And so our vacation has come to an end. But not before exploring these three tourist gems.
Straddled between a mountain and a turquoise colored lake, Brienz is a meh-looking village where nothing much ever happens because of its size.
It’s so small it doesn’t have swanky five-star resorts of its neighbors; only awful (and expensive) motels that cater to the one or two tourist that’s unfortunate enough to stop by.
And that happened to be us.
I must admit this was entirely my doing. Lake Brienz was too irresistible on a lovely summer’s day.
We hopped on a ferry the first chance and — as with all spontaneous actions like one night stands — soon began to regret our rash decision. Because we hadn’t checked the timetable, we didn’t know we had taken the very last ferry to Geissbach Falls.
There was no return ferry, and the last tram to the closest hotel had departed while we were busy oohing and aahing at the waterfall. And to top it all off, it had started to rain (but of course). This meant we had to do a steep hour-long hike through a forest.
I was in a tweed skirt and trying not to pass out carrying 10 kgs worth of bubba who is, by now, impatient and trying to wriggle his way out of my grasp and onto the ground.
To cut a (very) long story short, we finally arrived at the Grandhotel Geissbach, which reminded me of the hotel in The Shining because of how secluded it was.
We had an expensive dinner (not a ghoul in sight though because spotting one would’ve made it all worth it) and took an expensive cab ride — the only one available in the whole blasted town — back to our own shabby hotel.
And while it is just a short stroll away from the lake, our accommodation, Hotel Steinbock — which happens to be the best-rated one on booking.com at the time of booking — faces the main thoroughfare that cuts through this village like an ugly post-op scar. Apart from the melodious symphony of cars and trucks, we were also treated to the sound of several disgruntled customers arguing loudly at the hotel’s restaurant, thus adding to the magical nighttime atmosphere.
The next day was much better — we still had some travel spunk left in us to head for the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum, which is essentially a gigantic park dotted with replicas of century-old buildings from all over Switzerland and farm animals.
It was nice to spend a full day walking around aimlessly and, in my children’s case, terrorizing some goats.
You can’t visit Europe and not stay in at least one medieval town. When in Switzerland, Murten’s your best bet. It’s got the best-preserved medieval core, lots of great food and it overlooks a serene lake and the rolling vineyards of Mount Vully.
We stayed in this quaint little two-bedroom apartment that’s got grapes growing on its balcony and a small little garden for the boys to play kickball in. Best of all, it overlooks the town’s famed medieval walls.
Everyone comes to Murten for its walls. They walk on it and pose with it. They could also scan the vicinity to see if there are anyone sunbathing nude on their lawn — not that we did that.
But there is a grim history behind it — the long and bloody Battle of Murten was fought here in the pouring rain (yeah, it hasn’t stopped raining since the 15th century apparently). More than 10,000 French soldiers were slaughtered here, driven to the lake by Swiss soldiers to drown.
The old city was a lot like Germany’s Rothenberg ob der Tauber, only much smaller. Murten is dominated by one very lively street, the Hauptgasse, which is flanked by surprisingly good restaurants. We never had a bad meal here — can’t say the same for the rest of Switzerland.
At the risk of sounding like an octogenarian, evenings are spent strolling along the super chill waterfront, though spending it in a pub is also a good idea, just not with two screeching kids and a husband who’s as keen on alcohol as he is on watching paint dry.
There’s a playground, well-signposted bike paths, mini-golf — basically, everything one needs to have a great holiday — and a small-boat harbor from which you could jump on a day cruise to Mount Vully, where you would find copious amounts of white wine.
That’s where we headed, though on hindsight, it was not worth enduring a dull 75 minute boat cruise for since the views aren’t as spectacular as the Lavaux Terraces.
Oh well, at least the mother in law got her hands on a few bottles of really delicious, well-priced Chasselas.
Any town that produces world-famous cheese is alright with me. But hey, Gruyeres doesn’t just have great cheese and chocolate, it’s also pretty! Perhaps that’s why teeny tiny village of one main pedestrianized street was SWARMING with tourists, all more than happy to be cynically exploited for their money.
The first thing I did was buy a shit ton of chocolate and cheese. You’d think I was suffering from clinical depression and was looking for alternatives to Zoloft. Maybe I was…after finding out how much money I’ve blown on food that made me fat.
Then we brought our two-year-old to the HR Giger Museum thinking it would just be aliens.
Giger is the creator of Alien and Prometheus, but apart from his sketches and full-blown models from film sets, the museum also contains all manner of darkness and perversion. There were several times I had to close our two-year-old’s eyes because we don’t want him asking questions after witnessing an alien orgy. Or a landscape of penises. Or a woman getting sexually assaulted by robots.
Warning: NSFW images ahead.
Poor Giger. He obviously became deranged from spending too much time in Switzerland.
Three minutes into museum, we realized we had brought our bubba to the wrong place. Strange, because the people at the reception seemed to think it fine.
But the bubba was anything but fine. He was freaking out big time and was frantically asking us to protect him from the monsters on the walls and floors. Other visitors were giving us funny looks and we had to literally sprint through the exhibits.
While I was not impressed at all by the museum, I was quite blown away by the Giger bar opposite it.
As tempted as I am to go in and get myself a penis martini or whatever, I could only stay outside with my two kids and teetotaler husband and gawk like a loser.
We quickly made our way to the Castle of Gruyeres, a glorious structure perched at the end of the street, offering visitors fine vistas of the surrounding region.
The reviews on TripAdvisor will have you believe it was a ‘medieval marvel’ and such but it was, quite frankly, a waste of my precious two hours. Its interior was nothing like the Chateau de Chillon — it was empty and filled with incredibly boring bits of history.
Really, my granny tells better stories.
That was pretty much all there is to Gruyeres unless you count the church and the Tibetan Museum (yeah, seriously). We waved bye-bye to this ultra-touristy town, planning never to return….unless I need to stock up on cheese and chocolate.