STANS, SWITZERLAND, October 8, 2016 – It’s a good bet if you mention the name James Bond that Stans, Switzerland will not come to mind as one of the exotic destinations where the famous British Secret Service agent operates. But, believe it or not, you probably know of the tiny village of Stans without even knowing you know it.
In fact, 007 and Stans have a lot more in common than you might think.
Tucked away about 20 minutes by train from the popular resort village of Lucerne, Stans, with its population of just over 8,000, is the capital and largest town in the canton (state) of Nidwalden.
Locals have long made their way to nearby Stanserhorn mountain for hiking. Stanserhorn rises 1.2 miles above sea level as it peers down at the Lake of Lucerne.
Public transportation to the peak opened in 1893 when Franz Josef Bucher-Durrer and Josef Durrer-Gasser opened a three sectioned funicular railway. As such, the Stanserhorn Railway is one of the oldest mountain trains in Switzerland.
For nearly eighty years the rack and pinion trains operated their 45-minute journeys from Stans to Kalti to Bluematt before reaching the summit station and its hotel. The third section also featured a 520 foot tunnel en route to the top.
Lightning struck the third section of the funicular cable in 1970 destroying the driving engine and burning the summit hotel to the ground. Within four years the second section ceased operations in 1974, leaving only the original wooden coaches running to an altitude of 2,343 feet in 9 minutes.
Within a year, a cable car was built to replace the upper funiculars while the first railway section underwent renovations to restore the wooden cars back to their classic style. In typical Swiss fashion, visitors receive a thick cardboard ticket as a souvenir of the funicular’s historic past.
By 2001, a revolving restaurant was added at the summit station, complete with a revolving restaurant that slowy completes one revolution in 45-minutes, giving diners a 360-degree panoramic experience.
Two years later, a state-of-the-art contemporary observation deck opened to offer breathtaking views of the Alsace and Black Forest in Germany as well as ten lakes in the region.
So how does this little known burg of Stans, Switzerland find its way into the annals of pop culture through the enduring brand of James Bond who has captivated movie-goers for more than a half-century?
In the third Bond film, “Goldfinger,” arguably the most popular title of the ongoing 007 saga, Bond tails his archenemy Auric Goldfinger into Switzerland in an effort to discover what the mega-villain is planning.
In the process, Bond tracks Goldfinger to his headquarters where he is eventually captured by the master criminal. In reality, the plant where the British agent is taken prisoner is the home of Pilatus Aircraft which is located in, of all places, Stans, Switzerland.
Established in 1939 to perform maintenance for the Swiss Air Force, it was decided that Pilatus Aircraft should be located far from the Swiss borders. Initial plans even went so far as to consider building it inside a mountain. Even in 1939, it is difficult to deny that that idea has a James Bond ring to it.
But there is more, and this is where the story gets to be fun.
In June, 2012, a new double deck open top cable car debuted with a stunning innovation that allows passengers to actually ride on top of the car, thereby providing magnificent scenic views of alpine pastures and mountain peaks during the six minute journey to the top.
The “CabriO” cable car features a spiral staircase leading to the upper deck. Capacity is 60 passengers in the lower cabin with room for 30 more on top.
Unlike earlier cable car incarnations, the “CabriO” is not suspended by a single cable from the top. Instead it glides along two cables at the side of the cabs making the ride considerably smoother and far less jarring when it crosses transfer points.
Surprisingly, there is little sensation of height other than the breathtaking scenes that surround the passenger, providing unimpeded views.
Though James Bond never fought on top of a Swiss cable car, he did meet up in “Moonraker” with a character named “Jaws” whom he encountered in Rio de Janeiro. Who knows? Perhaps that was the inspiration for the “CabriO.”
For the Swiss, the tiny village of Stans and its Stanserhorn Railway are twi of the best-kept secrets in the country. But they will happily share their treasures, as will the playful marmuts that entertain visitors with their daily performances up on the summit.
Stans is an easy and delightful outing for hikers and non-hikers alike. One thing is certain: If you ride to the top on the “CabriO,” it’s guaranteed that your senses might be stirred, but they will not be shaken.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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