REPORT FROM STATION T and BEYOND
From Istanbul-Vienna-Prague-Karlovy Vary-Munich-Cortina to Venice
Hosted by Richard and Leslie Skillman
July 2013 NEW YORK JFK AIRPORT
ISTANBUL: The mission began with agents assembling in the new Delta SKYCLUB luxury SKYBAR, which is outside and provides a spectacular view of the city and airplanes departing while we sipped on our last martini before boarding. Our flights delivered us all safe and sound at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul and from there our check in at the Surmeli Hotel, our base of operations for the next few days.
IF YOU HAVE TO ASK THE PRICE OF MARTINIS…Our first stop on the tour was the PERA PALAS hotel, while incorrectly identified as the hotel James Bond stays at in the novel, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, it was the very hotel where Agatha Christie wrote MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Our waiters, all huge Bond fans, treated us to a wonderful mushroom risotto along with their own 007 brand martini. We visited Ataturk’s office, housed here as a museum, with many of the Turkish leaders’ belongings and papers. We then taxied up the waterside to the beautiful Dolmabahce Palace, nestled on the Bosporus and one of Istanbul’s prized museums. Adjacent to the Palace are two world class resorts, the FOUR SEASONS and the CIRAGEN KEMPINSKI PALACE, the latter was used by the SKYFALL cast as its hotel and the site of the Press Announcement for SKYFALL. Incredibly very good martinis are served here, we recommend them, note the $30 per martini cost for your MI6 or CIA expense accounts.
Our drive down to the city through Taksim Square takes us by the gate seen as the RUSSIAN EMBASSY in FRWL and we have our group photo. A great tour followed of TOPKAPI Palace, easily a day in itself with its massive grounds and the location for the heist caper film of the same name.
Next stop is the Grand Bazaar, which is figured prominently in both SKYFALL and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. Entering the Nuru Osmaniye Mosque gate entrance, we recreate Connery’s 007 walk through the Bazaar to meet with Karim Bey. Look for the stone fountain on the main "highway" of the Bazaar. Other locations within the Bazaar are the HAN, the exterior upstairs patio where Red Grant spies on Tania as she goes to meet with Klebb and Gate 7, which is the gate Daniel Craig poses on the motorcycle in front of.
Also, you can find the gate area that was rigged with a false wall and window for SKYFALL’s Patrice to crash his motorcycle through. Other SKYFALL locations included the Bazaar path and stairs up to the roof. No 007 would leave the rooftop unchecked, and our group made our way to the rooftops for photos and marveling at the SKYFALL (and TAKEN2 and INTERNATIONAL) sequences filmed here. The view is amazing on the roof and one could imagine the logistics of filming the SKYFALL chase up here!
We continued on with a tour of both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, where Bond and Tania exchange the Embassy blueprints. It was under construction but we found the western wall where Connery follows Tania, and the gated riser where the note is left behind the column.We visited the Yerebetan Cisterns where Bey paddles Bond out to the spy periscope underground, these are nearly unchanged and for readers of Dan Brown's novel INFERNO, an additional treat.
From the Cisterns, it’s an taxi over to EMINOU SQUARE which features RONSON’s Hotel and the Spice Market gunfight. We met with the resident who was present during the filming and allowed us to tour inside the RONSON location. On his office wall were photos from the shoot and he commented on how Naomi Harris used his office for a smoke break. He is a belt salesman and showed us the belt that Daniel Craig purchased, so of course, our group bought him out of Daniel Craig belts.
Up from the Square, we journeyed to SIRKECI Train Station for a photo opp and luxury lunch at the ORIENT EXPRESS Café. Inside the station you can easily find the WC locations, note that all the train stops, Zagreb,etc in the RUSSIA film were filmed here. The station restaurant oddly has no photos from the film but a multitude of stills from MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS which was NOT filmed here but at the Gare du Nord in Paris! Almost hidden up from the Station is the Kiosk seen behind Bond and Bey as they assassinate Krilenco.
Our private charter boat whisked us up the Bosporus for a leisurely scenic view of the city, the KIZ KULEZI or Maidens Tower- Bond fans would recognize it as Renard's lair in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and over on the Asian side we spotted the grounds of KUCUKSU KASRI which substituted for Electra’s Palace in Baku. Make sure to allow time in your visit for this boat ride and if possible, book a private rather than tour ferry.
Dinners for our Istanbul days included the ORIENT HOUSE, which recreated our Gypsy dinner with belly dancers, local cuisine including a meze plate and shish kabob and many beautiful belly dancers. It’s undoubtedly very touristy but provides a glimpse at the historic dances of the country in a very Bond like environment. For our group, it was like spending the evening with Karim and the gypsy's here. At the southern point of the city is the NEYZEN, one of many fish restaurants which comes served with Raki.
