Chillon Castle - Lac Leman - Montreux
If you ever get down to Montreux on the Lac Leman shoreline, make sure you take the three kilometre stroll beyond the gambling house, east along the lake to Chillon Castle. The magnifique of the walk in itself is almost enough but as you get closer, Chillon, forever shadowed in by the Swiss Alps, brings with it the intrigue and wonder as to how this rise of stone, timber and tile was brought to life in the tenth century and has defied invasion and earthquake to speak of a thousand years history to all that cross her drawbridge today.
Chillon was made famous by Lord Byron with his rather lengthy poem, ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’. If you go to http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/lbyron/bl-lbyron-prisoner.htm you can read Byron’s poem about the unfortunate Bonivard in full.
To enter the gates of Chillon is to walk into another world. Chillon is considered to be one of Switzerland’s most famous man-made attractions and well worth the 12 chf admission. Hidden from non-paying eyes is the large cobblestone courtyard, which looks like it could probably house and entertain a couple of hundred people, and the myriad of alleys and doorways that present themselves at every turn. The ancient stones, still held tight by the original mortar and faithful climbing vines, tower into shadows and sunshine, reminding the boy in me very much of the giant’s castle in Jack and the Beanstalk.
Our ex-Maleny friends, Ken and Anne Cork, in Lausanne for a day, explore Chillon with us. This amazing piece of crude architectural art, originally built on a natural island of bedrock with self-contained moat, brings new eyes of wonder to all of us as we do a random (self) guided tour. The cavernous rooms with exposed timber beams, beams that would take a twenty ton crane and as many pages of work place health and safety regulations to enable construction in the twenty first century, silently line the ceilings astride the high cliff walls. The functional banquet room with baroque patterns on the walls, look ready to host a Saturday night feast for five hundred although I wouldn’t want to be lined up for one of the three, single hole latrines that drop all their deposits twenty metres into the lake below, to relieve myself of the Abbot’s latest vintage.
We climb stairs up and down, stairs much like that children’s Mousetrap game, finding dungeons where prisoners for lowered by ropes twenty to thirty feet to the bedrock and lived in their own body waste until they completed their unjust sentences or thankfully died an early death. You can almost hear the chants of the sorcerers and witches (mostly everyday Christians accused of complicity) and their shrill screams as the flames engulf them, as you make your way high above the treasury room to the higher halls and bedrooms of 'the keep' with endless views of Lake Geneva, the Swiss and French Alps. This is the safest place in the whole castle. Easily and quickly separated from the other towers and sections of the castle complex, it was impenetrable to attack and weapons and the view is more than worth the at times tricky call for right of way on the one-way, almost vertical, timber staircases. After two hours, a few postcard purchases and a bottle of Rivella, we take the usual tourist pics out front and then talk our way back along the lake to Montreux.
On the train from Montreux to Lausanne we decide to go to France for lunch. You can get ‘weirded out’ here by being able to go to another country for a coffee or a meal. But it’s a cool kind of ‘weirded out’.
The photos below are from our Chillon experience. I was inspired by one of them to write a poem titled ‘The Ghost in the Latrine’, but that inspiration hasn’t been turned into ink as yet . Chillon has been another welcome addition to my recent adult education experience.
|With ken & Anne @ Montreux|
|The banquet hall|
|The royal latrine|
|Where Bonivard lived|
|Montreux from the keep|
|French Alps from the keep|