On a visit to my brother in Switzerland he suggested we hire a car as the plan to go out to dinner that night would create some logistic problems with transport. It would be cheaper to hire a car than catch a taxi he told us. So hire a car we did and having it for the day gave us the opportunity to visit the mediaeval town of Gruyeres.
We all know Gruyere cheese but the town was previously unknown to me. We parked the car outside the walled town and once we walked through the gate we were into another world of small windows, cobblestones and old buildings. Walking up the hill we soon came across Le Calvaire – the wayside cross on the outside of a 16th century building. In the Middle Ages a guard-room was here and then it became a salt storage and sales area in the 18th century. Now it houses exhibitions of craft.
Continuing we come across the HR Giger Museum. I found this a trifle disturbing. Giger won the Oscar for the best visual effects for his design of the screen set in the film Alien and the museum houses the largest collection of his work. This includes paintings, sculptures, furnishings and film sets and is a cross between reality and fiction, past and present. Mr Giger takes you on a trip into your imagination but I’m not sure I wanted to go to where I was taken. The collection is housed in the St-Germain castle but inside it is dark and scary and has left me with a memory of rooms and ceilings at strange angles, tiny, twisting staircases and there are few windows that aren’t obliterated, letting in natural light. On the top floor is HR Giger’s personal collection of artists whose work he has purchased for his own enjoyment. Again a confronting style. It is certainly worth a visit and it is a gallery I doubt that I will ever forget but his work is unlikely to hang on my own walls.
From there on to the Gruyeres Castle. Constructed in the 13th century it is where the Counts of Gruyeres once lived. . The last Count, Michel, declared himself bankrupt in 1554 and the towns of Fribourg and Berne split the land between them. The castle became the HQ of the Fribourg bailiffs until 1798 and then the prefect’s residence until 1848. It was sold and used as a summer residence by the families Bovy and Bollard who carried out restoration work. The State of Fribourg purchased it from them in 1938 and opened it as a museum.
It is massive and the exhibition housed inside is grand. Rich tapestries, paintings, sculptures, furnishings and many, many windows to look out and see the spectacular view of the Gruyeres countryside. Looking at the grass you can see why the cows give such rich milk to make the famous cheese. After wandering the castle the gardens are a must to meander through and on to the battlements which surround the castle. Here there are also many windows.
After a quick cheese factory tour (also fascinating) it was back to Geneva to prepare for our night out. It turned out to be the best meal we’d ever eaten and also the most expensive meal we had ever had even though we didn’t pay for the meal thanks to my brother. We were left wondering at how expensive taxis must be in Switzerland. We didn’t care though as Lingering at the windows (and in the rooms) at Gruyeres was a fabulous day.