The Cows of Gruyeres

It was a mediocre looking day yesterday in our little village on the lake. After breakfast at Boccards (baguettes, pastries and machiattos) we consulted the Lonely Planet guide to Switzerland and keyed in the Tomtom to guide the Alfa up to Gruyeres via Fribourg. Fribourg is around eighty kilometres north of Lausanne. With the low cloud that hasn’t lifted until after lunch all week and the road works it took about an hour and a half to get there. 
Fribourg is a large town of 33,000 people, half an hour south of Bern. And of course Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. Fribourg has an old city area situated on the the Sarine River. Jo and I caught the funiclaire (like a cable car or small train on one track) down the river valley escarpment to the old city area. The Fribourg funiclaire is very ‘unique’. It is the only funiclaire in Europe that is powered by recycled sewerage and on a bad day it is easy to identify it’s power source. Today was one of those days.
In the old city Jo went to a marionettes museum and I amused myself at a photographic display the local citizens had set up on hundreds of large easels in the town square. We spent an hour or so wandering back up through the old city streets to the newer part of Fribourg where we had parked the Alfa and found another patisserie from which to sample a selection of their wares for lunch.
Gruyeres is half an hour south-east of Fribourg, probably fifteen minutes off the motorway to Lausanne. Around these parts the claim is that the best milk and cheese comes from Gruyeres. When you get there it is easy to see why. It is situated on a plateau to the west of the foothills to the Fribourg mountains. It is very happy cow country. Green, green as you will ever see and what you expect to find in Swiss postcards depicting summer. The old walled village and Gruyeres castle stands high on a hill overlooking the lake and the valley. Tourists need to park their cars at the bottom of the hill and walk up one of the pathways through the gates to reach the old town area.
Yesterday we had a special treat at Gruyeres. The farm beside the old village car park was bringing it’s cows down from  the high pasture on the alps. This is a special time that the Swiss call ‘Desalpes’. The cows get to live in giant barns over winter and have the food brought into them.The cows celebrate by having their heads adorned with flowers and they also wear special cow bells which are huge as they make their way down the mountain trails and roads. Towns and villages celebrate ‘Desalpes‘ with local wine and cheese, traditional dress and dancing. We caught the end of these cow’s Alps descent as they crossed the road below Gruyeres castle. Very cute looking cows playing their own bell songs and tourists in the way every where you looked taking photos and videos. I think Jo is putting a video up on Youtube tonight! Check it out.
The short hike up to old Gruyeres and the castle is worth it. The town is all cafes and tourist shops and there were two weddings being held there during our visit. You have 360 degree views of mountains and valleys. This neat sort of fairy tale setting has excellent backdrops for the wedding pics. The castle is 830 metres above sea level and was built around 1270 A.D. Originally a fortress it became a home in the mid 1800’s. Now it is owned by the Canton of Fribourg and used as a museum and contemporary art gallery for world renowned artists.
It is always interesting to walk unrestricted through buildings that are still standing some 800 years after they were built. The stories about them are always different and interesting. The Gruyeres experience is added to by the three separate art exhibitions and installations that are currently housed in the castle’s rooms. Most of the furniture here has been there since 1545 A.D. 
As the evening sky was beginning to push in we didn’t have time to do the museum. We followed a bride and groom on a wooden cart with their wedding party in tow through the cobblestone streets, picked up some very smelly Gruyere cheese and double cream and headed down to Lyn and Harvey’s place at Pully for dinner. There were three other Aussies there also which made for a fun night. Very yummy, king prawns and everyone got the jokes and politically incorrectness without being offended. Not so easy to do in Switzerland.


Photo art

Patrick Woodroffe sculpture

Whole Woodroffe sculpture

Woodroffe Exhibition in tower



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