|Day 3 – Chateau Chillon & Montreux – June 13, 2016
This morning we set our phone alarms to go off at 6:45AM – but for some reason we got a wake-up call at 6:23AM (and so did a few others in our group). Bags out at 7AM and we went down for breakfast. It was the usual variety – fruit, juice, sausages, bacon, crepes, eggs, bread, cheese, meats, rolls etc. The challenge today was to figure out how to work the coffee machine (that was not in English). The waitress only spoke French – so that made it super challenging. I stuck with fruit juice.
Anyway we finish breakfast with plenty of time and we were off to the bus by 8AM – we had a 9AM appointment at Chateau Chillon. So we started down the road towards the French-Swiss border. It was Monday – so all the construction had started up again (after there being none on the weekend) – and there was a bunch of work being done on the roads – and as a result we sat a bit in traffic. The roads are one-way each direction so when they are digging up one lane – all the traffic had to share the remaining lane alternating as directed by the constructions workers.
We arrived at the Chateau a bit past 9AM and immediately disembarked off our bus with our radios and ear pieces – to make it easier to hear our tour guide. We entered the castle and first saw a model of the castle as our new tour guide explained the history behind the castle and the fact that the castle owners used to make a great deal of money charging merchants that were taking goods along the road between Italy and Switzerland and Germany. Evidently this was a major route through the passes to get over the Alps.
The castle was built on a huge oval rock by the lake – with the lake protecting the castle on one side. On the other side they had to fortify the castle with a moat, thick walls and very small windows. Our next stop was the wine cellar – where they told us about the white wine that was well known from this region and the result of the micro-climate environment that was created by the lake. All their wine was in oak barrels – and they made a big point about telling us that it was from last year’s harvest. In the end we purchased a little to bring home and sample one evening while in Zermatt – if we can find a cork screw.
The next chamber in the castle was the prison and we saw beautiful arches made of stone and a very uneven floor because it was right on the bed rock. We saw the execution chamber where those sentenced to death were hanged. There were some religious drawings on the wall in the neighboring chamber where they would have prepared for death with confessions, viewing Christ and the Holy Spirit. Then we moved upstairs to the rooms where they entertained guests and ate – sometimes 8000 calories per day! The wall paper or actually painting on the wall was an interesting orange zig-zag with thin black lines. This room had huge windows overlooking the beautiful Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman as it was called in Roman times). We then saw a bedroom – which had 2 chairs next to the head of the bed to serve as commodes in the middle of the night so they did not have to go all the way outside to go to the bathroom. The bedroom also had a stone enclosure to provide heat as needed. We moved to other rooms – which were other sleeping quarters. We saw the bathing room where the owners of the castle would invite their guests to bathe with them in these large tubs – as they discussed agreements, contracts and the exchange of monies. The water was taken from the lake and heated in the fireplace that was in the corner of that room. Our tour guide stated that no one was modest at that time and it was a big social activity to bathe with each other – like the Roman baths. The last room we visited was the “bathroom” – or latrine – where they went to the bathroom and their excrement went down the tube and into the lake. It was all quite interesting.
Lastly we walked through the courtyard and out by the walkway near the original roadway – observing the very small “windows’ and crevices that provided protection from the enemies that may have tried to attack from the land. When we walked out of the castle we saw a couple of swans again – they seem to be everywhere!
Then it was back on the bus and we drove a short drive to Montreux – the stop that we had missed yesterday due to the music festival. Evidently the festival was for 2 straight weekends – so everyone would be back and all of the food trucks were still there – just all covered up because there were no people to serve their food to. The gardens and fountains were beautiful – just like most of the rest of Switzerland – at least those that we have seen so far. Montreux is well known for its Jazz festival that lasts the entire month of July. It is also known for the many musicians that come here to be inspired to write music. A song “Smoke on the Water” is a very famous song that was written about a fire that happened there – and Monica played it on our bus on our way to Montreux – and it was quite familiar. We were dropped off in the city center and we spent an hour walking by the lake on the promenade and seeing many interesting buildings and very pretty flowers. However the most interesting was the musical figurines that were cut out of metal and scattered around the walk – silhouettes that really let one know the importance of music to this area. Even the fences at the edge of the gardens were made out of rebar and painted black with “G clefs” and notes placed on the rebar – making it look like music on a staff. A statue of Freddie Mercury stands on the water’s edge as a tribute to him as an entertainer. We saw a box that was like the “mousetrap” game (only bigger) but consisted of many musical instruments and musical memorabilia that was moving and a ball came up a chain and around a path, through various contraptions and ultimately to the bottom again – where it started up its path again. It was all so creative!
Then it was time to head to the buses to drive another 40 minutes before we had lunch – on our way to Zermatt!!