Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lausanne and Gruyeres

So, when last I wrote, I was on the train from Zermatt to Lausanne.

On the way to Lausanne I stopped in Montreux, and walked to the Chateau de Chillon, which my guidebook said was "a one mile hike" from Montreux. It looked significantly more than one mile away (Montreux and the Chateau de Chillon are both on Lake Geneva, and you can see the Chateau from the shore at Montreux), but it didn't look too far to walk, so I figured what the hey. It took me about 45 minutes, which means either that I was seriously off my usual walking pace or it was a little under three miles. This makes me suspect that the guidebook meant to say "a one hour hike". That is a different thing. But regardless of how far it was, I walked all the way there and, for some reason, all the way back, even though I could have taken a tram or bus or a boat or something. Anyway: Chateau de Chillon = well worth the walk.

I had this book when I was in probably late elementary school, Castle by David Macaulay (it was award-winning and very popular, maybe you remember it too, and he wrote others about pyramids and cathedrals and things), all about how Medieval castles were built and stuff. And this castle was just like the castle in the book! Albeit less square and more adjacent to a lake. It was very cool.

The castle was built a long, long time ago, in the 12th century I think, and was used and occupied by various rulers and things, and then in the late 19th century it was excavated and restored. Because the restoration began so long ago, some of the restorations are kind of like little artifacts of what people of the 19th century thought castles should be like, which is interesting in itself I think.

According to my map, there are four courtyards, but I could not tell them apart and kept getting confused. The castle is much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside! Here's one of the courtyards:


Also a lot of the walls are painted, though most of the painting was, I believe, 19th-century recreations of the original paintings. I don't know if the restorers painted them to look old, or if they just deteriorated really fast, but this is what they look like:


Since this has been a tourist attraction since at least the early part of the 19th century (before it started to get restored), there is a lot of graffiti, most of it quite old. Here is Byron's name carved into a column! (It's covered with glass so that other people won't graffiti over his graffiti.)


If anyone out there is writing a historical novel set in the early 19th century, please have one of your characters carve his or her name into something ancient that a modern person would be horrified at the idea of carving their name into. I have a soft spot for 19th-century graffiti.

Then I went on to Lausanne, where I took no pictures for some reason. Lausanne is very pretty, but very steep. Also, since I didn't get there until lateish, having stopped at Chillon, most everything was closed. I ended up walking around with this Italian guy, Alessandro, and talking his ear off about various things. He recommended that I visit Gruyères, which I did.

I think Gruyères was probably a mistake; it would have been better to spend the day in Lausanne. I did spend the morning in Lausanne and went to the Olympic Museum, which was interesting since they had a lot of stuff on about the Beijing games. When I arrived there was a pickup Tai Chi class going on on the plaza out front:


No photos allowed inside the museum, and some of the coolest stuff was missing because it was on display in Beijing, but it was pretty cool, if a little overly-sunny about how great a place China is. I thought some of the stuff about the 1948 London games was interesting -- since it was right after WWII they didn't build any new stadiums or athletes' villages or anything, they just held it in existing facilities, and the athletes stayed in hotels and dorms and things. Kind of nice, really, given how excessive the preparations for the Olympics can get.

Anyhow, then I went on to Gruyères. Here is what was wrong with Gruyères:


Oh my holy pete was it crowded.

Also it was at the top of a hill, and no lift or funicular or bus or anything.

And there were no luggage lockers at the station, so I carried my backpack all the way up (my medium-sized backpack, not my all-my-stuff-in-it backpack, but still, it was heavy). (I think there may have been a left-luggage office there, but I didn't see it until I came back, so a lot of good that did me.)

There was something going on there while I was there, although I don't know if it was a special day or just Saturday. There were musical demonstrations, and traditional dancing demonstrations, and you could try out alpenhorns and cowbells:


So that was kind of fun, although I did not try them out. Also, in front of all the restaurants were tables full of free cheese samples! Actually, I am not 100% sure that they were free samples, but I had some and no one charged me for them or told me off for cheese-thievery, so I guess it was cool.

There is also a castle in Gruyères, which was pretty boring after Chillon the day before, although it did have a nice view:


Then after I hiked back down from Gruyères (on the one hand, it would be nice if there was some kind of public transport up to the town, but on the other hand, that would surely attract even more people to the town, yikes), I stopped at the cheese factory/shop near the train station. They have a cheese-curing robot!

Cheese-curing robot

The robot goes up and down the aisle and... picks up the cheese? And moves it around? OK, actually I'm not entirely sure what the robot does. I did not take the tour to see more of the cheese-making process, because I was ready to say goodbye to Gruyères, but I bought some, and I ate some of it for dinner. I have to say that whatever that robot is doing, I approve of it heartily, because that cheese was yummy.

From Gruyères I went on to Bern, where I am now, and which I will write a separate entry about. Today is Sunday and most things are closed and there don't seem to be any non-prohibitively-expensive concerts going on or anything, so I have been chilling out in my hotel room and catching up on the internet. For way too long, actually!


entknits said...

Cheese-curing robot! I was wondering what that was.

(Speaking of David Macaulay, you've read Great Moments in Architecture, right?)

grahams said...

"The castle is much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside!"

So...... The castle is a TARDIS?

Kyle said...

entknits -- I don't think I have read that -- I will make sure to do so!

grahams -- of course that is exactly what I thought! But I eschewed the reference in the main entry in deference to the less-geeky.