VIENNA: A short flight on Europe’s highest rated airline, Turkish Air brings us to Vienna, with a feel and sound all its own. Our first stop, of course, is to the Prater for a THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS ride on the Ferris Wheel. Agents explored the amusement park with its bumper cars, shooting galleries and monster are all still similar from the 1987 film.
We were greeted by our local guide, the Amazing Andreus, who knew his Bond and knew his Vienna. The grounds and Palace Theater of the SCHOENBRUNN Palace were also prominent in DAYLIGHTS, so we made sure to tour and recreate the waltzers out front. You'll recoginize the grounds as the scene where 007 and Kara arrive by carriage. Austrian beautiful weather accompanied us to the ANTONIOGASSE area which stood in for Kara’s apartment in Bratislava, we even found the “WC” doors, 007 enters to check the cello case. By luck, a tram car from the film period showed up to our stop and got an inside view of the ancient car seen in the film. Nearby is the VOLKSOPERA, which is the large white Opera hall Bond shoots at Kara, with the Sniper shop right across the street. Although now a candy shop, the agents were very happy to garner some sweets on the tour.
Amazingly, one of the highlights of our day was the GASOMETER building, an old gas storage complex seen as the escape tower for Koskov as the jet rises out of the top. These structures are now very high end apartments and shops, all very Ken Adams in design and very stylish. In the film, it appears as one tower but they're actually 3. We closed the day at the Speinsporn Bridge which is a pedestrian bridge, commandeered by director John Glen as his border bridge in the film. Note that many other sources have the bridge scene incorrectly identified; this location is the correct one.
Our hotel for two days is the INTERCONTINENTAL and was located off the Karlsplatz Park, ideal for touring Vienna. For the evening, we attended a Mozart concert to get the feel of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS orchestra scenes and dined at the Reinprecht, and a Heurige in the wine village of Grinzing. The group surprised me for my birthday, it was a great treat as we all shared a large Sacher torte cake and danced and sang with the local accordion player!
PRAGUE: From Vienna in the morning, we enter the Moravia and Bohemia regions of the Czech Republic for our check in to the INTERCONTINENTAL there. Our first stop is the business center, DANUBE HOUSE, which opens CASINO ROYALE, after much haggling, we are allowed to ride the elevator up to floor 6.
Nearby the hotel is the MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT which doubled for the Miami exterior of the BODY WORLDS exhibit in CASINO ROYALE. It's a bit difficult to get to but worth the photo op. Our local guide shepherded us over to the PRAGUE CASTLE for a look at ST. GEORGE’S SQUARE, the Kremlin location from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE GHOST PROTOCOL. The castle is worth spending time in if possible, you'll recoginize AMADEUS locations around the grounds. Adjacent to the Castle, is the STRAVOV MONASTERY and its LIBRARY, you’ll need to purchase a sticker to allow you to photograph inside but the price is well worth it. The LIBRARY was used in CASINO ROYALE as the official office’s hallway where M complains about Bond and “misses the Cold War”, it’s a beautiful room.
A walk to the CHARLES BRIDGE, which is seen in both MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and GHOST PROTOCOL, and the stairs where Tom Cruise witnesses the car explosion. From there, we head to the Old town area, used extensively in films such as VAN HELSING. At the end of Wenceslas Square stands the NATIONAL MUSEUM, whose interiors were used to represent the Danielli in CASINO ROYALE and the Embassy in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.
A site we did not visit as it was closed but is on our list is the interior of the VITKOV Monument, which doubled for the interiors of the BODY WORLD museum in CASINO ROYALE. For dining, we chose the NAMESTI REPUBLIKY, an underground restaurant in a music hall, very old world with Pilsner Uruquel on tap. For my course, I chose the pig knee, which came skewered on a massive spit, its seemed more of the whole hog than just its knee! Next door is the oldest bar in Europe, the AMERICKY BAR which served ice cold martinis in very large margarita glasses, very tasty.
From Praque, we drove west to the small town of LOKET, which was used as the Montenegro town square from CASINO ROYALE... opposite the square’s statue sits the GOETHE Bar & Hotel which is very visible in the film and if you ask the owner, he will show you photos from the production and room #7 where Daniel Craig stayed during the filming. The café where the Police Chief (Michael Wilson’s cameo) is arrested was built for the film in the middle of the town square. This is very relaxing spot to sit and enjoy a tall pilsner!
