On my first trip to Switzerland, I loved this small alpine town of Gruyeres. Its winding roads go up a hill, on which is hidden a medieval town straight from the pages of fairytale. There is the beautiful Gruyeres castle from whose walls you can have breathtaking views of the valley, the town and the Fribourg region. Ten years later, when I went to Gruyeres with my daughter this spring, I was quite apprehensive. What if the realities of a changing world hurt the beauty of my memories? But my fear proved to be wrong.
How to go: We took the Golden Pass Panoramic from Montreux in the morning of a very cloudy day. When the train passed through the beautiful hills of Les Avants, we seemed to be travelling through clouds. Although we enjoyed this feeling of entering a mysterious world in mountains as the clouds were playing with us, we hoped for a little more sunshine.
We got down at Montbovon. The Sun has already come out. The sweet soft alpine air greeted us. In these small alpine villages, you can experience the real beauty of Switzerland. From Montbovon we took the small train that took us to Gruyeres. There is a special train for this journey, which is called the Chocolate Train. But it does not run everyday.
Gruyeres: The town has not changed much. Its crisp alpine air, lonely streets along the hills decorated with Swiss chalets, brought back the same feelings after all these years. The whole place seems to have been specially decorated and kept in the ideal way without any day-to-day disturbance just for our eyes. This time, however, we didn’t walk. We took the bus waiting beside the station that goes up the old town and to Moleson-sur-Gruyeres. Then we came down to the old town. My daughter exclaimed with joy that we are inside a fairytale. I smiled and felt happy that she felt the same that we felt for the first time. Walking on the road in the old town you’ll reach a small church. On its left side are ancient structures for measuring grain. The church is now used for exhibition of art.
The Castle: Dating back to the 11th century, the castle’s heraldic representation the “crane”, “grue” in French gives the name to the town. The last of the nineteen Counts, who lived here, gave away the castle to The Canton of Fribourg. Later, it was sold to the Bovy and Balland families in the 19th century who lived, renovated and decorated the castle. In 1938, it was bought back by Fribourg and was open to public.
We enjoyed a video about the history of the castle. We walked on the wall and took in the view of the valley from its windows. My daughter enjoyed pretending as a guard. We went through a maze of castle rooms climbing up and down winding staircases and passing through narrow passages. The rooms were beautifully decorated and the views from the windows and balconies were magnificient.
While returning we found cows, goats and lambs grazing in the hilly meadows just beside the way down. My daughter fed handful of grasses to them through the fences. She had never had such experience outside petting zoos.
The Chocolate factory: The name is enough to excite a kid’s imagination. We hurried to the Swiss chocolate factory at Broc on the same train. We had to queue up and then wait for a long time for the English tour. The tour is automated and you have to go from one room to another according to the instructions. It was beautifully organized. Starting from the beginning of cocoa farming to the modern age, the tour gave lots of interesting info with animations and special effects. My daughter enjoyed it a lot. She was excited to find out that the Gruyere cows, which she fed that day, provided the milk for her favorite chocolates. I was surprised to know that initially cocoa was considered harmful and too strong for women and children. It was a drink fit for warriors. You can touch and taste cocoas, almonds and other ingredients used for chocolate making. You can also see how chocolates are shaped and packaged and how the slightest wrong shape can make the machine discard a chocolate.
Finally, there is the unlimited chocolate tasting. You cannot take chocolates from there but you can eat as many as you can. They put before you all the varieties of Nestle Caillers chocolates. We found that however much you love chocolates, it is difficult to taste each one of them in such a short time.
We also got some discounts on the chocolates that we bought from the chocolate and souvenir shop.
At the end of the day, we were a tired but happy family chatting with my little daughter about the chocolates and the castle life and the fairytale town of Gruyeres. It was a successful day trip after all.
Gruyeres castle Official Site
Maison cailler: The Swiss Chocolate Factory