Picture Postcard adventures in Gruyere
The natural beauty of Gruyeres in hard to describe. Gruyères is a fascinating and pretty little medieval town, located in the upper valley of the Saane river, in the canton of Fribourg, in Switzerland.
We had visited the picture book town of Gruyere, with its rolling green landscape and the peaks of the Fribourg pre-Alps, a decade ago, on one of our many trips to Switzerland.
Both Laveena and I remember having instantly fallen in love with this charming little town with 'Happily Ever After', fairytale like promises, written all over it. It was at the time we decided, that one day we would love to experience this story book like historical town as local residents.
And this summer we did, as we booked ourselves into a quaint little inn, located on top of an 80 metre high hill, north of the alps, in the foothills of mount Moleson. Our hotel, ‘ Hôtel de Gruyères’, had breathtaking views of the castle, the church and the valley; views we would wake up to every morning with a ‘thank you’ prayer on our lips. The feeling one gets when standing at the verandah of your room at the inn, breathing in the freshness of the purest air ever, hearing the clanging of the town church bells, watching the grazing deer, sheep and cows, with no humans in sight, seeing the morning clouds lazily drift past the green hill tops, feeling the nip in the air graze the surface of your skin like the gentle touch of a butterfly's wing, all of this and more, convinces you that this has to be the paradise, most pray for in the after life.
After a delicious breakfast of freshly baked croissant, muesli, gruyere cheese with whole wheat toast, strawberry yoghurt, raspberry jam and home made granola cereal, Laveena and I on our first morning in Gruyere, left our inn and walked along, hand in hand on the cobble stone main street, which was deserted at this early hour. We walked to the town church and prayed with all our heart. The feeling one gets in an empty church, up in the mountains, with the cold air trapped within it’s stone walls, is soulful. It fills me up with a sense of happiness, liberation and elation. In fact, I find that when the organ plays, the sound that resonates through the empty church, stirs up emotions within my deepest being, which feels so totally and completely beautiful.
A little while later, we stepped out of the church and walked through the town of the Earls of Gruyeres, it’s medieval charms, so well preserved. The XI century castle that overlooks the valley, is also worth a visit. We toured the castle that morning and walked through eight centuries of history, culture and fabulous medieval architecture. On exiting the castle we continued to feast on the peaceful picture postcard scenery of this traffic free town, so perfectly nestled between the slopes of Moleson and the Dent du Chamois. Everywhere we looked, all we saw was pure beauty.
We then returned back to our room at our hotel which was formerly known as the Knight’s Inn. Hôtel de Gruyères has 37 rooms, is very comfortable and is done up in a very typical swiss style. Our room was large, with a double verandah and heavenly views of the valley.
That afternoon we lunched at the Chalet De Gruyere, an emblematic restaurant serving delicious fondue and raclette. From where I sat, I noticed the ornamented cowbells and the traditional swiss woodwork and a cauldron hanging from the roof, at the end of a thick metal chain. The food was at the restaurant was exceptional and I washed down the delicious cheese with an ice cold draft beer.
The next day we visited, La Maison du Gruyere, the cheese factory located at the foot of the hill, near the station. Here we learnt that the local cows grazed on an exceptionally diverse flora, which helped give the alpine milk it’s unique and delicious flavour. The cows fed on lavender, alchemilla, anthyllis, fragrant vernal, dandelion and brown clover. The absence of additives further contributed to the pureness of the milk and cheese. We enjoyed the interactive exhibition which helped us discover the king of the cheese, Le Gruyère AOP. Later that day we returned to the town centre and walked to the Museum HR Giger Bar, in Chateau St. Germain. The bar is themed and modelled by Swiss artist H. R. Giger. It is done up in his original style, modelled on his acclaimed Alien monster from the film by the same name. Our experience at the bar was unique and weird at the same time, but impressive nevertheless. As we sat in this cavernous bar and sipped on our drink, we noticed the skeletal structure covered by a crisscross of vertebrae along the ceiling of the ancient building. Although a little misplaced in the surrounding quaintness and beauty of Gruyere, I felt the bar is definitely a must do while a guest in town.
Laveena and I enjoy our Nordic walks. Mountain biking is also an option. There are many tracks marked out along the mountains which offer breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and lakes. There are signposts everywhere to help you in your adventure. On one of our trips outside the town of Gruyere, we visited an alpine cheesery where Gruyère AOP cheese is still made in the traditional way over a wood fire.
On day three, we visited the famous Maison Cailler (Nestle’) Chocolate factory in Broc. An interactive guided tour opened up hidden doors to the magic of chocolate making and shed a light on the history of the factory from 1898 to the present. We were given tips on how to better appreciate, savour and love chocolates, more than we ever did before. We were first told to enjoy the look of the chocolate, to feel it’s texture, to smell it’s intensity and finally to place it on our tongues, allowing it to linger there for a while. We were told that the chocolate would melt naturally before we bit into an explosion of heavenly flavours. We were allowed to then taste Cailler's many chocolates, and taste we did, feasting on more than a dozen varieties of delicious cocoa relish.
We spent five wonderful days in Gruyere and promised to return. The villages around Gruyere are also quaint and lovely. If you have a car you can drive around, you can take the local bus if you like or you can simply walk around this beautiful part of Switzerland. Back at the medieval town, there are endless restaurants to choose from. We ate at a few of these though our preference was to sit out on our verandah, with our bread, meat, salad, cheese and wine, feast on both the food and the immense beauty surrounding us, often drifting into a dream world which repeatedly began with the words, "once upon a time, in a land far far away, there lived a beautiful princess........."
Hôtel de Gruyères
• Location: Google Maps • Address: Rlle des Chevaliers 1, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland • Hotel website: Hôtel de Gruyères
- Location: 9/10
- Food and Cuisine: 8/10
- Design: 8/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Overall experience: 8/10
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