Getting to Gruyères
We had earmarked Gruyères as an appropriate stopover in Switzerland. We were only passing through so it had to be a short detour from the route home, have some tourist sights to see, and have motorhome parking at a reasonable rate. Of course the addition of Cheese was a bonus but not unexpected given where we were.
We drove down from the Grand Saint Bernard tunnel on Swiss roads, doing our usual observation of the small differences when driving in a new country. Fuel stations would flash their expensive prices in both Euros and CHFs (Swiss Francs). Occasionally signs mentioned a ‘Rettungsgasse’, something we had to look up. This is an instruction to form a lane for emergency vehicles if traffic is slow or stationary. Fortunately we had no need to ‘Retungsgasse Bilden’.
It didn’t take us long to make our way down through the valley from the pass, the road on a gentle gradient with only a couple of switchbacks. At Martigny the surrounding countryside started to look more populous and eventually we skirted the eastern end of Lake Geneva. Despite increasingly urban surroundings the mountain scenery and the wide expanse of the lake stole the show.
Motorhome Parking in Gruyères
After Lake Geneva we were soon back to driving through green pastures. The outline of the medieval hill town of Gruyères became more obvious as we left the main road for the last part of our journey. We arrived at about 4pm and the car park that allows Motorhome parking was easy to find but slightly tricky to get into with the number of tourist vehicles still in evidence. This was P3, the overflow parking area, but was full on a weekday out of season! There are no services here apart from a couple of portaloos but that was reflected in the very fair 10CHF parking cost for 24 hours.
After a bit of hanging around we managed to bag a space in the corner, it was good and flat and we were out of the way of vehicles going in and out. It wasn’t very long before more motorhomes and campervans joined us and the car park gradually emptied of the day trippers. We still had plenty of sightseeing time so we decided to walk up to the town and explore.
Sightseeing in Gruyères
For some reason when the town was described in the Lonely Planet guide I was expecting something bigger with a medieval centre and modern surroundings. But actually you just have the small medieval town . People obviously do live here but the whole town seems to be very much a tourist exhibit. This made it very easy to wander around and explore. It was beautiful in the glorious evening sunshine with the backdrop of vivid green fields, white capped mountains and azure skies.
As we wandered around we gathered ideas for the following day. There is plenty to do here, you can observe cheese manufacturers, visit the castle or view Himalayan art in the Tibet Museum. There are restaurants and cafes for eating and drinking and shops for local or national souvenirs (think Swatch watches or Swiss Army knives). Far too much for us to fit into one day.
HR Giger Museum
The first thing we did the following morning was wander up to the town again to go to the HR Giger museum. HR Giger was the man with the fevered imagination behind the Xenomorph in the film Alien. There was some controversy regarding his lack of involvement in the subsequent films but I think it’s safe to say that the visuals wouldn’t exist without his original creations. He also contributed to other films (the one I was most familiar with was the original Dune movie – the one with Sting in it) and his Necronomicon collection inspired the game Doom which I remember well from my gaming days.
The biomechanical artworks on display were as disturbing and nightmarish as you might imagine. There was an adult only section that had a lot of graphic sexual imagery, but once you had been in that section you could see the same motifs everywhere, fusions of flesh and machine in many disturbing ways.
Opposite the museum is a bar where you can sip Alien themed cocktails surrounded by furniture inspired by the artist. But we didn’t have time to stop here as we wanted to head off on a walk.
The Gorges de la Jogne
We dropped back down to Bertie to pick up our rucksacks for a walk to the Gorges de la Jogne. Then back through Gruyères to pick up the signposted path that leads out behind the church.
The path crossed the road and led down to a covered wooden bridge across the river. There is a path alongside the river but we soon diverted away towards Broc, via a restuarant and field of cows with their clanging bells.
On the other side of Broc we found the start of the walk up the gorge. The ascent started in the woods before entering a short tunnel. Ascending the gorge we crossed bridges, climbed steps and stooped through more tunnels. It wasn’t the most magnificent gorge we have ever visited but it was a very pleasant walk. In the April sunshine it was pretty warm and sheltered and we were soon removing layers. We passed a large group of school children playing (educationally I’m sure) on the rocks and dangling feet in the water.
It was so warm that when we retraced our steps we had to pop into a supermarket in Broc to get an ice-cream. The lady manning the self service tills was very helpful guiding us through the screens as we tried to pay.
Cheese of course
Our busy day in Gruyères had to be finished with some of that Gruyère cheese. I don’t know why it is that the cheese has lost the final ‘s’ of the town’s name but I do know that the name of both is derived from the French for Crane – ‘Grue’.
We turned up at the Remparts restaurant, as we often do, rather early for food. It was 6:30 and the staff were sat around a table eating their own dinner. They weren’t willing to let us come back later though, and settled us with a view of the ramparts and a couple of drinks. Paul admonished the lady who served us to go back and finish her dinner while we sipped our drinks.
In faltering French on our part, and limited English on hers we ordered our Fondue moitié moitié (half Gruyère and half Vacherin cheese) which came served with crusty bread, warm potatoes and pickles. It was only when I listened to a conversation behind us conducted in German that I realised I would have made a better fist of things if I had asked to speak German. I didnt study French at school, always slightly intimidated by the pronunciation, but did GCSE German and a year of A level before I realised that I wasn’t a great languages student.
Obviously we greatly enjoyed our cheesy feast and then a luscious dessert of Gruyere cream and meringues. With the combination of Giger’s art and a heavily dairy based dinner I wondered how many nightmares we would experience.