the grandest of the two and is thus the Monarch of Alpine passes. The border between Austro-Hungary and Italy used to sit at the top of the pass, but the readjustments of the map in 1919 mean that the border is further north now.
1956 Coupe des Alpes. The old road surface, visible here, was actually better in winter.
STELVIO - STILFERSJOCH
Among other things, this region can be complex to drive within if unfamiliar with the area since place names are in both German and Italian but not always signposted in both, depending on whether you are in German-speaking Italy, Italian-speaking Switzerland, Italian-speaking Italy or German-speaking Switzerland. There is even the remains of the the Romansch language in this corner of Switzerland if you look hard enough. The political geography of these regions suited best the patch-work quilt arrangement of the Holy Roman Empire, and to an extent Switzerland with its Cantonal arrangement retains this. Individual valleys fell into their own regional administrations under Princes and Bishops and apart from the occasional cattle raid and punch-up with the locals in the next valley, there was not a lot to do except wait for the English to invent skiing. Personally, I prefer the patchwork-quilt of Kingdoms, Principalities, Dukedoms, Marks, Landgraviates and Bishoprics. Bishoprics were not just the administrative regions of the church at this time but similar to a principality in that the Bishop administered matters like any other ruler, including military matters.
In this patchwork-quilt arrangement, each unit would have to have their own army, their own uniforms, their own liveries, their own postage stamps, their own license plates, and their own Grand Prix. The world would be a much more exciting place and the Leopard-skin smattering of languages and ethnicities could be mirrored in as many subdivision as anyone had time for. Liechtenstein, stuck between the respective rumps of the two fat ladies of Switzerland and Austria, is a tiny remnant of this time, as are San Marino, Monaco, Andorra, and Vatican City.
Out of Bórmio in the direction of the tiny mountain road to Livigno joining the Val Berninia on the Bernina Pass and back north of the backbone of the Alps. Descend past St Moritz' most southerly ski area at Diavolezza and down the road to Pontresina. Bond in Fleming's On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) makes his ski-borne escape from Blofeld's fictional lair which is meant to be up to your right just after you descend through Pontresina, then joins the road you are on and skis down to the junction at Samedan.
We go left at the next junction and into St Moritz. In Fleming's novel, Bond and Tracy make are right here, and escape Bloofeld's henchmen, who are in their obligatory black Mercedes-Benz saloon, by going left over the Albulapass and away to Chur.
Stelvio circa 2000s
+ Stelvio at »The Most Dangerous Roads in the World«
© The Great Motor Highways of the Alps by Hugh Merrick
St Moritz, Davos and the Jungfrau region are the old Winter Sports capitals of the Alps. St Moritz, like Davos, is a town rather than a village and is served by a standard gauge railway as well as an airfield at Samedan large enough to handle the largest airliners. It is from here that Ju-Air operate some of the Junkers Ju-52s on Alpine sightseeing trips.
The valleys in Graudbunden and high, cold and broad, not like the cosy little V-shaped valleys of the high pastures such as at Zermatt.
West again out of St Moritz to descend the Maloja pass to re-cross south of the backbone. From south-east of here, all the roads and valleys run north-south into the Italian Lakes away from the spine of the Alps until they hit the Aosta to Trieste A4 East-West autostrada on the plains of Lombardy. This is what makes Milano a useful base for operations in the Pennine Alps but something of a curse if you are attempting to traverse them.
Thus we are presented with a choice. This run we can head down the Maloja pass then swing north over the Splügen pass, then west over the San Bernardino Pass (the Via Mala is just up to your right at Thusis) and then fast down to Bellinzona with all its castles to Locarno (The Verzasca Dam, where the opening moments of the Bond film Goldeneye was filmed is just up to your right above Minusio as you join the lake). Now down Lake Maggiore past the famous Isole Borromee at Stresa (and Baveno, the Lido Palace Hotel, where Winston Churchill spent his honeymoon) to the A4 Autostrada.
Or, we could run the stage down the Maloja pass and to the Val Bregaglia then south along Lake Maggiorre to Dongo where Mussolini was captured while making for Austria disguised as a German soldier. The other members of the Fascist administration captured at the same time were all shot along the waterfront and balustrade still bears the marks from the impact of the bullets. Just below Dongo at San Guilinodi Mezzegra is the Villa Belmonte where Mussolini was shot by the Communist partisans. Or supposedly shot by Communist partisans. Mussolini's end is shrouded in mystery due to a number of facts which do not match the official version.
The Maloja pass is the route up which Von Ryan's Express makes its escape and most of the scenes were filmed in situ although the final scenes with the tunnel were shot in that trusty fall-back of European productions: Almeria, in Spain.
A Berann relief map of The Italian Lakes, looking north.
LOMBARDY & AOSTA
Once onto the A4 it's flat-out to Aosta then hard right up to the Grand St Bernard, a personal favorite, the opening scenes of The Italian Job (1969) being filmed here. Just watch the Miura pulling up the grade and around the switch-backs while Matt Munro sings "On Days Like These". Certainly the Miura's finest moment.
Right at the top is the Hospice and the St Bernard dogs who used to rescue pilgrims lost in the snow on their way to the Levant. The mountainsides above the pass were "said to be infested with Saracens". No doubt who 'said' this were the local guides, muleteers and innkeepers.
Notable Schloss in the Aosta Valley, together with the main locations used in The Italian Job (1969) from Denzel's Grosser Alpen Strassen Führer.
For the last time we cross north of the Alpine backbone and down the straighter side into Switzerland. At the foot is the Roman garrison town of Martigny. We're not finished yet and it's up over the Col de Forclaz. At night, you witness spectacular views of a lit-up Martigny way back down in the valley. There is nowhere to stop and alight from the car to gaze but since the pass is little traveled (especially at night) you can stop anywhere.
Over the top and down the faster straighter side through Argentiere and then fast fast fast down the valley into Chamonix for the downhill flying finish outside the station. Ditch the car in the melée of vehicles in the parking lot and its down to the restaurant for the post-race dinner.
