Monday, May 23, 2016

I visit to the set of Where Eagles Dare (or Burg Hohenwerfen as it is known hereabouts in Austria). And an open invitation to my Turkish and Russian visitors to make yourselves known

Bad Gastein - Day Five

Well, I did get off to Burg Hohenwerfen (pictured), and some fortress it turned out to be. First built halfway through 11th century by an archbishop who found himself caught between a rock and a hard place in a battled between the Pope and the then German emperor, who both reckoned they


should be the ones to appoint bishops and archbishops, he decided the safest place for him to be was on top of a very tall, rocky hill in the middle of a valley where he could see who was coming from any side. But rather than go through the whole of its history – which I only learnt today, anyway, so it’s not as though I am some kind of expert – here’s link to its Wikipedia page.

If some of you think it looks familiar (and haven’t actually already been there) you have seen it before it you watched Where Eagles Dare with Clint Eastwood and the usual list of ageing Brit film stars who tended to be rolled out on such occasions. And you’re right, when I eventually got to see the film, it didn’t do much for me, but then I didn’t actually get to see it until about 30 years after it was first released, by which time it had probably dated horribly.

For the record the only James Bond film I rate at all is Skyfall, and I shan’t be watching Spectre because my son tells me it is cack, though he did explain that after the original script was stolen as part of the Sony email scandal, it was scrapped and the producers started afresh which explains why none of it hangs together (he informs me).

The place was about 30 miles due north of where I am staying and I was surprised, and also a bit relieved to get out into the open again in a manner of speaking. I didn’t realise that after only five days of being in Bad Gastein, a pleasant town but which sits in the bottom of a valley with two very high mountains on either side, I had already begun to feel a little claustrophobic. Driving north, the valley opens out and it was like breathing a little better again.

The day had started rather bright so I didn’t wear the thick winter boots I had brought along to ‘walk a little in the mountains’, but wore some leather slips-ons, and that, as I turned out was a big mistake: the day grew cold and windy – and especially bloody cold and windy when the guided tour of the castle I had joined climbed to the highest point of the castle, its bell tower. Christ, was it windy.

So by the time the tour ended all I wanted was a strong cup of tea – and not the shite they tend to serve the far side of the Channel, but I proper mug of good old British rosy lee. Well, some hope. I did the next best thing and stopped off in a town five miles away on the way home – Bischofshofen – where I treated myself to a double-strength latte and brandy. And that was followed by three more brandies when I discovered that, for some reason, smoking is still allowed in Austrian bars (or so they told me).

While I was there the TV was on and the final result of the Austrian presidential election was announced: it wasn’t the fearful closet Nazi our Brit newspapers feared it would be but some yoghurt-knitting Green. Christ, they don’t do things by halves here, do they: from one extreme to the other.

The figures were tighter than a duck’s arse – 49.99 for the closet jackbooted Herbert and 50.01 for the gentle, planet-saving vegan 80-something former professor of I don’t know what. It will be interesting to see how this one is played in the media: alarm bells ring as a new Nazi would-be dictator with 10,000 storm troops at his beck and call is narrowly defeated in Austria – be afraid, cos he ain’t going away. Or Austrian have finally grown up and see sense to put paid to a pseudo-democratic Putsch by a new Nazi would-be dictator with 10,000 storm troops at his beck. It is such a a shame that all our papers, and not just the Brit ones tend to treat news as an episode in the Beano’s Desperate Dan or Minny the Minx.

Right, I’m off to have supper somewhere. Pip, pip. But not before I query who the nice Turk is – or the nice Turks – for whom over the past few months this blog has proved oddly fascinating. In the past month he/she or they have visited it an astounding 1,064 times, 575 times more than a Russian or several Russian visitor – their interest is also rather intriguing – and 844 more times than Brit visitors. I am intrigued so could you in Turkey (and Russia) drop me a line and tell me a little more about yourselves?

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