007 Elements: follow in the snowprints of Daniel Craig
I am ensconced in a Bond villain-esque lair 3,048 metres above sea level, perched at an angle on the side of Austria’s Gaislachkogl mountain.
Meanwhile, on a screen in front of me, Daniel Craig is hurtling over a glacier road in a vintage aeroplane on a mission to rescue Dr. Madeleine Swann in a scene from 2017’s Spectre.
Only I’m stood in hiking gear, sans villains, wrapped up inside the sub-zero temperatures of the jaw-dropping Bond installation 007 Elements.
007 Elements is a 1,300-square-metre world of Bond, built into the summit of Gaislachkogl, the mountain which looms over the popular winter resort of Sölden.
To get to the summit, we rose early and hiked up the glacier road seen in the chase scene from Spectre. In the July sunshine, the setting looks entirely different, dotted with cows adorned with tinkling bells grazing in flower-filled meadows.
Sölden is famed for its fantastic glacier skiing - every October it attracts the world's best skiers to the Ötztal Valley for the now-traditional opening event of the FIS Ski World Cup. But against this sunny backdrop, it’s almost hard to imagine.
On the way up to Gaislachkogl, we stopped at traditional mountain lodge Gampe Thaya Hütte for brunch. All produce here is grown locally - Oberländer apples, Oberinntaler potatoes, Styrian pumpkin seed oil, north tyrolean vegetables and delectable mountain cheeses.
Sated, we continue our hike and reach 007 Elements. Accessed through a long black underground tunnel, visitors are immediately immersed in unforgettable scenes from 007 films on huge plasma screens, as well as iconic props and tech from the series.
Bond’s classic aeroplane is suspended in pieces in front of a glass wall in front of me, the real Alpine horizon behind. Exploding watches, the golden gun itself, Moore’s weaponised ski poles - they’re all here.
Stark and futuristic, the building is also ingenious - the temperature inside has to be kept below zero all year, as the structure could collapse if the surrounding permafrost were to thaw.
Austrian architect Johann Obermose faced numerous challenges building at altitude - permafrost, geological fault lines, the exposed mountainside location. And then there's the small matter of getting a vintage aeroplane and an Aston Martin DB10 up a mountain...
Next door is Ice Q, the highest gourmet restaurant in Europe. The restaurant sits on a moveable hydraulic foundation, offering a stupendously good 360° panoramic view of the Ötztal Alps. Owned by luxury 5* hotel Das Central, the minimalist mountaintop restaurant also has a Bond connection - it was originally the Hoffler Klinik in Spectre, the office of psychologist Dr. Madeleine Swann.
Ice Q cost an eyebrow-raising €4.5m to construct and is entirely energy efficient due to triple glazing and a heat recovery system. It also serves excellent white caviar, steak tartare, bouillabaisse and an exquisite truffle honey. Das Central has its own wine, Pino 3000, matured here at the summit of Gaislachkogl. “Wine tastes better matured at altitude. It means it's unaffected by the seasons, developing an unrivalled fruitiness”, my sommelier tells us with a twinkle in his eye.
Still hot on the trail of Bond, I spend the night at Das Central, not only the oldest hotel in Sölden but where the location scouts for Spectre stayed. Front desk staff greet me in traditional Tracht dress (lederhosen and dirndls) and the feel is instantly friendly, welcoming and laidback. The 125 rooms and suites are bigger than many cramped ski rooms and the hotel is 500 meters away from the main ski lift, with a private shuttle service. There’s also a Venetian-themed spa spread across three storeys with an impressive array of saunas, steam baths and relaxation rooms.
We join the fondue evening, here several times a week in the hotel's underground wine cellar. Surrounded by a collection of 30,000 bottles of wine, we sit at a long table laden with meats and a steady stream of the best cheese I’ve ever eaten. In fact, it’s so good that I ask the sommelier the blend - emmentaler, greyezer and appenzeller, if you’re interested.
There’s also a buffet every evening, as well as an à la carte menu offering a five-course feast. In the morning, guests can refresh themselves from the previous night's excesses thanks to a juicing room filled with organic fruit and vegetables.
Sölden is more than a spectacular ski destination - it’s also ideal for a summer vacation. This is a place where high-octane adventures can be found among traditional villages - for an example, look no further than the Electric Mountain music festival, held at the summit of Giggijoch every August.
Getting to Sölden is straightforward, thanks to direct flights from London to Innsbruck. From there, hire a car and and enjoy the road trip - it’s just over an hour through winding rivers, forests and panoramic Austrian landscapes.
Das Central, Sölden, Austria has double rooms available from €153 per person per night in the summer, based on two people sharing on a half board basis. All guests staying receive the Ötztal Premium Card, which includes journeys on the summer cable cars, entry to the swimming lakes and more. For further information and bookings, please visit central-soelden.com. Bike hire from Intersport Glanzer.
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