Kümmerly & Frey road map Alpenländer Alpine Countries 1960s
Showing the route: Chamonix -> Geneva -> Col de la Faucille -> Jura -> Bern -> Jungfrau -> Meiringen -> Haslital -> Grimselpass -> Furkapass -> Andermatt -> Chur -> Vaduz -> Feldkirch -> St Anton -> Flexenpass -> Lech -> Reutte -> Garmisch-Partenkirchen -> Inn valley -> Kufstein -> Ellmau -> St Johan im Tirol -> Lofer -> Steinpass -> Berchtesgaden -> Kehlsteinhaus ("Eagle's Nest") -> Salzburg -> Linz -> Enns -> Steyr -> Bad Hall -> Pettenbach -> Gmunden -> Ebensee -> Bad Ischl -> Halstatt -> River Lammer -> Golling -> Werfen -> Zell-am-See -> Grossglockner -> Dobbiaco -> Cortina D'Ampezzo -> Sterzing -> Jaufenpass -> Meran/Merano -> Vinschgau -> Stelvio pass/Stilfersjoch -> Bórmio -> Passo di Foscagno -> Passo d'Éira -> Livigno -> St Moritz ->
St Moritz -> Maloja pass -> Splügen pass -> San Bernardino Pass -> Bellinzona -> Locarno -> A4
St Moritz -> Maloja pass -> Lake Como -> Dongo -> Como -> A4
A4 -> Ivrea -> Aosta -> Grand St Bernard -> Martigny -> Col de Forclaz -> Chamonix
In the above map, motion picture locations are marked by squares:
Purple: On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Yellow: Goldfinger (1964)
Green: The Eiger Sanction (1975)
Turquoise: The Italian Job (1969)
Red: The Great Escape (1963)
Blue: Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Red Circle: Goldeneye (1995)
World War II locations are marked by a red diamond.
The thick red bar is the line of the backbone of the Alpine mountain range. It is in this chain that the Alps are at their hightest. The red double-opposed-diamonds mark the location of the road passes across the Alps The thick blue line is the route of Carrera Pan-Alpina.
In the above Relief Map, the Maritime Alps between France and Italy, showing the Plain of Lombardy on which Torino and Milano are situated.
1947 Coupe des Alpes - Marseilles - Monaco - Cortina - Furkapass - Col de Forclaz - Chamonix - Col de Iseran - Nice
The first event will be something of a baptism of ice: With high positions and clear air in the Alps, it is possible to make out a target at tremendous distance, many kilometers. The opening rifle events should be staged on the glaciers in the valleys East of Mont Blanc accessed by the Aiguile du Midi lift. Skiers refer to this as the "Vallée Blanche" but it is a succession of glaciers feeding the huge Mer de Glace which rolls out of the valley just East of Chamonix.
Your cable-car journey from the Aiguille Du Mini lift can continue over the "Vallée Blanche" in another cable-car which crosses the whole valley in level flight to the Italian side of the rock walls at Point Helbronner then descends into the Italian side where the ski resort of Courmayeur is situated.
You can see for miles and control of any one area could be obtained by a rifleman who can shoot to those distances. Assaults by mountain troops used to start at dusk in order to be able to cross the open glaciers and the fire-fight which took place just below the Aiguille du Midi was the result of the French troops bumping into the advancing German mountain troops in the dark.
At our event the shooting should start with targets dotted at long distances, followed by a fixed target approached by a rifleman in the cable-car (distance at which target is stuck gives the score), then a downhill ski event with targets coming up at various distances, right down to ambush distances. Once you reach the Mer de Glace you are standing on your skis letting them run and it's all the way back to Chamonix, the final descent being down the edge of the small hanging valley at the glacier's snout, through the trees and onto a short section of piste above Chamonix which brings you out at the terminus of the cog railway which runs up to Montenvers. Your driver should be waiting, door open, and then it's go go go down the valley into the switchbacks at Servoz, then the flat-out blast across the flat to Geneva.
With next stop Geneva, we could use the narrow streets of the old town for a force-on-force or a close-quarters walk-through or both. Then it's across the Rhône on the Pont du Mont Blanc bridge and up the Col de La Faucille into the Jura for the biathalon event with free-heel skis being used to cover a winding course through the hills and forests with targets coming up at all ranges. Don't stop to shoot if you don't need to.
The most outstanding telemark ski chase of all time was Claus Helberg's escape from German ski troops after the raid on the Heavy Water plant at Rjukan . Claus Helberg was a member of the Norwegian resistance and took part in the actions to destroy the heavy water plant at Rjukan, being a member of the 'Operation Grouse' team. After the attack, Helberg was sent to pick up a cache of arms at a Hütte but the Germans were already there and he had to make his escape on his skis. As they raced through the trees and snow, Helberg found he was faster on the uphill sections but his pursuer was faster on the downhill. His pursuer began to gain until Helberg knew he had to shoot it out with him.
»First there was seven [ pursuers ], then three, then two, then only one left. I remember stopping, turning firing three shots, he fired back, then ran out of bullets. I then fired back and he ran away.«
He continued across the snow but ran out of luck.
»I was skiing in darkness, suddenly I went over a precipice and broke my arm. But I had to go on as I had a contact to meet, so I skied another 40 miles.«
This is just the beginning of an incredible story of escape. Helberg died in 2003 but was on occasion giving tours of the locations where the actions including his chase took place, in his retirement. Sadly he died before I had chance to interview him.
Mürren is the location of Bond's down-hill escape in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and for once, fact and fiction are overlain each other because this is also one of the finest places in the Alps for an all downhill shoot-up.
In the Nineteen-Twenties, snow-maddened Britishers held a ski race which involved both down-hill and some up-hill stages, which descended all the way from the top of the Schilthorn (Now topped by 'Piz Gloria') back to Lauterbrunnen at the foot of the valley. The race is still run and it is called "The Inferno" and is not part of the FIS controlled ski race series as all of their races are either downhill or slalom.
On the production of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) downhill champion Willy Bogner did much of the camera work on skis and if the camera is moving and the subjects are moving, that's Willy. Bogner had some skis manufactured with turned-up ends on both ends so that he could ski backwards while holding the camera between his legs. He built a mount for the Arriflex 35mm which had a Hasselblad with the same length lens surmounting the Arriflex, so that he could see what was going on in the viewfinder of the Hasselblad. You can see all of this in the superb documentary which accompanies the DVD.
