For whatever reason, I couldn’t wait for my Swiss holiday and it was a wonderful feeling when the great day arrived. Well, that was the day before I flew, as I went to Gatwick and, as usual, checked in with easyJet the moment I arrived before staying again at the Travelodge.
The flight the following morning was fine and I had a longer than usual journey to my first hotel in Maloja – pronounced Maloya: I only found out when I was on the bus and wondered where the hell I was – but this was self-inflicted. I was going to Maloja to continue my Where Eagles Dare quest before finding out, a few days earlier, that the aircraft used still flies people around Switzerland and further and, as she is based in Dubendorf, a suburb of Zurich, I determined to go there as I was flying into Zurich. Let me say at this stage that this information and also that of Maloja, through the generosity of other people with similar interests to mine, is readily available on the internet and it was remiss of me not to have taken note earlier of their efforts regarding the Junkers plane. I am preparing my own little memoir which I hope to be able to show next year.
Anyway, no such luck with the plane at that stage. Saturdays are flying days and I wasn’t surprised when she wasn’t there. Forty and sixty minute trips – as well as other longer and chartered flights – can be booked through www.airforcecenter.ch and I certainly hope to go on one next year but have already, understandably, been told that it is not possible to book on to the one used in the film, HB-HOT, for a given date. Luck will need to play its part but let’s see.
I have been to St Moritz twice but never further. I have been fortunate to enjoy Switzerland around sixty times but the fun continues and this Engadine area is spectacularly nice. High too with most tourist towns lying between 6500 to 7000 feet above sea level. With a blocked-up nose and, whilst far from complaining, very hot weather, I suspect that I noticed it! I had booked into the sister hotel of the Schweizerhaus, the Postli, but on arrival was told that I had been upgraded to the Schweizerhaus which was very nice of them. There are few hotels in Maloja, being a smaller town than Silvaplana, Sils Maria and, naturally, St Moritz, but the Schweizerhaus is the type of hotel which I enjoy as it’s older. The staff are very friendly and it was a lovely place to stay. A discount on food for guests staying for a minimum of three nights was also welcome. As it turned out, I have unfinished business on my Where Eagles Dare exploits so do hope to return.
The Where Eagles Dare business involved a walk to the Forno Glacier to see the place where, early in the film, the stuntmen/parachutists were dropped. Again, I am grateful for information on the internet and duly plodded up the mercifully steady ascent to the glacier. It is an easy walk to the Lago da Cavloc, a beautiful lake before the more desolate and barren landscape half an hour or so later. The path – well, it becomes far less clearly defined amongst the rubble of stones, is not vastly challenging and certainly, for interest and landscape, was one of my favourites. On the way up, I did wonder if some of the opening scenes of the film might also have been filmed in this region. I have watched the relevant part since and, whilst not entirely convinced, am neither disabused of the possibility also. Something further to delve into...
Okay, so people may think me daft at times and, whilst I am not remotely unhappy about this, I didn’t go to the Forno Glacier just to say that I have visited another Where Eagles Dare filming location, albeit a brief one. I had recently been back to my old cricket club in Swindon and been encouraged to return to playing – happily in the fourth team, the lowest apparently. I am by no means convinced or certain but others are more enthusiastic than, at this stage, I am. I haven’t bowled a ball in seven or eight years so where better to give it a go than the Forno Glacier where the only – I hope – spectators were rocks and a glacier. Armed with crampons, I didn’t entrust any returning skill to the glacier as its slope would pour scorn on the many commentators who give their views on the Lord’s wicket. Well, after much looking about to ensure no-one was about to witness this return to non-competitive cricket, I gave it a go. The action looks okay, the flight is still there and it seemed an age, as usual remembering my non-existent speed, before the ball plopped into some sludge somewhere near a crevasse. I must, though, say that I am yet to be convinced and was duly alarmed when I saw three walkers close by. My competitive juices may have been later encouraged not so much by a more elderly man bearing down on me on my way back to Maloja – I cannot bear being overtaken often in Switzerland – but because I didn’t want him saying anything about this brief, cricketing spectacle. Well, anyway, I can say that I have bowled a cricket ball at possibly 7,200 feet although I cannot say that the rarefied air contributed to the slowness of the ball’s descent.
After recovering from this six-and-a-half-hour jaunt, the following day was much easier. No cricket – too many walkers along a flat path from Samedan to Silvaplana – and a very gentle and beautiful walk. I had visited Samedan Airport to take photos, Where Eagles Dare having also featured from there very briefly. It’s an odd place, a few signs saying no entrance and keep to the main pedestrian path alongside the runway. It’s a very beautiful spot especially as the weather on the two full days I had was completely wonderful. When I stopped for my packed lunch, a rustling underneath me turned out to be a little dog waiting, it turned out, very patiently but imploringly for some lunch. Its mistress came along and asked that I didn’t feed it but I was hard-pushed to tell whether the dog was looking at the cheese biscuits or the red wine. Impeccably behaved it was, I must say, although I suspect that it thought that I was an easy picking.
The delightful Schweizerhaus in Maloja



Forno Glacier, Maloja



Whoever complains about the Lordís slope? My first bowl for seven or eight years close to the Forno Glacier around 7200 feet



Area around Samedan which was used briefly in the shooting of Where Eagles Dare



Not this year...