From Loket, it’s a short drive into KARLOVY VARY, a centuries old spa town that still has that Iron Curtain feel about it. The first stop on the tour is the MILL COLONNADE, which is a long columned structure with founts of hot spring water where, using a special ceramic jug, one drinks the “health giving” sulphuric water. It is not pleasant tasting but we try it anyway. The Colonnade was used in CASINO ROYALE as the train station that Bond and Vesper arrive in Montenegro. We chose our stay to also coincide with the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and the town is extremely crowded, even Oliver Stone is spotted by several of our agents. The festival has taken over the façade of the Kaiserbad Spa, which was used as the exteriors of the CASINO ROYALE.
On to the Grand Hotel Pupp, which is a madhouse of festival goers, one can clearly see the lobby and the dining rooms used for CASINO ROYALE as the Hotel Splendide. We spent as much time as we could grabbing location shots before being shooed away from Festival security. Later that evening, arriving in our tuxedos, we're greeted much differently and we bring our passports for access to the CASINO, which has a EURO side and a CZECH KROWN side for ease of currency. The minimum bets were about $25US and our agents enjoyed a variety of table games and slots. The lady bartenders are all Czech beautiful, however, their English was close to nil. We used our MI6 translators to request our martinis be “otreseny micha”!
MUNICH: Another early departure on the 007 bus as we head west and from the Czech Republic and into Germany. As our drive from Karlovy to Venice is a long one, we chose Munich as a half-way point to stay for the evening. There is the BMW Headquarters here and several of our group chose to tour it extensively, it is an impressive building and features several of the Bond cars. Fans of the Bond novels will know Munich featured strongly in ON HER MAJESTY’s SECRET SERVICE. Our Ian Fleming expert, Major Tallon shared, ”As for Bond’s bachelor party at the hotel Franziskaner, he hired a taxi driven by an ex-Luftwaffe pilot, and together the two men went looking for a ring (near the Nymphenburg Palace), while Tracy stayed at a hotel (the Vier Jahreszeiten/ Four Seasons) downtown, making final preparations. After Bond found the ring (and the taxi driver approved!), the two men returned to the Franziskaner, where they ate mounds of Weisswurst and had four steins of beer eachand swore they wouldn’t ever fight each other again. When Bond returned “tipsily”to the hotel, Tracy told him that he stank of beer and sausages, but they laughed and prepared to live a life of happiness without a shadow. Or so they believed.” We strongly recommend readers to have their lunch at the Franziskaner, truly enjoyable.
Although not Bond, our group enjoyed a raucous evening at the HOFBRAUHAUS with the traditional “oompa” bands and never ending beer fest. Also on the evening, a few of our “tiki bar” experts taxied to the Bayerischer Hof Hotel, a 5 star beauty. The hotel boasts two world class bars- Trader Vic’s, one of the last remaining original design Vic’s with excellent Mai Tais and the Falks bar. Falks, with its high palatial white frescoed ceilings, is reminiscent of the final "bedroom " in 2001 Space Odyssey…very good martinis. We recommend a stop at both!
CORTINA DE’ AMPREZZIO: Our drive from Munich to Italy takes us through the Brenner Pass, on the Austrian/Italian border and the scenery continues to astound as we pass Innsbruck and into the Dolomites of Northeastern Italy. We arrive in the center square of Cortina known as Piazza Venezia and our Bond group tours the flower shop and the sporting goods store present at the motorcycle attack on Melina sites from FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. Little has changed in Cortina as we shop the village and drive out to view the Olympic Ski Jump. The skies are clear blue as we view Mt. Tofana from below and the scenic landscapes of Cortina. Our lunch reservations today are the Hotel Miramonti, where Bond stays in the film and is also seen in THE PINK PANTHER. We’re feted to wonderful Veneto white wines and a buffet of northern Italian dishes, raviolis and risottos. After touring the hotel, our surprise for our guests is the arrival of friends Hansi and Andrea Zweigle and their prize Lotus, complete with Walther PPK and a fish. The Zweigles have traveled with us before and kindly came for the day to enjoy the group and allow their car for photos. Ironically, the Italian Sports Car Club is meeting at the Miramonti and has brought a wide array of various collectors’ cars- yet, it is the Lotus that receives the most attention!
VENICE: We say goodbye to the Miramonti and the Zweigles and continue down from the Dolomites through beautiful Veneto wine country where we arrive at the Piazza Roma, Venice’s bus station for our transfer to our private boats which will whisk us to our hotel, the Bonavecchio. Situated right off St. Mark’s Square with its own gondola dock, we are in prime touring location for our Bond day tomorrow. Tonight, it’s a wonderful spaghetti alla vongole at the Trattoria Del Nino and an evening at our hotel bar, the wonderfully located Hotel Bonavecchiati, which is commandeered by Lello, a noted sommelier and world class mixologist, who entertains our Bond experts with his approach to the Vesper..high marks!
