Monday, 9 September 2013

A MEDIEVAL TIME WARP (Monday, September 9)

"Sortie", we both yelled in unison and immediately began to laugh. We were headed to southwest Switzerland and without notice or fanfare had moved into the French-speaking area of the country. Road signage simply made an abrupt change from German to French. Yahoo! We could understand signs, people, menus again. More of a relief than I would have thought possible.
As we moved southwest, the dark skies that had been threatening Lucerne for another day began to dissipate. Perhaps after yesterday, Mother Nature was taking pity on us. Blue skies and bright sunshine greeted our drive through the vibrant green of the pre-Alpine foothills. As we neared our destination, Gruyeres, we caught glimpses of a castle jutting majestically above the ancient town which sits atop a hill.
Gruyeres is the home of Switzerland's most famous cheese and one of my personal favourites, I might add. The name "Gruyeres" actually comes from the French word "grue" for crane which is the symbol of the town. Signs and sculpture depicting cranes in various stages of flight abound.
As we experienced with Tuscany's hill towns, you must leave your car at the bottom of town. Arriving through the stone gate of the town fortifications, we gasped. We were totally unprepared for the fairytale vision on which our eyes now feasted. Before us lay a picture perfect little town with a cobblestoned main street flanked by ancient but beautifully preserved buildings. Flowers overflowed from overhanging balconies and windows. A gurgling, flower-festooned fountain gaily invited you into the town square. I could close my eyes and picture the bustle and noises of a medieval town. Jim commented that our Italy fiasco was immediately erased at that moment. How true!
Our charming little inn sits on the main street and our room overlooks the happy little fountain. Given the last-minute nature of our reservation, we are quite pleased with our accommodation. Thank you
First stop was The Castle of Gruyeres. An innovative fifteen-minute multimedia presentation shown on triple screens plus an additional screen hung on a angle in the rafters, led us through the history of the castle from 1270 to date. Highly entertaining, it deftly instructed viewers on the history of the Gruyeres area. To tour the castle is to walk through eight centuries of architecture, history and culture.
Lunch at a festive cafe, a visit to the lovely local church, and a hike into the lower town then up around the castle grounds completed our day or so we thought. Getting ready for dinner, we heard a commotion in the town square. Looking out our window, we discovered that a men's choir, dressed in national costume, was amassing in front of the fountain. Grabbing cameras, like the good little Canadian tourists we are, we raced downstairs and out into the square just as the choir began the first of five haunting and highly emotional French language songs. With each song, more shopkeepers and waitresses came out of their workplaces and crowds gathered to witness the special moment. The performance was worth the whole visit to town.
A raclette dinner (our first) and a stroll through the dark and quiet town ended an extraordinary day. Now it is time to snuggle under the eiderdown and sleep to the music of a gurgling fountain.
Jusqu'a demain.....

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