I had more Where Eagles Dare antics in October after visiting Maloja for a day's trip from Chiavenna, a beautiful spot in Northern Italy. The idea of returning there was to test my hunch that some of the filming of the early stages of Where Eagles Dare (predominantly during the credits) might have been filmed around this part of Switzerland. I had read that the parachute drop was filmed by the Forno glacier, also by Maloja.
The trip started onerously, however. I breathed slightly more easily when I read that the latest batch of rail strikes would take place the days before I travelled to Gatwick and my return. What then muddied the waters was that I went to Gatwick on a Sunday when there were engineering works... A further complication was that the local bus to the Travelodge did not operate after 8 p.m. due to roadworks. The anticipated Guildford to Gatwick replacement rail bus was then cancelled and finished at Redhill so my apparently simple journey thereby involved changes at Reading, Guildford, Redhill and Horley from where I ditched the idea of going to Gatwick to check in my bag for the 7 a.m. flight to Milan Linate the next day, and instead walked to the Travelodge.
I fear that I was at my most perverse. In the event of the roadworks causing travel difficulties the following morning, I saw a path on Google Maps behind the Travelodge which would lead to Gatwick through a wood. It was indeed there: a tad muddy, very dark, little fun but I did materialise to some possibly surprised drivers by the roundabout near the North Terminal. If you go down in the woods today... I decided that I should try the bus first the following morning.
At 3:22 a.m. I was awoken by the telephone which I had set as one of my three alarms. It wasn't the alarm, though, which woke me but a text message from easyJet saying that the flight had been cancelled. Great. I had thirty minutes of free wi-fi at the Travelodge to rebook myself and work something out. The computer was too slow to cope with that so back I trudged through the woods again, complete this time with case - seriously, it was quicker than any bus - and I tried to find a human with whom I might make rearrangements to fly to Milan's Malpensa Airport at the same time. It wasn't that straightforward.
Someone did eventually help me but wondered why I hadn't rebooked online. I recognise that I am not one of the many people I see marooned on mobile 'phones, and can usually do what I need to on a computer but I did rather hope to find a desk with a human being there to help. Equally, I was a bit dismayed at the late cancellation of the flight. Anyway, the lady started by saying that I needed to leave two clear hours for any change before the flight departure and I had to point out that I had. Just. My days working in travel may be over but I do not forget three-letter city codes and felt that I had to point out that the MPL she had typed into the computer would take me to Montpellier and ventured that MXP was the place I was after. Anyway, I was grateful to her for getting me to Italy again.
Everything back on an even keel, I was soon at Malpensa and recovered the situation (via a different route) to reach Chiavenna quite comfortably. However disappointing the late cancellation had been, easyJet were extremely quick in refunding the extra rail expenses incurred in travelling from Malpensa rather than Linate, and in paying compensation.
Chiavenna is a delightful place. I stayed at the very pleasant and convenient Hotel Crimea which is convenient for the station and town. The buildings in Chiavenna are impressive, as is the mountainous scenery in this general area. The old part has a river running through and the buildings are quaint.
One slight issue which I didn't quite fathom out was the times of eating, a lot of the places having closed for an evening meal by 6 p.m. It happened on all three evenings and, whilst I did find somewhere and something to eat, I had expected to do better. Maybe they opened up later in the evening? I certainly didn't see any evidence of that, though. Whatever, it worked out but not quite as I had expected.
My heart sank when I saw a group of teenagers in the hotel. Unfortunately, my room was close to one occupied by the said group and they sadly failed to realise that others were staying in the hotel and may not have wanted to hear their rowdiness. Every time they made a noise, a dog in the next room to mine started to bark for good measure. Ultimately, it sounded as if, when the noise started up again, the dog's owner unleashed the dog in the corridor and a row ensued between the dog's owner and the boys which continued for fully ten minutes. It did quieten them down and, one hopes, they may recognise that they have much to learn with their manners. Anyway, that apart, the hotel was very nice and a good breakfast was served.
I had bought a bus ticket from Chiavenna to Maloja via the SBB website beforehand. It isn't cheap, costing around CHF39 for a return ticket but the scenery is spectacular on the hour's journey. The weather was good and the mountains clear when I reached Maloja, where I had stayed a few years ago. I had pored over maps trying to find a route to reach La Margneta where a ridge between that and Piz da la Margna is where I wished to test my hunch about the possibility of the plane's flight path at the start of the film.
Good intentions. Dashed again. God knows where I went wrong this time but maybe it was just that bit further than I had anticipated. The long and short of the day is that I didn't get quite the view - the view that the pilot would have had - to be more optimistic about this hunch. I think that it could be correct, but still cannot be sure. I have played back the relevant part of the film and compared the terrain with my photos (taken in a different light) and there are, to me, reasons for optimism. Who knows, though? In any event, it was a lovely walk. Maloja is a popular destination with its lakes and mountains and a fairly short distance from St. Moritz.
I knew that my return journey from Chiavenna back to Milan would likely involve a change of train in Monza, where the grand prix circuit was opened 100 years ago. Being in Monza Park, I hoped that I might be able to walk around and see parts. In fact, the Monza Grand Prix website (monzanet.it) advertised occasional trips which included tours of the main buildings as well as a lap of the track in a minibus. That week there was one such date - the one when I was returning to Milan from Chiavenna so I leapt at the opportunity.
I read the details and suspected that I would not be able to do both the tour and the lap of the track as the times would likely overlap so I just booked the track tour. As it happened, I was there very early on and was pleased that I could leave my case there as there was nowhere at Monza Station (itself quite a distance from the track, and which requires a bus to Vedano and then a 20 to 30 minute walk to the tour reception).
My understanding of the two tours was proved to be incorrect so I gladly paid the 30 euros for both the tour and track ride. It was excellent, and money very well spent.
The very pleasant Crimea Hotel in Chiavenna

