Soaring Over The Swiss Alps By Cable Car

James Bond and Jaws scrapping atop the cable car

As a child in the early ‘80s, I watched Moonraker and figured that only James Bond gets to ride on top of cable cars. It just seemed like dangerous business.

But I got my shot this year when I stepped aboard the Cabrio, the world’s first cable car where you can ride on an exposed upper deck. From Kalti, Switzerland (just outside Lucerne), the Cabrio climbs Mount Stanserhorn to a station at 1,850 meters (6,069 feet), just below the mountain summit.

Fans of 007 should also venture to the Alpine town of Mürren and take the cable car to the Piz Gloria building at the summit of Schilthorn. The circular building, which sits at  2,970 meters (9,744 feet), served as the lair for supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the 1969 James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

These are two excellent day trips, offering you a unique, exciting perspective of the Swiss mountains, without having to battle a supervillain or a big dude with metal teeth.

The Cabrio

Aboard the funicular leaving the town of Stans

To ride the Cabrio, you begin at the town of Stans, where you purchase your Cabrio ticket and then board an old-school, wooden funicular. Dating back to 1893, this was one of the first mountain railways to run on electricity. From Stans, this train winds upward through the forest and takes you to Kalti, where you board the Cabrio.


Riding the Cabrio up Mount Stanserhorn

It cost more than 28 million francs to build the Cabrio, which holds 60 passengers and has a lower deck enclosed in glass, plus the upper sundeck that holds 30 people. The car travels 2.3 kilometers (1.4 miles) in six minutes, and during the smooth ride you have a remarkable 360-degree view of the mountains and green valley below. It costs 68 francs for a round trip, but you can get half off by using a Swiss Pass.

The facility near the Stanserhorn summit

The station just below the summit of Stanserhorn includes a gift shop and the Rondorama, a revolving restaurant that makes a complete turn every 43 minutes. We chose to enjoy our lunch on the outdoor patio surrounded by stunning mountain views.

A viewing platform at the Stanserhorn facility


The Stanserhorn summit

From the restaurant, we hiked briefly up a moderately steep path to the summit of Stanserhorn. From the deck you can see famous peaks, like the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, and clear days allow views of distant mountains in Germany and France.

Ascending Schilthorn

Reaching the Schilthorn summit is a bit of an adventure, as you ride a dizzying array of trains, funiculars and cable cars. From Interlaken, we first rode trains to Lauterbrunnen on the lower flank of the mountains. Then, we hopped a cable car to Grütschalp, and changed to the Lauterbrunnen-Mürren Mountain Railway, a small train that winds upward to the remote, beautiful village of Mürren.

Strolling the streets of Mürren at 5,413 feet

Climbing Schilthorn, gazing back at the Birg station

From Mürren, we rode a cable car to an intermediate station perched on a ridge at Birg, and then switched to a final car that climbed steeply to Piz Gloria atop Schilthorn.

Piz Gloria at the Schilthorn summit

The film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (featuring George Lazenby in his only appearance as Bond) was filmed during construction of the Piz Gloria, a facility with a revolving restaurant on the Schilthorn summit. It served as the “allergy research institute” of evil genius Bloefeld (played by Telly Savalas), and the facility was blown up (well, not actually blown up) in the movie. Supposedly, the production team helped finance the construction of the revolving restaurant.

A view of the Eiger, Mönch (obscured) and Jungfrau from Piz Gloria

The Piz Gloria observation deck allows panoramic views of about 200 mountain peaks. You can see much of the landscape from the 400-seat revolving restaurant, which is solar powered. It’s worthwhile to take a few minutes and visit the Touristorama, a small theater that shows portions of the Bond movie filmed at Piz Gloria and the surrounding area.

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