Thursday, May 15, 2008

Day 94 - Gruyere

It is time to start saying my good-byes, so today I went to visit Monique and Jacques up in their mountain retreat. Monique met me at the Romont train station, and from there took me to visit the world famous town of Gruyere, seat of the medieval castle of the Counts of Gruyeres (whose coat of arms was a crane or gruy). The town is lovely, and to our good fortune it was not overrun by tourists. Of course we visited the castle, which has incredible views over the surrounding mountains.

Afterward I had to visit at least one of the cheese factories, where we learned all about the process of manufacture of the famous cheese. I was particularly keen on finding out how they drilled the holes, but much to my disappointment I learned that the true gruyere cheese doesn’t have any holes! Apparently the holes are typical of the emmental cheese, which the French have managed to market throughout the world as “gruyere”.

Later we visited the town of Bulle, where they have a great museum that shows all the different types of folk art and work in wood. In effect, this region is a big producer of timber, and over the centuries has perfected the arts of building with wood (including very thin lamellae of wood that are used as roof tiles and wall insulation; the workmanship and effort that goes in their installation are truly mind boggling), furniture, and of course tools and gadgets for the cheese trade. Chico and Dan, you would have loved it!

We finished the day with a very nice dinner at Monique and Jacques’. A curiosity was the bottle of wine we had with dinner. It was bottled in Bex, which is the town where Jacques grew up. He told us that his father had worked at the church shown in the right of the label, and that he had gone to school in the building that appears just to the left of the church. Talk about a wine with a story!

I finally had to say goodbye to my dear friends, and I will carry with me forever the joy of seeing them in the beautiful mountains of Switzerland!

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