Our day begins, after a refreshing light hotel breakfast consisting of various salamis and breads, with a stop at the alley, SORTO PORTEGO SPIRON D’ORO, where Bond follows Vesper and prepares his Walther in CASINO ROYALE. A short walk from the Alley brings us to the RIALTO BRIDGE, which we cross and head to the PESCHERIA, or fish market, where Vesper spots Gettler. Across from the Market, one can see a smaller reddish piazza nestled among taller ones- that is the location of the sinking building. The façade used is actually found on the Barbaro, next to the Accademia Bridge, near the Ca Pisani. For CASINO ROYALE, the building’s front was CGI’d onto the location building and later also recreated in the water tanks of Pinewood Studios.
The market is a good place to catch a private boat taxi, which we do, and journey up past the Misericordia area and Rio Caterina, the School sidewalks are where Bond confronts Holly Goodhead in MOONRAKER and the intersection is where the lovers gondola is split in two. The taxi takes us to the CA’ REZZONICO, a museum which for a few dollars, you can enter the main ballroom. This is used as DRAX’s offices following the gas leak episode in MOONRAKER. (The hallway and musical keypad was filmed on the LIDO at the NICOLE MONASTERY).
Across from the Museum, stands the Church SANTA BARBERA, which is used as the "X Marks The Spot" Library in INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, we also found what we believe was the area of his “escape manhole cover”. The steps seen at the Church appear in David Lean’s SUMMERTIME with Katherine Hepburn, noted for where she fell in the canal. Walking northwest, we arrive at the RIO DI SANTA MARGHERITA and follow this eastward, spot the Gondola repair barn visible in the MOONRAKER gondola chase scene at the RIO OGNISSANTI and the COFFIN Bridge. For the film, the general use of these canals were used in multiple angles of the chase sequence.
We recommend the walk down to the ACADEMMIA Bridge and cross over, stopping to photograph the Grand Canal, and the exterior of the BARBERO, the CASINO ROYALE facade as mentioned previously. The docks for the BARBERO and the CA’ PISANI are visible here and these were used in MOONRAKER where 007 docks his gondola and in INDIANA JONES where Indy drops off the keeper of the Holy Grail. The CA’ PISANI is a private school, which our group with permission, accessed the courtyard, seen in MOONRAKER and CASINO ROYALE. Much of the courtyard was rebuilt at Pinewood for the Vesper/007 shoot out sequences. A nice treat leaving PISANI was a walk behind the TEATRO on the RIO DE LA VESTE; you’ll recognize the landing and bridge where 007 and M discuss the gas canister in MOONRAKER.
From here, we walk into the ST. MARK’S SQUARE where MOONRAKER and CASINO ROYALE scenes were filmed, including the CASINO ROYALE BASIL BANK in the Northwest corner, which is actually an art store. Two openings eastward and looking through the arches, you’ll see the BEST WESTERN hotel, visible as part of the Vesper walk (where Bond first spots her). From screening the film on the Ipad, its obvious 007 runs back and forth in this area for the chase. Heading to the eastern side of the square, CHANG’S fall from the Astronomical CLOCK stands just a short walk from the VENINI GLASS shop and the Lion statues. We pushed through the crowds (the best times to tour are very early morning or late afternoon after the cruise ships have left) and continue past the DOGES PALACE which on your left you'll see the BRIDGE OF SIGHS, from the finale of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. Our group wouldn’t miss at stop next door at the DANIELLI either, which hosts the bedroom suite of HOLLY GOODHEAD and serves a wonderful martini in the hotel bar.
FINALE: Our group had the afternoon to explore, sample gelato and later reconvened at the famous HARRY’s BAR, hangout of Ernest Hemingway and every tourist who has $27 for a martini or Bellini. But it must be visited! We arranged a gondola boat ride, complete with opera singer, to end our afternoon and it even generated a marriage proposal between two of our agents. All the best to them.
Our finale dinner was at the excellent CARAVELLEs, where we toasted our wonderful 10 days adventure and then it was on to FLORIANs for more dancing, martinis and good cheer.
…………………… James Bond Will Return.
End of report
Photos courtesy of Tom Stroud, Uwe Brosamle & Gay Hanson and others from the TPP tour group, thank you all!
Production stills copyright EON ProductionsWith many thanks to Susanna Dubossas of Globus Travel for the logistics, organization and her knowledge of obscure birds....