Have I told you about my visit to a castle packed away in a remote location in Switzerland; a village voted as the “most beautiful village in western Switzerland”. And most beautiful it was. It was perched on a craggy hill, and cheese, a castle & aliens formed this cobble-stoned medieval village. It offering stunning views of the surrounding & was formed just next to the Gruyères Castle.
My journey began with a train ride from Lucerne to a tiny village in Western Switzerland, truly a world away.
To Reach Gruyères from Lucerne we had to take a train from Bern to Bulle going to Gruyères. Trains going to Bern from Lucerne are at an interval of 1 hour so we took a train at 9.05, to reach Bern. This was an RE train, a super fast train.
Another way to reach was to take the train from Lucerne to Fribourg and reach Bulle.
The return journey- The trains reaching and departing Gruyères are at an interval of 1 hour each so make note of the same.
Just before the train station Sursee, we suddenly see the green grass had changed colour and was faded to off white. After a point of time we realised that it was fallen snow and the region had a snow fall at night. The entire region was covered in a blanket of white colour, the rooftops, roads, trees & the sides of the rail tracks too. Weather conditions predicted -1degrees in Gruyères today. Until the next station Zofingen, there was snow everywhere but at intervals, so it seems that some regions received heavy while some moderate snow fall at night. By the time we reached Bern we witnessed fallen snow everywhere but as soon as we boarded the train to reach Bulle from platform 2 at Bern, we witnessed heavy snowfall. Everything around looked white, serene and beautiful. Because there’s nothing as dazzling as seeing your surroundings getting covered in a fresh sheet of snow. After Bulle, we had to wait for an hour to catch the next train to Gruyères since trains from here are at an interval of one hour inspite of the distance being only 8 min. There are bus services on one side of the station but none of the busses go to Gruyères.
A quaint and peaceful atmosphere surrounded us as we stepped on the platform. It was a wonderful place to be swept back in time. Far less than 2,000 residents actually live in the village of Gruyeres. We were getting used to the falling snow, but now we had to walk through it to reach the Castle. The station & surrounding areas were covered in a white blanket of snow. The station was a single track rail station and the tracks were also covered by a blanket of snow.
The actual village of Gruyères lies on top of a mountain that includes the chalet, the castle, the H.R Gigger museum, the museum bar, the Tibet museum among many quaint restaurants. It is a walk up the mountain for a good 20 minutes, with a beautiful view of the valley covered with snow. There are buses too to take you up, although I recommend walking walking up the steps. A walk to the castle and town from the station takes about 15 min and is an uphill climb too and the falling snow just added the magic to walk. There is a regular bus service timed with the arrival of the trains too.
There are no vehicles allowed in this small village. On entering, you will be greeted by a drinking water fountain. On both sides are restaurants and houses having beautifully crafted doors & windows adorned with colourful flowers. The walk up to the castle, includes passing all the other places of interest in the village. The village is also home to home to the black and white Fribourg cattle whose milk is made into the tasty Greyère cheese.
What to see at Gruyères:
This was our first stop. Just opposite the station, is the famous Cheese factory. It is called Cheese factory La mason de Gruyères. Once inside, we were warmly greeted by a humble woman managing the reception desk. I could see a souviner shop on the left & a restaurant on the right. Both are a must visit. We were entitled to free entry, for a walking tour & an audio guide with our Swiss passes. Part of the experience was a cheese tasting session, so along with the audio guides, the lady gave us a packet. Inside were 3 varieties of cheese in small quantity. Each of the cheese was different in their aged period, The mildest with a 6 month aging period, 8 months is the medium strength flavoured cheese & 10 months being the strongest flavoured cheese. It’s all delicious–especially melted in a cheese fondue, which we relished in the restaurant at the factory after the tour.
There were no labour at the factory although the machines were working, churning out the best milk and making the cheese. The audio guide gave us a walk-through each process of milk to cheese with the narration of a cow. At the end of the tour, we were taken to the cellars where cheese was kept on racks to mature.
At the souvenir shop we bought the 1 year old Alpage cheese and the little less salty one called Bieux, along with some cow souvenirs.
H.R Gigger Alien Museum:
HR Giger won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects for his participation in the film “Alien. The Alien movie was shot in this town with a set made by H.R Gigger and so the H.R Gigger Alien Museum is constructed for tourist to see the alien interiors built during the shooting. The museum is closed on Tuesday, and shuts at 5.00 pm on other days.
The alien museum bar opposite the museum is designed uniquely with the decor similar to the interiors of an alien spacecraft. Long rotating chairs, unique names of cocktails and the delightful & lip-smacking Meringues make it a must visit. Meringues are a dessert associated with the Swiss and is served with fresh cream. A simply melt-in-your-mouth proposition. Beware you aren’t allowed to photograph the bar interiors unless you’re a customer so hop in positively for Meringues coupled with a coffee or if u prefer a cocktail with an alien name.
A visit to this museum takes you to experience the amazing beauty of Himalayan Art. It is a small museum but has an important collection of Buddhist sculptures, paintings and ritual objects displayed in a very serene environment.
The Greyurs Castle stands in the midst of the green, pre-alpine Fribourg foothills. Grue in French means The Crane, and as its heraldic representation the name of the castle is Gruyères. 20 counts are accounted for in the period between the 11th -16th century who lived in the castle, and is currently managed by a foundation. It is a journey across eight centuries of architecture, history and culture. An eery feeling surrounded me as I entered this old castle. The exteriors display an old era, in a medieval town, but the museum inside the castle was modern and well-maintained. It was the adjustments in the castle in the year 1476, that the Castle lost its fortress appearance and became a graceful residence. Taking a walk in the huge castle and wandering around the 4 storied architecture was a fascinating experience.
One can experience Persian carpets, antique furniture, ancient armoury, chimneys, royal tables and beds, a collection of arts throughout the era, hunting collectibles, a music room, spiral staircases, a small chapel & much more. The gardens of the castle are very beautifull and very well maintained. The view of these gardens from the balcony of the room housing ‘art of the era’ by contemporary artists is not to be missed. In winter this French garden is covered with snow in patterns that delight the eyes. In the distance you see the landscape of the Pre-alpine foothills which make your heart skip a beat.
Eurail pass holders are allowed free entry.
Eat & Drink:
– During the journey, at Bulle station, try the Ham & Cheese tart
– The cheese fondue at the restaurant inside the Cheese Factory at Greyurs is a must have.
– Greyurs is famous for its Meringues. It is an icing shaped soft sweet biscuit served with fresh whipped double cream. The melt in your mouth feeling is out of this world.
– Try the Macaroni de Chalet topped with Gruyère cheese
You can catch a train from Greyurs and visit the Cailler Chocolate Factory, one of the oldest chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland which is at a distance of 25 minutes.
The Moléson village above Greyurs is at a distance of 10 minutes and is known for its excellent mountain views and fun activities like grass carting and a summer luge during summer.
French manicured château gardens, buildings with medieval architecture, demonstration of the art of fine cheese-making and the delicious fondue, and to top it off, you are surrounded by some of the most breathtaking views in Switzerland.
Greyurs was and will always be a special trip for me.