The stuntmen putting in the skiing as Blofeld's henchmen also put in a fine performance. Downhill skiing with a rifle is actually quite easy because the rifle acts as a counterweight, and the heavier the rifle the easier it gets, even with heavier Squad MGs like the MG42. The enjoyable thing about downhill is that you can ski into a shooting position either by a large sliding stop which places your shoulder into the mountain or on flat ground coming to a halt and then launching prone with skis out either side like a ski-jumper.
Skiing downhill in a chase is something which few people practice partly because it is so grueling. Most downhill skiing techniques are quadriceps-intensive and your quadriceps will only last so long. Hemingway (sking in the Thirties at Galtur ) bemoaned the fact that the prevalence of the new cable-cars meant that newcomers to the sport did not have the leg strength which the old hands had: "You get the legs for the way down on the way up." With ski-chase, the faster you go, the less you need to use your legs to turn to the skis to brake, but the bigger the danger of a blow-out.
The best technique to use is one which keeps you off your quadriceps (your legs are straight) with body movement mainly in the hips. It is not easy to master and you have to keep a careful eye on what snow is coming up because it is easier to trip like this than skiing normally. That being said you can keep up a solid pace on long descents and outpace attackers. I have used this to catch groups of skiers who were just dots down in the valley. With Blofeld's henchmen chasing me and shooting at the same time, I am sure I could make even faster pace.
So for the "Willy Bognor Downhill Challenge", we'll use some of Bogner's exact same ski-tracks off from Piz Gloria down the Schilthorn and all the way to Lauterbrunnen and also the same route as the Inferno.
There are other stages in the Jungfrau which suit the downhill well:
Kleine Sheidegg under the Eiger skiing down to Grindelwald is also good, perhaps even better than the Schilthorn as it is not as steep but has a decent drop for a long distance. And from Kleine Sheidegg down to Wengen or Lauterbrunnen. As if there is no end to it we can take the cog railway up from Kleine Sheidegg through the interior of the Eiger to the top of the Jungfrau and then ski away down the Jungfraufirn glacier and down the Grosser Aletsgletscher into Valais at Naters/Brig. These conditions would be ideal as these are glaciers do not have skiers on them and the snow would be fast smooth and undisturbed. The driver would have to go like the Devil around via Meiringen to pick up the skier.
The event could be pop-up targets, or hounds-and-hare, or both.
I can't helping thinking of the scene in From Russia with Love (1963) where the SPECTRE operative is showing Colonel Kleb around their facilities and he says "Here at SPECTRE island, we also use live targets."
From the Jungfrau region it is back down to Interlaken and then East along the lakes to Meiringen.
Then we can stop on the some of the windings of the Furkapass where Bond halts the DB5 for a 'Grazing Chamois' event.
St Anton im Arlberg also has some good long descents suitable for 'The Downhill', including some long sections descending through trees.
However, the presence of the railway, the Arlberg tunnel and the Arlberg-Orient Express gives us opportunity to run the railway events.
In Fleming's From Russia with Love (1957) Bond narrowly escapes death from the SMERSH assassin in the Simplon tunnel. In EON's (it has to be said superior) From Russia with Love (1963) Bond and Nash, Connery and Shaw, slug it out in one of the great screen fight scenes of all time but this takes place after Nash joins the train at Trieste. Travel through the Balkans and Greece in the twenties was very difficult and the train had to have a detachment of soldiers upon it. Similarly after the Second World War, travel through the Balkans and Greece became dangerous due to the quantity of bandits at large. None of this was as series as the events of 1891 when the Orient Express was derailed and every passenger robbed by Greek bandits. One passenger was shot in the arm while resisting. Some were taken hostage and there was international outrage. The Kaiser, prone to hyperbolic outbursts, threatened to send troops into the region, then part of Ottoman Empire, to clean out the bandits, but in the end it fell to the Ottomans to restore order. In the post-war era there were a number of Cold War espionage incidents, mainly with victims 'falling' from the train and similar. Shortly after this the descent of the Iron Curtain put and end to Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits operations in the Warsaw Pact countries.
There are many and various combinations varying in difficulty and danger, from targets being SMERSH agents in the dining car to the full-on Balkan-bandit hold-up and shoot-out.
Naturally, we should haul by steam and there are one or two working locomotives to choose from although most appropriate in this location would be the wartime Kreigslok. There are one or two working examples of Kreigslok around, but now now now is the time to pick-up ex-Soviet Union steam locomotives. We could put together a nice stable of steam traction very cheaply.
St Anton and Lech are some of the older capitals of winter sports and there are a number of decent hotels dotted around but I think as long as it is not too badly shot-up then dinner in the dining cars of the train in St Anton would be most appropriate followed by a "Le Mans Start" in the morning for a stage taking us back up the Arlberg pass and up to Lech itself then along the valley of the Lech to Reutte and then back up to your right in the direction of Lermoos and Garmisch. As you see the two Schloss high above you to your right, take the small exit ramp down to the hardcore track to the where there is a space to halt the vehicles.
All of the major valley routes in the Alps were fortified and the more useful the route was to an invading army, the bigger the fortifications. Werfen, Kufstein and Hohensalzburg are big but the Schloss Ehrenberg complex was much larger in terms of complexity and area in its time. It was composed of the two Schloss you can see up to your right, one behind the other on separate mounts and a third (little remaining) up on the other side of the valley to your left. At one time these were joined by walled fortifications and the valley road passed through the gates in their center. Now the forest has reclaimed nearly all but the good Burghers of Reutte have preserved some of the first Schloss high above the town and run an electricity cable up there to illuminate its walls at night. It is mostly tumble-down stone stairways and old doorways, wrecked towers. More interesting is the Schloss behind. The first time I ascended, it was in darkness and I felt my way forward through the battlements and old gateways to find that the approach to the main Schloss was through two tunnels. I was, shall we say, mildly unnerved, but pushed by more powerful curiosity, and made it through the tunnels to the remains of the main Schloss, which was in dangerous decay, trees growing up everywhere within, the stones threatening to give way underfoot or fall upon you. Some of the foundations of the towers had been breached and in their place were dangerous chutes which would lead you to your death over the cliff below once in their grip. It was one of those magical Romantic moments when finally, you are alone in an abandoned Schloss. One's imagination uses the backdrop of the darkness to project onto all manner of historical context and events into which to place the concrete presence of the Schloss and in this manner, with no other person or scenes to intrude, one may most closely experience the Schloss and its environs as it was in its glory days.
