Mountains, chocolate, cheese, castles and cows, lots of cows. The Gruyere region was for me the most stereotypically Swiss part of Switzerland, and also my favorite part of our five day trip. Even when we got off of the wrong train station, we were rewarded with gorgeous views. Guyere also has a great variety of indoor museums and exhibits.
A Cat, Cows and Chocolate at Maison Callier
Maison Callier was one of the highlights of our trip. It is a chocolate factory and now museum. There is a train stop a few minutes from the museum (Broc Fabrique). However, I highly recommend getting off the train the town of Broc, which is one station before or after Broc-Fabrique depending on where you are coming from. We did this unintentionally, and it allowed us to walk through the town and down into the valley that surrounds Maison Cailler.
The museum itself was fun to visit. It starts with a creative exhibit on the history of chocolate which leads visitors through a series of themed rooms. Then, you get to the ingredients room. Visitors can taste several ingredients including dried and crushed cocoa beans. The beans are dark and bitter but still have a distinct chocolate taste. Next, we passed through a small production area that shows how Cailler “Branches” are transformed from long ropes of plain chocolate to individually wrapped treats. Finally, we arrived at the tasting room — it really exists! There are several different types of chocolate to try and they let you each as much as you want, as long as you don’t try to take it with you.
Aliens, a Castle and Cheese in Gruyeres
After Cailler, we moved on to the town of Gruyeres. Note that Gruyere is the name of the region, and Gruyeres (with an -s) is the name of the town.
La Maison du Gruyere, a small cheese-making show dairy, is across from the Gruyeres train station and at the base of the hill leading up to the town itself. The cheese makers weren’t actually doing anything when we visited, so all there was to see was a small exhibit and large vats of milk being slowly stirred by large machines. I recommend skipping this if there isn’t any demonstration going on. Otherwise, it is not worth full-price admission.
Gruyeres has two unexpected museums, a Tibetan museum and H.R. Giger museum located right next to each other. H.R Giger is best known as the designer behind the movie Alien. Be ready for some weird stuff. You can’t take pictures of the artwork, but I got some nice pictures of the town standing from a small balcony. There is also an H.R. Giger bar across from the museum that allows pictures for patrons.
After the museum, the weather held out long enough for us to explore Gruyeres Castle and its ramparts and grounds. Gruyeres castle has well-preserved medieval artifacts and a once mysterious severed hand. We explored until the snow started, and then made our way to a warm restaurant. Gruyeres has several restaurants that serve fondue and raclette. I enjoyed a raclette, a round of cheese heated at the table, then scraped onto the plate. It was served with potatoes, pickles and onions. While eating, we sat in the restaurants back glass-encased patio, which allowed us to watch the snow pass us by.
Train to Enney
After dinner, we got back on the train, but going in the wrong direction. We got off in the small village of Enney to wait an hour for the next train. Enney’s mountain back drop looks more like post-card illustration, then a real place. Fortunately, we had some time to walk around and enjoy the views before the snow finally caught up with us, and we bundle up for warmth until the train finally arrived.
We bought a Swiss Travel Pass for a five day trip to Switzerland. The pass can be purchased on arrival in Switzerland, so there is no need to purchase beforehand. For example, we bought ours at the Zurich Airport train station. It gave us free access to all the buses and train, half price tickets for the cable car to Schilthorn, and free boat tour on Lake Thun. It also includes free admission to many museums and attractions. In Gruyere, it gave us free entry to: