As we began our descent down the steep Mount Pilatus, the sensation felt slightly slower than a roller coaster, and I was happy we didn’t purchase the front seat tickets after all. Our Golden Pass Line railcar was steadfast and we quickly turned our attention to descending aerial gondolas and pastures of contented grazing cattle. Leaving the natural beauty of Lake Lucerne, we were now anticipating the experience of visiting Le Chateau de Chillon on Lake Geneva.
The Counts of Savoy built this water castle on a rock island between the St. Bernard Pass and Lake Geneva. Four hundred years later, Chillon Castle was taken in siege by the Bern, then the people of Vaud moved in. This is the French Region of Switzerland, the land of rich sauces and melt in your mouth simmered meats accompanied by local wines and brandies.
This is the same water castle that 300,000 visitors make pilgrimage in Switzerland each year to view its pristine surroundings. From a distance, it looks to me like it is floating on the lake. The reflection of the bright sunlight reflects on the lake’s surface playing tricks on my eyes. Being surrounded by water and creatively lit by night, the castle Chillon casts an unusual aquamarine glow throughout the stone architecture.
The Chateau de Chillon near Montreaux on the shores of Lake Geneva dates back to more than 1,000 years.
Credit: Swiss Tourism/ Christof Sonderegger
Eating Swiss farm-processed cheese fondue with friends in the Vaud regions of Switzerland has traditional eccentricities that I wasn’t prepared for. For example, while staying at a working farmhouse with a college friend, we looked forward to congregating daily with locals to enjoy farm fresh cuisine. It wasn’t long before my friend lost a cube of bread in the fondue pot. Immediately, the guests at our long wooden table began to banter back and forth in French so quickly I couldn’t keep up.
Credit: Swiss-Image.ch / Frederic Grangier
There is a tradition in Vaud, apparently, that if a woman drops bread into a cheese fondue pot, she must kiss the person seated next to her. Unfortunately, if you are a man, you must pay for the wine. I gallantly offered to pay for the Calvados, but the owner insisted on a kiss – on both cheeks!
Truly, his wife deserved the kiss for her dedicated skills in preparing the cherry-eau-de-vie. Her richly flavored cheeses were perfectly blended and seasoned, and clung decadently to her perfectly weighted baked artisan breads. When I complimented her for her wonderful talents, she took me into her pantry to sample her family’s pride.
She offered me fully ripened Emmental and Gruyere, each wheel packaged with care. We sampled several cheeses with tiny glasses of apple brandy distilled on their farm. As she showed me her trick of rubbing the cheese with crushed garlic before gently melting them together and stirring in cups of their family labeled white wine.
For the best ways to reach Mount Pilatus, visit Swiss Travel System.