So plenty of opportunity for a force-on-force, 'kidnap exchange', 'bandit camp ambush'.
Pulling away from Ehrenberg we wind through the valleys to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Garmisch is another place with long smooth down-hill ski routes, winding through rock crevices and forests. Then south to Mittenwald, down the brake-burning descent down the Zirlerberg into the Inn valley and it is fast Autobahn all the way to the checkpoint at Kufstein Castle. Then along smaller valley roads to Lofer and twist through the mountains and into Berchtesgaden for the hill-climb to the Kehlsteinhaus which is way up to your right as you come into Berchtesgaden. Just over the mountains to your left as you drive toward Lofer are the mountain huts where Reinhard Gehlen , wartime head of Military Intelligence on the Ostfront and subsequent head of West German Intelligence, escaped to during the closing days of the war.
Back down almost into Berchtesgaden and along the valley road to Salzburg and it's huge Schloss towering above the town. Now we are starting to run among lower peaks and along the Autobahn to Linz and thence to Steyr and the home of the Steyr-Mannlicher Scout Rifle .
Return along the valley roads to Ebensee, Bad Ischl, Golling and the checkpoint at Schloss Hohenwerfen . While usually snow clear, the biggest hazard to fast driving on these valley roads is black ice forming when the sun goes in.
Now down the valley road to Zell to leave an offering to the Gods of Speed at Porsche family shrine, then it's attack attack attack attack up the Grossglockner and down into Dobbiaco and Cortina for another Downhill event in 'The Hidden Valley' which is just behind Cortina to the West on the Passo Falzarego and reached by cable-car up a huge rock wall. You descend, naturally, into a magnificent hidden valley at Lagazuoi and it's fast and long downhill all the way until you reach the stream and then you have to pole your way along the track by the stream bed until you reach the road and the waiting cars. We can smatter groups of targets in the rocks and trees to either side.
Then its into Merano for the parc fermé and overnight at Schloss Labers. Morning sees hard driving all day and the Stelvio, then check-point at St Moritz. Down the Maloja pass and through the Italian Lakes to Como, then into Aosta for the Grand St Bernard. Down along the relatively straight Swiss side of the Pass into Switzerland and Martigny then another hard pull on the Col de Forclaz and into French Haute Savoie to fly down the valley to the Finish.
There should be at least one ambush on each stage, with the targets up at the side of the road. Current Modus Operandi in Iraq is to shoot API straight through your own windshield and into the enemy vehicle, but this would make the rest of the stages a little draughty so we can omit this step.
Mussolini was captured on a section of the lake road where the road kinked out around a large boss of cliffs through a section hewn into the rock, similar to the scenario of the "Mafia Welcome" in The Italian Job (1969) Northern Italy swarmed with bandits and partisans at this time and German forces and anyone else had to be prepared to shoot as the target came up. The situation of the road block was chosen because vehicles slowed to take the kink in the road and visibility dropped to tens of feet. As you rounded the corner, there they were. Shoot, shoot fast and shoot to hit. That part of Northern Italy as yet unoccupied by the advancing Allies was in chaos, with the Communists holding some villages and mounting road-blocks as the Fascists held on to what they could in the wake of the retreating German forces. The Communists at their road-blocks were permitting German forces to pass unhindered but were capturing or shooting the Fascists, since to hinder the German retreat would only strengthen the Fascists and bring the weight of the Germans down upon them.
Mussolini had discussed with his followers whether they should shoot it out to the last or negotiate a surrender with the Italian Communists, without reaching a consensus. Some of the Blackshirts knew what was coming to them and were firmly against surrender. They wanted to shoot it out with their backs to the border, but others were in favor of negotiating a surrender. Mussolini's fateful last mission started when he left his base on Lake Garda to attempt to reach Milano and negotiate a surrender. The chaos, fighting and road-blocks meant that he never made it, but frankly, the no-surrender advocates were right. He would have been killed anyway.
SKILLS AND EQUIPMENT
Firearms: Use whatever you like and bring as much as you wish. There should be everything from arms-length in the dark around the corner of a battlement to shots on the glacier way out past Schloss Mudge. A 1911 and a Scout will keep the weight down.
If you think you can both benefit from and carry a .50BMG for the high mountain downhill stages then do it. From the Aiguille du Midi to 'the other side' at the Aiguille d'Entreves is a full four thousand meters. If it is not actually stormy in the mountains there is usually a strong but consistent crosswind, frequently without the turbulence you find on the plains. In the mountains the clear air and bright sunlight mean that targets may be spotted at tremendous distances, even with the naked eye. I spotted a group of skiers somewhere up above the Glacier de Talefre while were down on the Glacier du Tacul below the Requin Hut who were perhaps between two and three thousand meters away. At first, I did not spot the skiers, I saw the slight contrast in the snow produced by the Wedel of their tracks, then followed them downwards.
To further illustrate, the longest kill by a tank was at 5.1km during Gulf War I, by a British Challenger II, firing a rifled squash head AT round. Clear desert air and no obstructions. But the longest tank kill ever made was a at 7.5km by a German 88mm crew in the Caucasus . Clear air, no obstructions and elevated vantage points.
With the .50BMG you might shoot the best score if you could see the targets representing Blofeldt's henchmen descending a distant glacier to cut-off your escape, and you might hit first when the cable car rolls toward the target on the Point Helbronner from the halfway point at Gros Rognon, but it would make life difficult if the targets pop-up from behind a ridge in the ice thirty yards away.
In Alpine warfare, the normal equation of less weight of specialist devices in the siege train versus greater speed is so important it is nearly the governing equation. In ordinary Alpinism, you may insure your safety by taking more rope, more hardware for fixing the rope, more spare weather protection, but the added weight reduces your speed and over some routes, safety may be ensured only by speed: Only crossing between pre-dawn and midday before the sun has loosened the ice on the rocks or melted the resistance of the snow waiting to avalanche. Speed would save your life. In Alpine warfare, rather than just Alpinism, the man with the Scout would be lightest and fastest if escape, especially by ascent, became necessary, but the man hauling a truck propeller-shaft of a .50BMG would be able to control huge glacial intersections and mountain flanks. If you had a squad of say, six men, would it be advantageous to have one bring the .50BMG instead of his battle rifle ? What if only three men ? This is the equation.
