Swiss Hopping: Gruyères-Bulle-Broc-Fribourg
Four towns in one day. No wonder all of Sunday was spent resting!
Needless to say, much of the day was spent lounging on trains but at least the view was absolument parfait. On our way to Montreux–where we needed to make a transfer–we saw gorgeous mountains and I tried to take a picture of them but the glare and reflection of people behind the glass sort of ruined it. I guess that’s what I get for taking pictures on a moving train! At Montreux, we transferred to a train called GoldenPass which was designed specifically for viewing purposes, so it has a panoramic view!
We transferred to another train called La Gruyère and it only had two cars! The only other rival to its size was a red train I’ve ridden through a zoo–and I think even that one had at least three cars. Inside, the train was adorned with polka-dotted seats: made me think of cheese. And people go to La Gruyère (officially called Gruyères) to see le gruyère, the cheese that every Swiss family has in abundance in their refrigerators. I’m telling you the truth: when you ask for Parmesan cheese to decorate your pasta with in a Swiss home, they tell you, “Bien sûr!” But what they actually end up giving you is freshly-ground gruyère cheese in little balls. No joke!
Gruyères got its name from the word “grue” which means crane in French. It is an incredibly small village. As soon as you get off the train, you encounter the Maison du Gruyère, their cheese factory. Michelle and I decided to go to the cheese factory last, and instead hiked up this little path through cow fields and houses to the center of the town. The town could not be any more quaint! This is what a typical Swiss town center should look like:
We headed over to see the Château de Gruyères, a marvelous spectacle of architecture, art and a beautiful paysage. I have so many photos from there and so much to say about it that it requires a post on its own! Post on Château de Gruyères.
After seeing the castle, we needed to eat. Thus, we decided to stay culturally relevant and went to a restaurant where we ordered raclette. Raclette is a dish eaten by heating up cheese and then pouring the melted cheese over potatoes. It is often accompanied by onions and pickles. As I’ve mentioned before with fondue, you can’t drink any water with raclette (because you’d feel too bloated) so you get white wine. There are different ways of heating the cheese: we used a contraption that heated the entire block of cheese and once a large enough layer had melted, we moved the cheese away from the heater and scraped off the cheese. Another kind of hot plate is used by cutting pieces of cheese and placing them on little pans and waiting until just that piece is ready. All of it tastes splendid either way. 😉
We were so satisfied with the cheese–given that it was freshly brought from the Maison du Gruyère–that we were even more sure that we needed to see the factory! It was funny: on our way over to the factory, we saw cows up close…we had never seen them so close to us before! A photoshoot ensued. I digress. The factory tour consisted of listening to the recording of a “cow named Cherry” giving me the explanation of how cows are grown in Gruyères, nourished, how the grass they eat turns into milk, etc. And then we saw a portion of the factory and the cellar where they store their cheese for months/years! The photos are below.
It turns out that other than promenading through the town, visiting the castle and factory and hiking, there is nothing else to do in Gruyères. We easily decided that it was not worth spending an entire day there, so with a light conscience, we sat on the train and went to Bulle.
Our interest in Bulle lay in simply transferring to Broc, where the Cailler chocolate factory is headquartered. Broc is so tiny that the village is only accessible once an hour and through a small Fribourgeois train. We had thirty minutes before our transfer so we walked and saw their bull statue and found the castle Bulle is known for. Unfortunately, there are only administrative offices in the castle now, but at least it hasn’t lost any of its splendor! The best part is that behind the castle, there were a couple of white sheep and a black sheep, guarded by an electric fence! I would have touched it to make sure, but I think I want to keep alive for the duration of this trip.
We left Bulle and went on to Broc where we visited the Cailler Factory! It was magnificent. I bought five chocolate bars and received the sixth for free (not necessarily a great deal for the price but I’ll take it) and went on tour for 35 minutes. The tour reminded me of a Disney spectacle. At first, the tour group was locked in a room; the room turned out to be an elevator that descended and then opened up to Aztec times. We heard about Montezuma’s love of chocolate and how Cortes left the “New World” with not only golden riches, but also with brown riches. For this part, we were moved into a ship where we looked out of the “windows” which were pictured in TVs. Then we were moved into Europe, and shown how the English reacted to chocolate. Eventually, we learned about the Swiss masters: Peter, Kohler, Cailler and Nestlé, how they all opened up their own factories but were then bought out by Nestlé in the 1930s due to the Great Depression. And then of course, we got to see a little bit of the chocolate-making process and were given samples! Many MANY samples: they laid out all of the flavors they are making now in a row and people took everything. Who’s to blame us?
The only attraction worth seeing in Broc is the factory, so we advanced back to Bulle and wanted to decide: either we were going to return to Geneva right away or go to Fribourg for the evening. We bought tickets to Fribourg and sat on the train, only to discover that the train was no longer stopping at Fribourg because of track maintenance–we were displaced in Romont!! We struggled while in wait for another train to Fribourg, thus losing a lot of time.
By the time we got to Fribourg, it was almost 8:00 in the evening and too dark. The tourist office was closed and the only map available to us did not show any points of interest so we were basically closed off from the city. We walked around and I took a picture of a sculpture, glad it was the only indication of our trip there. Because we could not find anything to see, I told Michelle that we needed to do at least SOMETHING to prove to ourselves that our money wasn’t wasted completely. We sat down at a crêperie and filled ourselves up. It was really too bad that we couldn’t see the city…it is apparently very special! The only bilingual city in all of Switzerland. Though I am willing to contest that. For every five advertisements in French, there was only one in German. And not a single cafe that we encountered had a German name. Though, it is possible that we were stuck in a French neighborhood, yet nothing is certain.