With 13.000 beds and over 2 million bookings per year, the city of Soelden has long been transformed from a traditional Austrian village into one of THE tourism hotspots of the Oetztal in Tyrolia. With just over 3.000 residents, the city does not even qualify as a city – it is literally a village, inflated with hotels to serve the needs of skiers and hikers alike. Wintersport is the dominating, economic factor.
Before cinematic hero James Bond descended onto Soelden in the winter of 2014/15 with a massive crew and equipment, other filmmakers have occasionally made use of the region. Alfred Hitchcock for instance. His second film “The Mountain Eagle” had brought him to the Oetztal Alps in 1926. Shot in Obergurgl on nitrate film and poorly received by critics for its lack of realism, Hitchcock was later happy when the film was lost. According to the Tyrolian Film Commission, it is the “most wanted film in the world”. Going off on a tangent.
How to make the transition from Hitchcock back to Bond? Ah, yes. While you will find next to nothing about Hitch’s lost work, it is undisputed that Bond left a lasting impression on the Oetztal and Soelden in particular. So much so, that the Bond brand has found its way into every media channel as an attractice and highly effective vehicle for advertising – from the official website to marketing campaigns for the region. You can even get Spectre pizza in town.
Now, Soelden boasts a brand-new attraction high up in 3.048 meters where the last James Bond film “Spectre” was prominently filmed. The cinematic installation 007 Elements, a symbiosis of concrete and glass, promises to be a unique highlight in the region.
Two days before the official opening of the cinematic installation, a selection of international Bondfans was invited to have a peek at the impressive structure from which the world hadn’t seen much beyond a series of official photos.
The ride up to 3.048m Gaislachkogl summit, with one of the fastest cableways in the world no less, only takes about 12 minutes. A lovely treat awaited us in one of the specially designed 007 Elements cable car gondolas: familiar compositions by John Barry put a smile on everyones face as we swiftly swept over the rugged mountainside towards the summit. No snow in July.
In the IceQ, now a world-famous film location after doubling as the Hoffler Klinik in “Spectre”, we were welcomed by Creative Director Neal Callow who provided us with an extensive insight into the collaborative brainchild that required a lot of careful planning. Also involved with realising the promising installation were cableway CEO Jakob Falkner, Tino Schaedler of American creative agency Optimist Inc. as well as architect Johann Obermoser who alse designed the IceQ.
With most of the installation being underground, built into the mountain, the complicated construction work with episodes of crazy weather and a hard winter season turned the project into a challenge for everyone involved, mainly the regional construction crews.
As I do not want to spoil the installation by writing a complete walkthrough, let me gather some thoughts instead.
Something that is ever present is the obvious nod to legendary production designer Sir Ken Adam, whose set designs have defined the unmistakable style of the James Bond films. He was the master architect of what has been reproduced here in concrete and glass – high and spacious rooms, the subtle and yet artful interplay of shapes, reflections and light.
The Plaza is a good example. An open space with a fascinating view towards the opposing mountains. It’s sharp, somewhat aggressive and yet so minimalistic and powerful. The only focus point: The family crest of the Bond family with the all too familiar motto – “Orbis non sufficit”, “The World is not enough”. Hate concrete as much as you want, this is a gorgeous example of how influential and representative the Bond brand is.
The history of the Bond franchise is presented visually via 360° video screens with superior sound. Some never before seen photos have found their way into the presentations and they are complimented by Naomie Harris telling you all there is to know about the journey of Bond through the decades.
The Tech Lab is where your interactivity is key. Cleverly conceived stations with blinking motion graphics that appeal to every young boys primal instinct, to press buttons and use touchscreens, give you insights on a couple of the famous gadgets, some of which, as EON archivist Meg Simmonds explained to us, are on display for the very first time. Among them, Bonds exploding glasses from “The World is not Enough”.
Last stop on the tour, and probably one of the most impressive, is a re-imagening of the Britten Norman Islander plane crashing through the wooden barn in the Action Room. The windows behind it point in the direction of the village of Obertilliach, where the spectacular final act of the snow chase was filmed. The leftovers of said crash have been carefully placed around the plane and form a truly striking piece of art, a still image of film history.
Outside again, surrounded by the majestic mountains, there was a lot of room for conversation with the creative minds behind 007 Elements. One particular question had followed me around for weeks, originating from several Austrian media reports about residents, who had complained that the new building constituted an intrusion into nature, referring to the Gaislachkogl summit.
Speaking to some residents in the village, both before and after the preview visit, it became clear to me, that people living and working in Soelden have actually welcomed Bond with open arms and can see the potential this new cinematic installation promises to bring to the region. Same as its creators, people are immensely proud and expectations are high.
Same goes for my fellow Bond aficionados who were also genuinely impressed with the structure and its interior. True, it might not be a full blown museum but it is fresh and original – a truly unique audio-visual experience that seemingly blends into the mountain. Every bit like a villain lair.
So, how could your visit to 007 Elements look like? What costs can you expect and is it possible on a budget?
Firstly, getting to Soelden isn’t as easy as you might expect. The location of the town is right in the middle of the longest valley in Tyrolia. Altitude changes from entering the valley at 812 meters above sea level to 1.368 meters in Soelden. Therefor, only a bus service is able to take visitors to and from the nearest railway station. Luckily, buses operate frequently and will cost you 8.40 Euros per route. Plan some time, it’s a one-hour ride with over 40 stops.
You conclude correctly, it is advisable to head into Soelden by car. The nearest airports are Innsbruck, Munich and Zurich where you also have access to rental cars or trains should you prefer enjoying the lovely nature passing by without having to concentrate on traffic.
As mentioned in the introduction, you have a wide selection of hotels ranging from luxury class to cosy budget accomodation. Popular hotels include 5 star Das Central, 4 stars Hotel Hubertus and Hotel Tyrolerhof or the Aqua Dome Spa & Hotel in nearby Längenfeld (16 kilometers away).
If you’re on a budget, I can recommend looking into some of the many bed & breakfast guesthouses. Privately run, they are a cosy and quiet alternative to the big hotel complexes. Sometimes, the beds are even more comfortable. You’d be surprised.
Your trip up to Gaislachkogl, the filming location of ‘Spectre’, will cost you 54.00 Euros as a 007 Elements combination ticket (49.00 Euros for young adults and 30.00 Euros for kids). However, most hotels offer the Oetztal Card which grants you free admission to the cable car. In that case, you only have to pay 22.00 Euros for 007 Elements (17.00 Euros for young adults and 12.00 Euros for kids).
The altitude is not for everyone though – side effects may include headaches and dizziness. Not to worry though, it will rarely hit you if you’re fit and healthy.
That being said, I can only endorse any visit to the beautiful Oetztal – in both summer or winter. Having been to most of the summits in the Oetztal as a child, I can attest to the beauty of the nature and the many possibilities to explore the region. Now, with 007 Elements officially opening on 12 July…what holds you back?
I’d like to thank EON Productions for the kind invitation to the preview opening on 10 July and also the team of the IceQ who were wonderful hosts, catering to all our needs.