Similarly with ambush-busting from the vehicle. You may consider using weapons which would remain in the vehicle and were only ever used to respond to an ambush.
Skis: Downhill, and of course free-heel Telemark for the Cross-Country stages.
Vehicles: In winter, you need narrow tires to make sure they sink through the snow onto the blacktop and give traction and sidewall-steering. Furthermore, cars with powerful engines and a lot of cam are nearly uncontrollable in these conditions. An old Mercedes-Benz diesel saloon will be faster on snow stages. Summer would benefit fast road cars, and the Alpine sections, fast light road cars like the Ferrari Dino. Of course, the fastest vehicles would be the Homologation Rally cars such as the Audi Quattro S1, the Porsche 959 (in Paris-Dakar trim or otherwise). I once had the privilege of being sprayed with gravel from all four wheels of Michelle Mouton's Quattro S1. A friend of mine once borrowed someone's 959 to go skiing and as you would expect, it was superb, save for the fact there is not enough space to stow (longer) skis internally like the Quattro, they have to go on the roof and the 959 wing precludes the classic 911 and VW Beetle minimalist conformal external ski-mount, the most elegant in the Automotive World. With two participants per car, then a fast saloon may make life easier. I think I'd take a classic Fifties Fintail Mercedes-Benz 220SE for historical accuracy, or the mighty 380SEL 6.3 liter saloon which was raced by AMG in the late Sixties. Once I had the privilege of spending a day with the 'M' in AMG and examining all manner or engines and components in his private and company workshops outside Stuttgart. Naturally I would have a Stick-Shift fitted to my 380SEL 6.3 although the original race version retained the Torque-Converter transmission.
Vehicles not to use:
+ The 'ambush' event on each stage would militate against track-cars with windows which do not open and the best performers would be vehicles like surplus Jeeps with fold-down windshields or a sedan with a quick-release sun-roof. We need to be thinking Pikes Peak and the Mille Miglia rather than Le Mans.
Scoring: Each stage can be scored on elapsed time and targets scored, giving an overall. There may be no overall leader if one team has the fastest times, but another the highest number of kills.
The overall winners should receive "The Black Bird", Corvus Corax: The Black Raven Trophy. Perhaps in Basalt or Lignum Vitae.
A silk top hat and silver-topped cane for the "Ladies Prize": Awarded by a panel of Ladies to the team which, in their opinion, completed "in best style" regardless of score.
A large wooden owl for the "Diners Prize": Awarded to the team who failed to raise themselves out of bed in time to start any of the stages.
A small silver spade mounted on a small wooden shield for the "Ditch-diggers Prize": Awarded to the team which came off the road the most times.
A small brass effigy of a contemplative monkey for the "Elden Carl" trophy: Awarded to anyone who completes the course on a motorcycle. Probably only awarded to Elden Carl by himself.
Silver cap-pins for course completion:
Course completion by the team would merit Silver Raven overlain on an Edelweiss
Individually, the participant completing all the driving would receive:
The Raven, overlain a two-spoke Jaguar-type knock-off;
the skiing, the Raven, overlain silver Skis.
So, with the route and events under our belt, let us shoot the documentary:
Scene One: Large snowbanks on a forest road. A white-painted wooden board a-top a wooden stave protrudes from the snow. The colors are glorious, glorious 35mm Technicolor with its magnificent reds and greens. The sign reads:
»In first two weeks of the month of February, the Kingdoms, Principalities, Dukedoms, Marks, Landgraviates, Bishoprics, Wehrkreis, Gau and Fiefs of Vaud, Nuechâtel, Fribourg, Bern, Luzern, Unterwalden, Schwyz, Uri, Glarus, Sankt Gallen, Graubünden, Valais, Ticino, Liechtenstein, Vorarlberg, Tirol, Tölzerland, Land Salzburg, Ober-Österreich, Kärten, Vinschgau, Adige, Lombardy and Savoy are all closed for the Annual Winter Corvidathalon. - By Order of His Imperial Majesty, The Holy Raven Emperor. [Imperial Raven Seal appended]«
The camera pans to a reporter next to the sign wearing a flap-hat and sheepskin coat, thick snow flakes fall gently
»And here, North-East of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on one of the forest stages of the Winter Corvidathalon, we await the overnight leaders from Reutte.«
The camera pans backwards, down the snow-covered track expectantly as the sound-man picks up the muffled roar of engines approaching.
Headlights play on trees down at a bend in the track. Suddenly, a '63 Ford Galaxie slews around the corner and, with a 427 SOHC big-block roar, begins charging toward the camera, which loses the pan as the car draws near and finally turns to see the reporter jumping back into the snow-bank as the Galaxie, still tail-sliding, sprays gravel and snow. The reporter tries to post-hole out of the snow-bank and then thinks better of it and announces
»Well... there's the leader, and ...and...here are the rest of the field«
The camera turns toward the sound of an un-corked straight-through exhaust system and light blazes, blooming all around the lens, as an Audi Quattro S1 with front bumper full of headlights crackles by, exhaust backfiring as it hits the rev-limiter.
The camera pans back, more headlights hit the trees and the soundman picks up the sound of a straining six sucking through SU's as an Aston Martin DB5 comes neatly around the corner and hares after the leaders.
There are lights packing the approach to the corner now and within sight of each other a Mercedes-Benz 200SE, a Porsche 959, a wartime BMW motorcycle and side-car team and three Mini Coopers slither around the corner.
The editor cuts to parc fermé at Haus Hohe Halde above Partenkirchen. The sound of approaching cars can be heard accelerating up the mountainside. The camera standing back to the rearmost gatepost pans to show a snow-covered Marshal waving two road flares to direct the approaching headlights hard left through the gates. It is snowing heavily and the camera lights reflect off the nearest big snow flakes. Snow banks are piled everywhere and as the first car pulls in, a '65 Shelby Mustang with two pairs of skis racked over the rear windshield. The Raven-head symbol of 'Scuderia Corax' overlain with the digits of its race number surmount its doors.
