When you agree to take a “media” trip abroad with other journalists you may find you’ve signed on to a very full schedule of events in your host country. That is certainly the case with this trip to Switzerland, not that I’m complaining.
On our second day in the region of Fribourg, we started the morning with a visit to the demonstration dairy where Gruyere cheeses are made. Our tour—an audio one led by the recorded voice of a “cow”—explained how milk from the cows we saw grazing everywhere was processed in huge vats, then processed and pressed into molds to age for a variety of time periods, all the way up to 15 years. The samples we were given ranged in aging from about five to 10 months; all were delicious and kept us quite content until lunchtime, which followed a tour of the castle of Gruyere—an edifice spanning more than 800 years of Swiss history, Strolling around its ramparts gave us enough of an appetite for lunch at the nearby Fleur de Lys restaurant, where we devoured fondue with Gruyere cheese—a treat I haven’t eaten in years—while enjoying a perfect view of the foothills of the Alps.
The one and only street of this village, which boasted several shops and eateries, is also home to the rather bizarre H.R. Giger Bar and Museum. Our busy itinerary didn’t allow time for a visit to the museum, but the bar provided an example of the creative work of the artist whose sci-fi creatures popped up in the classic movie Alien. An odd but intriguing spot for an aperitif.
As if we hadn’t been satiated already, our next stop was in Broc, at the Maison de Cailler, a chocolate factory whose relatively new public tour/venue has become one of the most popular destinations in this part of the world. A 20-minute tour covers the history of chocolate making from the days of the Aztecs onward, and the visit, of course, concludes with the chance to taste several of the firm’s products. On school tours, students even work in the atelier here to create their own favorite types of chocolate. That must be quite an education.
After dinner at the traditional Swiss restaurant Le Gothard (think ham and cabbage), we headed back to our hotel to get some rest before the next day’s trip to Interlaken, the center of “adventure sports ”in Switzerland. Beautifully situated between the lakes Thun and Brienz, Interlaken itself is quite a small town, but one with many excursions and outings available, from paragliding (those brave souls dotted the skies here) to our group’s visit to the Giessbach See, magnificent waterfalls just an hour by boat from the Interlaken Ost train station. While the ride itself was splendid, a trip up to the falls (by both funicular railway and shanks’ mare), was highly memorable, as was our foray into the grand Giessbach hotel here, which is open only in the summer and provides a lovely spot for an afternoon sip.
And once again, the hike up to the falls gave us an appetite for dinner (the Swiss are so active you have to struggle to keep up, but you can understand how they can eat the way they do). This meal at the Hotel Interlaken’s Taverne restaurant was a highlight, too, with pork escalopes, vegetables, potato croquettes and a dessert of eggnog cream completing our repast. After all that food and fresh air, how could one not sleep well?
Next up, weather permitting: our trip to Jungfraujoch, the 11,000-foot-high “Top of Europe.”