I woke up as soon as my alarm went off at 7am – anyone who has ever slept next to me would’ve been shocked and impressed with how quickly I shut that shit off and popped out of bed. I’m a notorious snoozer, for those who haven’t shared a bed with me, but you can’t do that when you’re staying in a 6 person room in a hostel – it’s way too rude. So I was up and out of bed super early, ready to begin my exciting dairy-filled day.
After a free hostel breakfast (that was noticeably better than the free hostel breakfast I had in Geneva) I set off to catch three separate trains: one to the main Montreux station, one to Montbovon, and a final one to Gruyeres. I was worried about all sorts of things – what if I couldn’t find the station near my hostel, what if my Swiss Travel Pass didn’t actually cover the journey, what if I’d misread the train schedules, what if I missed my connecting train…etc. Alley’s aunt Norma told her I’m the only person who worries more than she does, and she may have a point (hi, Norma!). I wish my brain didn’t behave that way…I want to work on changing it.
Anyway, all my worry was for naught (as it usually is) because the Swiss have got train travel down to a science and they make it so easy for the passengers. There are clear schedules on screens in every station, extremely obvious numbers on the platforms, and if your train is running late – THEY HOLD THE CONNECTING TRAIN A FEW MINUTES SO THAT YOU DON’T MISS IT. I’ve literally never experienced such smooth train travel in my life. Bless the Swiss, amen. And as an added bonus, they’ve got these cool old school trains that run on something called the Golden Pass line, and my longest train today was one of those! I don’t quite understand how you know when these trains are running, but I just felt lucky to get to ride in one.
The seats on the antique train are set up in groups of four, and two older Swiss women sat with me. I would guess they were in their sixties, and I wanted so badly to be their friend – I got the vibe that they might be a lesbian couple, and they were so awesome. Both were wearing plaid and the one had the best messy butch haircut and the sexiest salt and pepper hair and ugh, why don’t I speak fluent French?! We all smiled at each other but that was all – they spent most of the time leaning very close to each other to chatter excitedly about the landscape rolling by. If anything gets me to learn French properly y’all, it’ll be old Swiss (probably) dykes on trains who feel as excited about cows and mountains as I do – mark my words.
My Swiss Pass did cover the entire train ride, as the rational part of my brain knew it would, and the entire journey took about an hour and forty five minutes. I didn’t mind though, because in a country as beautiful as Switzerland train travel is just another activity on a tourist’s itinerary. The time spent staring out the window as Lake Geneva got smaller and smaller until she eventually disappeared and was replaced by mountains, hills, tiny farmhouses, and vineyards was just as interesting as the cheese factory would be.
The factory, or La Maison du Gruyere, is right next to the train stop. It’s pretty small and less industrial than I expected. With admission fee you receive a sample of three cheeses – aged 6 months, 8 months, and 10 months – and an audio device for the self-guided tours. I usually hate museum tours, but this one was geared toward kids, super cheesey, and incredibly engaging! I loved it. The narrative was told from the perspective of a dairy cow (!) named Cherry, and she had me rapt as she explained how she works her “magic” to create cheese. During the tour you get a chance to watch the actual cheese factory and the workers as they create actual real Gruyere cheese! I learned that the factory makes 48 wheels of cheese a day!
After I got my fill of cheese I walked up (and up and up and up – the whole 20 minute walk was on a fairly steep incline) to the medieval town of Gruyeres, where there is another castle! Two castles in two days!! I never thought I’d be in a position to rank castles, but I will say that I much preferred the castle today, in Gruyere, than I did the castle yesterday, in Montreux. This one was smaller but the rooms themselves were filled with much more elaborate things, there was a beautifully landscaped garden, and there was a mini modern art exhibit in one of the rooms. I spent a while there exploring and ate a small snack in the courtyard, feeling proud of myself for packing some of my spoils from my “grocery store” run last night instead of paying $25+ for a meal at a restaurant. Then I refilled my water bottle and carefully made my way down the steep slope to the train station, where I waited for a train to Broc, aka The Place Where There Is A Chocolate Factory!
The chocolate factory, or Maison Cailler, was extremely busy by the time I arrived, and I wondered if I should’ve planned my day differently and if it was worth it to wait an hour for a tour. What else are you doing with your day, I ruefully asked myself, and that settled that. I bought my ticket and waited for my tour to start. In that time I worked on my blog a little bit and meandered the huge gift shop. I found one hilarious postcard in particular that is allegedly “a boy feeding a girl chocolate” but is clearly two dykes having a nice time. I bought two copies of that postcard – one is going on my wall when I finally move back into my bedroom.
I was extremely impressed with the tour itself and very glad I decided to wait to go on it. It was interactive, detailed, and theatrical – maybe my favorite museums are the ones that are geared toward kids? I dunno but the ones I experienced today were awesome. After the tour we were able to become “professional taste testers,” aka try as much chocolate as we could stomach – needless to say, I made myself slightly ill.
The journey home was long but enjoyable. I spent some time making plans for the next day; I would wake up very early again, I decided, so I could take the train up to Les Rochers-de-Naye before departing this area to head north, to Lauterbrunnen. From what I’ve read and heard, Les Rochers-de-Naye is supposed to be an alpine wonderland, with hiking trails, wild flowers, and a marmot museum!
I fell asleep hoping I would see so many marmots the next day.