The camera pans to follow it, red brake light trails in the film, and the sound of the engine being downshifted muffled by the soft snow under the hull of the car and the snowbanks. The headlights swing in an arc around the driveway littered with signals trucks and mechanics' transporters. Another marshal steps forward to stamp the card, shoulders hunched against the heavy snowfall. One of the catering staff steps forward with a small salver bearing shot glasses and holds it within the driver's reach. The co-driver alights, as he opens his door, empty brass scatter into the snow. He pulls a rifle from the rear of the car and pads over to the truck marked "Armorer" to attend to some matter and the car pulls around in behind the house. The camera pans back to the road and more headlights and straining engines can be seen approaching up the mountainside. Preceded by two motorcycle out-riders, a Silver Audi S4 bearing the colors of the Corvid-in-Chief on fender-staffs hoves into view and pulls around through the gates to follow the other automobiles into the yard.
The editor cuts to footage from around the other stages:
+ Aerial film of one of the downhill hare-and-hounds ski chase, with skiers at speed winding through small groups of trees overdubbed with the theme from On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) followed by more aerial footage of helicopters circling Piz Gloria while Ravens jump from the helicopters into snow-banks shooting upwards at targets on the concrete super-structure.
+ An Raven on free-heel skis, rifle on back, gasped breath condensing as he poles hard across a gently sloping tree-lined meadow toward a waiting Fintail Mercedes-Benz, the driver anxiously telegraphing on the throttle, as the Raven dives through the open window of the rear door. The driver drops the clutch and the engine strains as he fish-tails the car away, past several other cars, the Ski-Raven's feet and skis still outside the Mercedes' rear-window like a side-mounted ski-rack.
+ Shots from the roof of the Feuerkogel cable car winding-house at Ebensee as the cars arrive at the checkpoint with Ron Goodwin's Where Eagles Dare (1968) theme overdubbed. The camera pans from the parking lot below to the cables as they ascend up the mountainside for 2000m to where the Schloss Adler was supposed to be.
+ Aerial footage of a Ju-52 dropping parachutists, 'the Hounds', onto a white glacial high mountain vista as the black dots of ski-borne Ravens schuss down the fall line of the valley.
+ Aerial footage of cars at speed on the valley roads, braking occasionally to take a kink in the road, icy peaks serrating the background, overdubbed with Sibelius' »Lemminkainen's Return« theme from the Kalevala Suite.
+ Low-angle track-level shots of the Kreigslok bursting from one of the Arlberg tunnels, white steam and sparks surrounding the matt black of the locomotive, with a wings-outstretched silver Raven adorning the width of the snout of the locomotive, its claws clutching a circular silver pine wreath over which are crossed a pair of silver skis and a silver Steyr Scout. A purple pennant bearing the symbol of the black Raven flies from a staff on either side of the chassis in front of the smoke deflectors. The editor then cuts to angular shots of the train hurtling through stations, day and night, overdubbed with the soundtrack music written by John Barry for the similar shots in From Russia with Love (1963).
+ Overdubbing from Resphigi's symphony »The Pines of Rome« as a close-on shot opening of sparkling refracted sunlight flashing off melt-water dropping from icicles on roadside boulders leads to the camera panning to an Alpine road in the Dolomites, focusing on the fast approaching car. The editor cuts to close aerial shots of cars winding through the twisty Dolomitic pink limestone crags and bosses scattered with pine trees in bright sunlight.
+ Aerial shots of the cars thundering up the approaches to the windings at mountain passes in bright sunlight with light snow conditions and the incomparable Ron Goodwin's soundtrack from 633 Squadron overdubbed. The editor cuts to the camera set into the snowy road surface which films the straight, fast approach of a open Mercedes-Benz 300SLR as it flashes overhead, and cuts to the shot of it disappearing over the reversed camera, with a huge mountain vista crowning the upper background. The narrator breaks in with a rabble-rousing build-up over the staccato notes from French Horns which hold the last decaying note of their salute
"Yes, nine thousand kilometers, eighty-six thousand rounds of ammunition, two-hundred and fourteen tire changes,..."
the mountain vista begins to be optically overlain with the full screen height image of the fabulous "Black Bird" rotating gently to receive the admiration of the viewers. The narrator continues:
"....seven Schloss, twelve Mountain Passes and five different Countries. That was the 2006 Carrera Pan-Alpina...."
As you may observe, there are just one or two small, but significant, obstacles to the realization of the full-house Carrera Pan-Alpina, over and above the fact we don't own Mitteleuropa from the Baltic to the Adriatic: In order to have sufficient snow for the ski events, we need to go in winter, between January and March. In order to have insufficient snow to cross some of the higher passes, we need to go in high summer, between mid-June and October. Passes which are no longer needed for communication, such as the Furkapass, are left blocked until May. The Furkapass itself is under-passed by a rail tunnel which carries autos on flatbeds. The Grand St Bernard has a road tunnel which underlies the pass, leaving only the lower valley sections of road to be kept swept. In May they send a snow blower up to drill through the accumulated ice and snow from the actual pass itself, which takes around a week. In seasonal mirror image, the lower sections of some of the downhill ski routes suffer from lack of snow cover in poor snow years. The lowermost section of the Vallée Blanche downhill, from Montenvers to Chamonix nearly never has snow cover and there are sections where you have to get off and walk. Same for all the sections which descend into Lauterbrunnen although Grindelwald being a little higher does retain snow better. St Anton is snow-sure but Cortina is too sunny although the Hidden Valley is north facing and shielded from the sun.
Some of the lowest sections of the skis slopes only have snow cover in the really big winters like 1951, 1996, 1999, but again these very heavy snowfalls leave roads blocked for miles around, and tourists being pulled out by helicopter, hay and fuel being air-dropped to farmsteads by the air force.
Of course, this is not a great obstacle for Cecile DeMille, because he can order snow blowers to be sent up in February to clear the passes required for the event. If they were cleared for the event, it would leave magnificent snow-banks which make for a superb rally course. The Finns would feel more at home because they like to tail-slide the automobile on snow while slinging the rear of the car against snow-bank.