St Moritzís leaning tower and Cresta Run rider statue



St Moritzís idyllic setting



The Junkers 52 at Dubendorf: the aircraft used in Where Eagles Dare



A dream which came true surprisingly quickly. Inside the Where Eagles Dare plane



The wonderful Silberhorn Hotel in Wengen



A typical Swiss scene with the Eigernordwand in the background



The wonderful Lauterbrunnen Valley



Our train travels over the Landwasser Viaduct
My short stay in Maloja was wonderful. A successful, enjoyable and warm one and well worth the subsequent nine-hour an eight change journey to Wengen. Once again, I am extremely grateful to Cornelia Thierstein and her colleague, Jasmin Kern, for allowing me to stay so reasonably at their Silberhorn Hotel whilst eating at their Belvedere Hotel ( and meeting them in their Wengener Hof Hotel). The Wengen Classic Hotels have an awful lot to recommend themselves for and I am lucky to have many friends there.
The journey was made longer by another attempt at Dubendorf. Without ever feeling that I was going to be lucky, I did think that Tuesday offered a better chance of a sighting than Saturday and, on arrival at the airfield, I was delighted to see that HB-HOT, A-702 was in the hangar. Dragging my now two-wheel suitcase at great noise – I had been offered help probably to cut down on the noise on Saturday – I tried my luck in the hangar but no-one was available. I therefore tried again in the main centre in my best German but, slightly tongue-tied, had to admit that I was English which may have helped. The initial omens weren’t promising but a very kind lady who was just opening the shop, asked me to wait and a few people came out to have a look at this person who had also casually left his suitcase by the main entrance and, unbelievably, I was ushered through and taken to the hangar. I get the impression that this maybe isn’t standard practice and I am tremendously grateful to all concerned as naturally I made clear.
What’s more, the mechanics/technicians working on the famous aircraft told me to enjoy this eighty-year-old aircraft and go inside, their only stipulation being to watch my head as I am 6 feet 5 inches tall. As it turned out, there was ample room and a dream, albeit a recent one as mentioned earlier, came true. People hope, people dream and I am one of them but never did I expect to remotely be allowed inside and had never even considered it but I was just left to it and, when I went to say thanks, I was invited in to see other parts of the aircraft and to be shown the work which goes on. I fancy that I am extremely lucky and only hope that all the people concerned know how very grateful I am to them especially as they would not accept anything for this fantastic opportunity . Now, on this score, I am satisfied but would still love to fly on her. For those interested, I hope that you may enjoy the photos with, as I say, more to come.
The Wengen weather sadly wasn’t that special but never mind, that’s what mountains can bring. I did a lot of walking and was lucky that it usually rained during the night and, whilst some days may not have been special, it was at least okay whilst walking. On the first full day, I took the cable car to the Mannlichen before enjoying probably the easiest walk in the area to Kleine Scheidegg and then downwards to Grindelwald, a walk of around three and three quarter hours in total.
Wednesday wasn’t a great success. It didn’t rain but the weather was on the whole dreary and, having decided before the holiday started to take on different walks, I tried to go to Isenfluh, little more than a hamlet close to Lauterbrunnen so pretty much directly opposite Wengen. I decided on a more circuitous route, followed the signs which directed me through a farm of cows and pigs and then ever upwards. Okay, I wasn’t greatly certain but, seeing the red and white mountain path signs, walked slightly unwillingly up a high path with the weather still tolerable. Inevitably, at the top, conditions were far worse and visibility, at around 7,200 feet, weren’t especially good. In the absence of any other walkers, the only life was a cow or two and, whilst I wasn’t especially concerned, I was glad to find a path down and return to better visibility. The whole walk took five and a quarter hours and the beer in the Schutzen in Lauterbrunnen most welcome.
Further walks during my stay took me to the First area: a delightful flat walk from Grosse Scheidegg but a harrowing descent for the shins! The weather was mostly gorgeous which was more than could be said of the last day when, armed with a hotel umbrella, I took the very low level walk from Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken to buy presents.
Last year, there had been an accident on the Lauterbrunnen to Interlaken line which led to a missed connection and a slightly anxious onward journey to Geneva Airport. This time, booked on the same flight and using the same trains, there were no such obstacles to Interlaken. The third part of the journey to Bern provided this year’s worry when the train broke down just minutes outside of Bern and meant another missed connection and further anxiety. I knew that, on both occasions, as long as I only missed one connection, there would be another option half an hour later which would at least still give me a fair enough chance of making the flight but it was nonetheless still weighing heavily on my mind especially as the last train was delayed also. Maybe I’m being told something but, once again, everything turned out happily after another splendid week.