Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Precious, Medieval Town of Gruyères

I like to think I wasn't being completely selfish when I chose Gruyères as one of our day trips from Adelboden.  Sure, Lucerne would have been about the same distance and is more famous.  And Interlaken would have been a shorter train ride and boasts a renowned chocolatier show.  But I had been to both those cities before, and I wanted to see something new!  And when I read about Gruyères and its medieval castle, cobblestone pedestrian streets, cheese making factory, and free chocolate factory tour, I marveled at how this little town offered everything I wanted the girls wanted to see, all wrapped up in one pretty little package.  So Gruyères was inscribed on our itinerary and we traveled there by train.

Any presumed self-indulgence on my part vanished the moment the girls spied Château de Gruyères enclosing the precious little hilltop village.  They had (with the exception of my daughter) never seen, let alone climbed, an ancient castle wall, and I watched their expressions with delight as years of classroom history lessons came to life for them.  Knights, maidens, dukes, and armies once walked this path - an aha moment.  Fortifications were needed to protect medieval cities from invaders.  Another aha.

From this ancient little fortified castle courtyard one enters the interior village through this lovely painted gate:

and finds oneself in perhaps the smallest town I've ever seen.  You can literally almost see from end to end standing in one spot.  But charming, charming to the point of dripping with cuteness, especially with Christmas evergreens and holiday lights twinkling all around.

Most of the storefronts are restaurants (featuring cheese fondue, of course) and - surprise - cheese shops and bakeries.  A tiny chapel stands in the middle of the upward end of the car-free street, and this time of year houses an exquisite hand-carved crèche with wooden figurines.

You can almost see Mont Moléson in the background - the girls thought it was the Matterhorn.

We strolled to the far end of town where the entrance to the 13th century castle museum is located, but we had arrived late in the afternoon and the attraction was closing.  So the girls spent their time souvenir shopping, in particular buying many blocks of famous Gruyère cheese (spelled without the "s" when referring to the cheese) to take home.  I bought a nice chunk to take to my 99 year old grandmother, who loves it and has trouble finding it in the supermarkets at home.

Bringing the gorgeous village of Gruyères to picture-perfection are the spectacular, surrounding, snow-covered mountains, including the craggy Mont Moléson, which, although less than half the elevation, resembles the Matterhorn with its steep rock faces.  The girls - in their Disneyland expertise - were convinced it was in fact the Matterhorn, until I stepped inside the tourist office to confirm, and the woman pshawed me that "that little peak" out there, Mont Moléson, was barely even an Alp at only 2,000 meters high.

1 comment:

  1. This charming village would be perfect for us - cheese, chocolate and bread and my younger daughter thinks she's in heaven! I can see the resemblance to the Matterhorn - but isn't it funny how teenagers always think they know more than you?!?


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