Chamonix -> Geneva -> Col de la Faucille -> Jura -> Bern -> Jungfrau -> Meiringen -> Haslital -> Grimselpass -> Furkapass -> Andermatt -> Chur -> Vaduz -> Feldkirch -> St Anton -> Flexenpass -> Lech -> Reutte -> Garmisch-Partenkirchen -> Inn valley -> Kufstein -> Ellmau -> St Johan im Tirol -> Lofer -> Steinpass -> Berchtesgaden -> Kehlsteinhaus ("Eagle's Nest") -> Salzburg -> Linz -> Enns -> Steyr -> Bad Hall -> Pettenbach -> Gmunden -> Ebensee -> Bad Ischl -> Halstatt -> River Lammer -> Golling -> Werfen -> Zell-am-See -> Grossglockner -> Dobbiaco -> Cortina D'Ampezzo -> Sterzing -> Jaufenpass -> Meran/Merano -> Vinschgau -> Stelvio pass/Stilfersjoch -> Bórmio -> Passo di Foscagno -> Passo d'Éira -> Livigno -> St Moritz ->
St Moritz -> Maloja pass -> Splügen pass -> San Bernardino Pass -> Bellinzona -> Locarno -> A4
St Moritz -> Maloja pass -> Lake Como -> Dongo -> Como -> A4
A4 -> Ivrea -> Aosta -> Grand St Bernard -> Martigny -> Col de Forclaz -> Chamonix
CHAMONIX AND HAUTE SAVOIE
Chamonix and Savoy can be seen in perspective here:
Good History and Maps:
Whymper and the conquest of the Alps:
The Shelleys and Frankenstein:
Some good shots of Bern in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. In the back-projection used during Draco's conversation with his daughter as they ride in the Rolls Royce, you can see the long street of stone-arcaded shops which lead down to the stone bridge they cross in the opening scene.
South facing Panorama:
The station you see Bond arriving at is Lauterbrunnen station and through a rather unusual combination of camera angle and lens the train looks like it is descending into Lauterbrunnen when in fact it has climbed the grade from the valley at Interlaken.
You can see a superb shot of the huge cliffs which line the valley about Lauterbrunnen, very briefly, in the scene where Bond is carried up to Piz Gloria in a helicopter in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. If you watch closely as the party are mounting the sleigh at the station, there are one or two frames for the valley itself.
Click on Race Course:
The Kandahar ski club, founded by snow-maddened Britishers.
One of the snow-maddened Britishers was Andrew Irvine :
"When I am an old man, I will look back on Christmas 1923 as the day when to all intents and purposes I was born. I don't think anyone has lived until they have been on skis."
subsequently killed on Everest with Mallory in 1927.
MEIRINGEN and the Reichenbach Falls
The ascent to view the falls is made on the right hand side where there is a cheesball cog-railway to convey hundreds of tourists. The ascent to view the place where Holmes and Moriarty struggle is made up the left hand side on foot over rotted tracks. The place is marked on the rock above the ledge you are standing upon. Use caution as the track is falling away at points and there is a guardrail in some places but it is rickety.
Here is what it looked like in Sir Arthur's day:
If I remember correctly there is a handrail at the right hand side now, and there is a white circle on the rocks above where Holmes and Moriarty struggled to enable tour guides on the other side of the ravine to point out the location. Meiringen has a Sherlock Holmes museum and seems to be besieged by Sherlock Holmes fanatics for the summer months.
Stans and the Pilatus factory used in Goldfinger (1963):
You are now looking at the hangars (the blue bar center frame) which you see in profile from the right, where Bond conceals himself against the mountain:
In fact just behind the factory complex as we look at it, there are a series of military ranges where pistol instruction is given.
HILL-CLIMB - BERGRENNEN
Switzerland banned motor racing in 1955 after the disastrous crash at Le Mans and so further restricted the opportunities for restarting hill-climb races.
A good history of the inter-war Hill-Climb series may be found here:
A very good list complete with maps:
Many are being run as 'old-timer' races and like historic sports car racing events everywhere are terrific social events.
The Oberjoch pass, just East of Sonthofen in the Allgäu:
A race prepared FIAT Cinquecento entering the Jochenpass hillclimb. The pass was called the Adolf Hitler Paß in 1938 but for some reason there was a change of mind in 1945 and its original name was returned.
The Eibsee at Garmisch-Partenkirchen:
The Schauinsland - above Freiberg:
Ollon-Villars hillclimb in Switzerland, about ten minutes from Montreux:
ST ANTON im Arlberg:
Click on Information then Ski Panorama
VSOE operates the rolling stock:
- A good history of the CIWL: Seat 61
In fact the Imperial train can follow the event from Chamonix, which is served by standard-gauge, to Geneva (although not the Old Town) to Bern and thence to Interlaken (change to narrow gauge cog-railway) for Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald, and not only that but up to Kleine Scheidegg and then through the Eiger to the Jungfraujoch. Then back to the standard guage at Interlaken to St Anton, Garmisch, Kufstein, Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Linz, Werfen, Zell, Dobbiaco, Meran, St Moritz, Maloja pass (see von Ryan's Express), Como, Milano, Aosta, Martigny, Chamonix.
This view looking approx West:
Thiw view looking North. Füssen is left:
Feast on this lot:
On the map, we approach from the north and pull off the road directly under the first ruin. Sadly, none of these shots show the Schloss from low on its flanks, which is its most forbidding aspect.
Try not to use this on the way down the Zirlerberg :
if you click on the photograph of the Schloss, the Stimmersee and Haus Rudel is just behind the mountain to the upper right
BERCHTESGADEN & THE KEHLSTEINHAUS
This is the only photograph I have ever seen of the bridge under Soviet control:
ZELL am See
Looking south in the photograph the ski area is up to your right. At the end of lake just around the corner is the Porsche shrine. Out of sight to the left of the lake is Bruck and Schloss Fischorn, as is the entrance to the Grossglockner. The valley road runs left to right across the background.
Dolomitti Super Ski
The story of the Coppa D'Oro Dolomiti is told in the magnificent photographic volume "Polvere E Gloria - La Coppa d'oro delle Dolomiti (1947-1956)" by Gianni Cancelliere and Cesare De Agnostini, Giorgio Nada Editore. I think we will commission them to document the Carrera Pan-Alpina, such is the standard of their work.
