We had some incredible treats today. We started the day going to a place where they make Gruyere cheese (one of our favorites). We went on a tour of the factory. Our kind of tour – they handed us cheese samples at the beginning. We learned several things. One, Grue is the French word for crane and the nobility that lived in the area in the middle ages had a crane on their coat of arms so the city was originally named de Grueri and eventually the name evolved. Second, Switzerland eats 59% of the Gruyere cheese in the world. Third, the cows eat over 75 different natural plants in the area that create the unique taste in the milk that is used to make the cheese. Fourth, it takes 1,268 gallons of milk to make 12 wheels of cheese (each one weighs 77 pounds – Leslie is holding a model in the 2nd picture). Fifth, they use the membrane that lines the fourth stomach of calves to curdle the milk. Ok perhaps you did not need to know that, but since we found this out we did not want to be the only ones with this knowledge.
Since we were in the Gruyere mood, we visited the medieval town of Gruyeres. Like all medieval towns it is built on the highest hill around. Clearly they did not consider all the tourists that were going to have to walk up the hill to visit the town when they established them. Or perhaps they did – they knew we needed help burning off all the cheese. We saw some of the Gruyere cheese cows on the way up. They were all wearing bells and every move they made resulted in quite a lovely melody. The next 7 pictures show the town, the church and the castle. After all the climbing, we felt compelled to go back to the cheese factory and have cheese fondue for lunch. Very yummy.
For dessert, we went to Broc to go to the Cailler chocolate factory. They had a very cute tour explaining the history of chocolate all the way back to the Aztecs. We found out that the Swiss consume more chocolate than any other country in the world (we are thinking this is a good place to be). They also had many of the ingredients in bins where you could smell them. Leslie was quite taken with picking up and smelling the cocoa beans. The only thing that got her past that part was the knowledge that there were samples at the end. We had no idea that at the end there would be 10 different kinds of candy to sample – full size pieces. Word to the wise – NEVER eat 10 pieces of Swiss chocolate in just a few minutes. It was delicious though.
We finished the day with a stop in Chillon to visit the medieval Chateau de Chillon. It is located on Lake Geneva. The castle was built during Roman times to guard the strategic roads through the Alpine passes.