In the seventh installment in the series looking
at the world of James Bond, we visit Switzerland...
The World Of James Bond - Switzerland
8th December 2004
After crossing the border from France in Goldfinger,
Bond continues to Geneva and the Hôtel
des Bergues, where he drops off his passenger, Tilly Soames.
Located on the shores of Lake Geneva at the Quai
des Bergues, it was constructed in 1834 on the site of an
old spinning factory and is the oldest of Geneva’s palace-style
hotels. It was opened to exploit the fledgling tourism industry
that began in Geneva when the first steamships arrived in 1827
and has had many distinguished guests over the years, including
The Shah of Persia, Jean Cocteau, Edith Piaf, Sophia Loren and
the Agha Khan. Although the the last decade of the 20th century
saw several refurbishments and an extension, Hôtel des Bergues
remains true to its original character.
Bond continues his pursuit of Goldfinger
that at this stage has taken him from England and down through
France: “Bond caught up with the high yellow silhouette
just before Coppet, the tiny lakeside hamlet made famous
by Madame de Staël. He hid behind a lorry.
At his next reconnaissance the Rolls had disappeared. Bond
motored on, watching to the left. At the entrance to the
village, big solid iron gates were closing in a high wall.”
Right: The Hotel des Bergues on the
shore of Lake Geneva.
Goldfinger’s lair is located just behind the real life
Chateau Staël, where French writer Madame de Staël made
her home after the French Revolution and counted Lord Byron among
her guests. After a speedy reconnaissance Bond heads for the Secret
Service office in Geneva at Quai
Wilson for some information and then back to the Hôtel
des Bergues, where he checks in. Enquiring about his passenger,
he is not surprised to find they had no Miss Soames at the hotel
and after a quick shower he sets off again in the Aston Martin.
Bond heads across the Pont du Mont Blanc
to “the Bavaria, a modest Alsation brasserie that
had been the rendezvous of the great in the days of the
League of Nations. He sat by the window and drank Enzian
washed down with pale Löwenbrau”. According to
Fleming, Enzian, a type of schnapps, “is responsible
for Switzerland’s chronic alcoholism”. After
thinking about the Goldfinger case Bond “ordered another
double and with it a choucroute and a carafe of Fondant”
- choucroute is usually known as sauerkraut , while he would
have ordered a carafe of Fendant, a light dry white wine
used in fondue - and thinks of the girl (“an enigma”,
he decided). To finish, “Bond ordered a slice of gruyère,
pumpernickel and coffee”.
Thinking he is close to closing the Goldfinger case, Bond decides
to use the cover of darkness to take another look at Goldfinger's
operation. His plan is complicated when he runs into Tilly Soames
in the dark and finds that hidden amongst her golf clubs had been
hiding a rifle with which she was intending to kill Goldfinger.
Both their plans are foiled though, when the are found by Goldfinger's
Korean henchman, Oddjob and taken prisoner. Goldfinger is less
than impressed by meeting James Bond again; “Mr Bond, they
have a saying in Chicago: 'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence.
The third time it's enemy action.' Miami, Sandwich and now Geneva.
I propose to wring the truth out of you.”
Wringing the truth out of him turns out to involve being strapped
to a table while a circular saw inches towards Bond's genitals.
Thankfully passing out, Bond comes round to what he assumes is
the voice of St Peter as he is stretchered off a plane in New
Bond returns to Switzerland on the trail of Blofeld in On
Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Traveling as heraldry
expert Sir Hilary Bray aboard a Swissair Caravelle, he makes a
short stop at Basle before landing at Zurich Airport, where he
is met by Irma Bunt, assistant to Blofeld. Blofeld wishes to adopt
the title Comte de Bleuville, and Bond is meeting him under the
pretext of establishing his right to the title. Driven a short
distance in a Mercedes 300SE saloon, he is taken aboard an Alouette
helicopter headed for Blofeld's alpine clinic.