GRAND ST BERNARD
The Pilgrims' route, the Via Francigena:
A bit of atmosphere:
While at meeting of the Mercedes-Benz Owners Club I spotted a Mercedes-Benz 600 sedan from the mid-sixties. Most frequently one sees these on newsreel in the stretched version which every head of state outside of Europe and North America uses to move around in. So much so that the actual 600 sedan seems to be quite rare. You can see an example of the un-stretched 600, just for a second, at the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service where Blofeld and Irma Bunt shoot at Bond's Aston Martin. The particular example of the 600 I found myself in front of had been purchased in Switzerland from its first owner, a Swiss businessman. The present owner lived in Stuttgart and had sought to fit his car with the aforementioned flagstaffs. His search was a long one but it ended with an obscure club known as the Bonn Diplomatic Drivers Club, which had been formed by the embassy drivers from Bonn/Bad Godesburg during the Cold War. Remembering this conversation while I was writing this, on a whim, I did a web search and sure enough, they are now on the web:
+ Bonn Diplomatic Drivers Club
MAPS - DRIVING
In addition to a road map or Europe, a road map of the Alpine region is very useful since there are so many borders that using the maps of individual Alpine countries becomes impractical. My favorite is the Kümmerly and Frey 1:500,000.
MAPS - ORIENTATION
The most celebrated maker of orientation maps is Herr Berann who prepares maps which are a view of the terrain as if from a high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The best Berann map for our purposes views the Alps as if from the north, high over Bohemia, looking south to the Adriatic centered not un-naturally on Modena. So effective are they you can almost hear the steady hiss of the airflow past the canopy.
There were some very similar maps prepared during the Second World War for most theaters of operations to aid with logistical planning and I have a number as images. I will see if there are any of the Alps.
The 1:500,000 NATO air charts come are unwieldy second to Berann's magnificent output but are much better than nothing at all.
Here is a selection of Herr Berann's work:
The most useful Alpine panorama is published by www.landkartverlag.de ISBN 3-85491-943-4
MAPS - SKIING
The Swiss topographic series from LDS is magnificent. Not only do they publish excellent topographic maps from 1:25,000 upwards but different maps for summer and winter marked with either ski routes or walking routes.
Switzerland is a handy size for map-making and they produce a superb 1:300,000 topographic map of the whole of Switzerland which is essential for planning any adventure and is so good, the purchase of the 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 maps only becomes necessary for the purposes of redundancy.
The French topographic series from IGN runs a very close second, if not equal, to the Swiss LDS and are never to be found wanting. So much for the good news. The Austrians have their Alpine regions mapped to almost the same quality as LDS and IGN but the low country topographics are not easy to obtain. In Italy, stay on the Swiss maps as long as you can, then do your best with the Italian topos. Parts of Italy are not even mapped yet, at least not by Italians. The Soviet General staff had the entire world mapped at 1:50,000.
The area to the East of Mont Blanc ("Vallée Blanche") is mapped by IGN, LDS and the Italian IGC and thus is a handy place to compare the quality of the cartography.
Actual piste-maps are available over the web these days.
Alpine touring is served largely by texts in German, varying from coffee-table tasters to comprehensive guides covering every pass and track which could be negotiated by motorcycle.
However, without doubt the best book on the Alpine passes was written by an English Alpinist and author: Hugh Merrick, who in 1958 wrote The Great Motor Highways of the Alps. He includes many diagrams of the Alps, their watersheds and passes which offer by far the best orientation I have ever seen.
A useful addition if you would prefer the "chef's choice" is
Die schönsten Pässe und Höhenstraßen der Alpen by Dieter Maier which offers very pleasant A4 coffee-table presentation, each chapter offering a circular excursion, well illustrated by specially drawn maps.
Without doubt the definitive reference work is
Grosser Alpen Strassen Führer by Eduard Denzel and Harald Denzel Denzel-Verlag ISBN 3-85047-763-0
and was first assembled by Eduard Denzel in 1956. However, it is so detailed that I would not use it without first reading Merrick's work. Denzel lists to a level of detail only navigable by the on-off road touring motorcycles.
Map of Alpine Countries covered by the Grosser Alpen Führer by Eduard Denzel.
There is much information on the web, but mainly in German:
Good list in English:
A good selection of Swiss passes:
There may be more in English language now and if you enter the names of a number of passes into a web search engine then you might come up with something.
Alpine touring is most noticeably the province of motorcycle tourers from all of the Alpine countries (largely German) but packs of sports cars do feature and the respective owners clubs from each country stage either tours or meets, frequently staged at some attractive location on the opposite side of the Alps to their own country in order to necessitate cutting a decent size wedge of Alpine driving on the journey.
You do not need a lot of information unless you have specific objectives to reach and more information will tend to confuse rather than inspire. A copy of Merrick, a Berann Panorama and a 1:500,000 Alpine map will give you everything you need.
Linguistic note on alternative names:
Passes may be marked as one or all of the following, depending on the language of the cartographer:
<Acme>pass <Acme>paß , Passo del <Acmeo> , Col de <Acmé>
Alternative names for the Nazi counterfeiting operation:
Cable cars may be referred to by a number of names:
Cable Car , Télécabine, Seilbahn.
and the smaller ski-lifts have a much greater variety names.
Likely in these days of wireless telegraphy and jet propulsion, there will be moving-maps available for your hand-held digital device. No doubt someone will have gone one better and produced an overlay of the mountain passes, as well as other useful overlays for these regions: Position of Schloss, historical political borders and occupation zones, a rolling overlay of Allied advance, battlefield maps from both World Wars, the Napoleonic, Thirty Years War, historic rally routes (Liége-Sophia-Liége, Liége-Rome-Liége), hill-climbs, wartime installations and headquarters. This device will certainly save a great deal of weight
We are but one step removed from genuinely useful, which would be a three-dimensional representation of the world in space, enabling us to perform reconnaissance-in-theory and with historical overlays, visit times past. These would be very useful when they began to include detail at the level of building interiors, since there would be no need for rehearsing missions by hunching around a model of the Schloss Adler: We could enter it and be fully familiar with its interior before leaving base.
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