A further photo of Chiavenna

My hunch is that it could have been this mountain where the aircraft made the right turn in the early stages of Where Eagles Dare

Although not from the pilot's point of view, the mountain in the previous photo would look towards Piz Corvatsch (above). Could it be the same one as seen in the film?


The memorial to Juan Manuel Fangio, three-time race winner at grands prix held at Monza
And the winner is... Monza podium
Jump start by our transport for a lap of Monza?
Standing ahead of the Monza start line
Lights out at Monza
Church in Busto Arsizio

The tour took in the main administrative building which included the media centre, Race Control, rooms for the use of drivers and the podium. Old photos adorned the walls of the corridor - wow: health & safety would have been stumped for words - well, probably not, actually - at seeing the lack of run-off areas, photographers on the track's grass verges, and even tanks on the track (celebrating the end of World War II) - all of which I found fascinating. There seemed to be some knowledgeable souls within our 20-strong group too, a tour which was conducted in English.

Excellent as race coverage is on the television, it is impossible to quite gauge the length of the opening straight of the Monza track. Yes, it is called The Temple of Speed but it still came as quite a shock to see the straight line distance from the last corner, past the start line and down to the first (and tight) corner. This was actually my third time at Monza having been for two Grands Prix but the first time that I had seen the main grandstand area. It was very impressive.

The chap in the Reception building took the tour and was excellent, friendly and informative. It fell to his female colleague to drive us around the track in a minibus. It rekindled some recent, bizarre dreams I have encountered: leading a grand prix before sadly waking up; irritating Hamilton by going a tenth quicker in practice and, horror of horrors, getting lost on track in the middle of a Grand Prix! Going in a minibus may not be the same as going in a sports car etc but it was terrific fun. Down the straight to the first corner and, whoops, seeing the place where Verstappen and Hamilton had their coming together in 2021, before swerving around the corners, underneath the bridge (where I was once politely warned about standing, with a camera, during the race), round the corner and anticipating the roar of the Ferrari fans, and crossing the line in 4 minutes 22 seconds as my camera told me. Sergio Perez won the fastest lap this year, just three weeks beforehand, with a 1:24.030 lap so our lady did a worthy lap, gave us terrific entertainment, but would have been no threat to Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton etc. Actually, to no-one. She took it well as she did when I noticed that, had she started driving the next lucky group from the point where she stopped, a penalty would have been added to her time for a jump start. For me, I was delighted that she took three times longer so that I, and others, could delight in a lap of this famous course. I once had a couple of laps of Silverstone in a sports car and I see that other tracks, including Imola and Spa, offer similar tours. I'm on the case. My thanks go to the Monza circuit and the two people who took us around. It was great fun and something I would highly recommend.

I had my lunch in Monza Park, close to the main gate of the park. My daft sense of humour enjoyed a sign fractionally outside the park advising that we were now back in Vedano Al Lambro, adding underneath Velocita Controllata - speed controlled... Not so in The Temple of Speed.

I spent the last night near Malpensa Airport in a place called Busto Arsizio, just a 15-minute train ride from Malpensa Airport. I stayed in the B&B Il Fiordolisa which was also about 15 minutes walk from the railway station in Busto Arsizio. It took a bit of a while to find but was lovely. The lady spoke little English and my Italian is negligible but we coped pretty well and made ourselves understood. I rely quite heavily on hand signs. I do find languages interesting: in many cases, I can quite easily understand and read the languages well enough to get by even if the speech is more difficult. The B&B room was a good size and a nice breakfast was provided.

Another easyJet email arrived just as I was going to bed saying that the aircraft had changed and asked for check-in to be done again. I had neither a printer nor a mobile telephone capable of showing the new boarding pass so couldn't be bothered with it, slept well and was told at the airport the next morning that there was no need to worry about checking in again. The flight was slightly delayed but, in general, was fine. The next area of travel concern was the rail journey back, there still being a strike which I don't remember being there when the dates were first released. I did not see why I should pay more for a ticket to go back via London so took the closest available route to my via Guildford and Reading ticket and changed in Clapham Junction. It was impossible to go via Guildford due to the strike but I did manage the change in Reading and the ticket was accepted without complaint.

Travel (and maybe eating and noise) aside, I really do mean it when I say that it was a thoroughly nice and exciting trip.