The journey presents Fleming with the opportunity to demonstrate
Bond's excellent knowledge of Switzerland’s geography, presumably
learnt in his youth before his Scottish father and Swiss mother
lost their lives so many years before in a climbing accident .
Looking out the window “there was the Zürichersee to
port. Their course was more or less east-south-east. They were
flying at about 2,000 feet”. And later; “The big range
to port would be the Rhätikon Alps. That would be the railway
junction of Landquart below them. They held their course up the
valley of the Pratigau. Would they keep on at Klosters or veer
to starboard? Starboard it was.”
Bond reminisces about the old days while they fly over Davos
and then “back on the old course again and giant peaks to
right and left. This must be the Engadine. The Silvretta Group
away to starboard, to port Piz Languard and, ahead, the Bernina
range diving down, like a vast ski-jump, into Italy. That forest
of lights away to starboard must be St Moritz!… A slight
veer to port. More lights. Pontresina?”
Once on the ground Bond decides that they
“were in the Languard range, somewhere above Pontresina
in the Engadine, and their altitude would be about 10,000
feet.” The Engadine is a high valley to the east of
St Moritz and famous for its sunny climate and landscape.
Bond spends a few days as a guest in the Gloria Klub (“3605
metres”), which turns out to be where Blofeld is hatching
a dastardly plan to affect Britain's economy by spreading
biological agents. Once again, Ian Fleming was years ahead
of the world in realising that biological warfare could
one day be used in a terrorist action.
Above: The Languard mountain range.
Having firmly identified Blofeld and realising that his cover
is probably compromised, Bond flees the enemy camp by escaping
his room and stealing skis and boots. Although it is years since
he has skied, he manages to stay upright – “A Sprung-Christiana
is a showy and not an easy turn to make at speed. He wished his
old teacher, Fuchs, had been there to see that one!”
Bond is pursued down the mountainside and
fortifying himself with Enzian continues to a the break
in a fence.
Ahead he sees “the low embankment that protected
the main line of the Rhätische Bahn up to Pontresina
and the Bernina Pass. On the other side of the rails the
railway embankment dropped into the road from Pontresina
to Samaden, the junction for St Moritz, perhaps two miles
down the valley” and Bond made “the two miles
of Langlauf down the gentle slope to Samaden” (in
reality spelt “Samedan”).
Left: Pontesina and Samedan
In Samedan, Bond once again meets La Comtesse Teresa di Vicenzo
(“Tracy”) at a Christmas Eve party, and helping him
escape Blofeld's men, she drives him at high speed out of Samedan.
Tracy greatly impresses him with a neat bit of driving on the
snow; “'Dunlop Rally studs on all the tyres. They're only
supposed to be for Rally drivers , but I managed to wangle a set
out of them'”.
Along the winding road to Filisur they
dispose of a Mercedes full of Blofeld's men, after which
they continue to to Zurich Airport via Coire. Arriving at
the airport, Bond books himself on a flight to London and
proposes to Tracy over breakfast.
Arriving in London to interrupt M's Christmas Day lunch,
James Bond brings his boss up to date with Blofeld and proposes
an unconventional solution to tackling him.
Bond returns to Piz Gloria via Marseilles, with a private army
staffed by the Union Corse, the Corsican Mafia, of which Tracy's
father is the head. Arriving by helicopter a gun battle ensues,
during which Blofeld makes his escape down a bob-sleigh run. Leaving
the Union Corse to tackle Blofeld's men, Bond pursues Blofeld
down the bob run. As usual though, Blofeld is one step ahead and
with the aid of a hand grenade, he shakes Bond off his tail. Bond
comes round in the soft snow to find that the Gloria Klub has
been dynamited by the men of the Union Corse and while they escape
the scene by helicopter, Bond catches the train from Samedan to
Zurich. After making his report to London, he heads to Munich
to meet Tracy and plan the details of their wedding...
"The World Of James Bond" will continue next month...
Article by David Leigh.