Results 1-9of 9 Reviews
CA1 1LA, England, United Kingdom
January 21, 2013
From journal Geneva and Montreaux
Belfast, United Kingdom
July 27, 2010
From journal 10 days in Switzerland by train
New Delhi, India
July 27, 2009
George Gordon, Lord Byron; Sonnet on Chillon
François Bonivard (1496-1570) was the prior of St Victor, near Geneva, when he opposed the efforts of Charles III, Duke of Savoy, to control Geneva. After imprisoning Bonivard for 3 years at Grolée, the Duke released the monk—only to later re-imprison him, this time at the château of Chillon. Bonivard was incarcerated till 1536, when the Bernese captured the château. Less than 300 years later, Byron, touring Switzerland with friend and fellow poet P B Shelley, visited Château Chillon and was inspired to write The Prisoner of Chillon.
By the time we arrived at Chillon after a long boat ride, we were so hungry, we wouldn’t have known inspiration if it hit us on the head.
I don’t remember whose idea it was to take the boat from Ouchy to Chillon. Yes, Lac Leman’s paddle steamers are pretty; but they take an awfully long time to get anywhere. Having left Ouchy at 11.45 AM, we reached Château Chillon at 1.30 PM, starving and irritable. Fortunately, the pier’s near the château, so a short walk brought us to the castle’s snack bar where we bought sausage rolls, coffee and jam doughnuts: not gourmet fare, admittedly, but adequate.
At the turnstile leading into the castle, we were given a free tourist guide in English, and were told that our Swiss passes were valid, so we wouldn’t need to pay the CHF12 fee per person. The guide—a single sheet folded into a concertina—suggests a route, with detailed instructions on where to turn, climb or descend, etc. Since each section of the castle also has a number at the entrance, it’s easy for visitors to make their way around by themselves. Audio guides are also available for a small fee.
We began by reading through the history of Château Chillon. The castle stands on a rocky island and has been a fortification at least since the 12th century, when it was occupied by the Dukes of Savoy. By 1536, the Bernese had ousted the Savoyards (freeing Bonivard in the process). In 1798, the château became part of the canton of Vaud. Excavations and restoration of the castle began in the 19th century under the aegis of the archaeologist Albert Naef. More on this gentleman later.
Making our way through the first courtyard, we went down into the cellar and the storehouse, which in its present condition dates back to the 13th century. It has a vaulted roof supported on stone pillars, but the architectural finesse seems to have been restricted to the top half: part of the floor consists of the rock—without any attempts at levelling—on which the castle’s built. They’ve made an attempt to recreate a medieval cellar, with a rack full of sacks, baskets, barrels and casks. Cute.
Beyond the cellar and storehouse is the prison, and then (more specifically), Bonivard’s prison, which inspired Byron. Near the entrance of the dungeon, the plastered wall is decorated with an illustration of the crucifixion, and if you look towards your right as you walk along away from the entrance, you’ll see a plaque dedicated to Byron, embedded in the rock that forms part of the wall. And one of the pillars has a little bit of graffiti scratched into it by Byron. Not a good tourist, this man.
Following the instructions in our visitors’ guide, we made our way through the relatively nondescript crypt (which contains traces of an altar), through the second courtyard, and into the first of the more sumptuous chambers of the château: the Constables’ Dining Room. Lavishly painted, with a wooden ceiling, and tapestries woven with animal and heraldic figures, the room is set with rough tables and chairs, each `tablecloth’ being a printed sheet that has lots of interesting information (also in English) about banquets in medieval Switzerland: menus, etiquette, entertainment, and the like. Nearly each room in the château has boards or other signs with additional information, illustrations or trivia pertaining to the room, written in French, German and English.
On the floor above the Constables’ Dining Room, we arrived at the Aula Nova, a ceremonial room which the constables used. The vaulted ceiling was restored by Naef and gang in the 1920’s, and the paintings on the wall are also not original—they were inspired by murals elsewhere in the château. What we liked about the Aula Nova was the display of arms and armour here: gleaming, fearsome, and definitely dangerous.
A little further, and we arrived at the small but attractive Bernese Bedroom, with its four poster bed, carved chests (which, by the way, are abundant in the château—all exquisite examples of woodwork), and prettily painted fruit, flowers, vines and birds on the plastered walls. Past the Bernese Bedroom, the next major chamber was the Coat of Arms Hall. This, as the name suggests, is liberally painted, all along the top half of the walls, with the coats of arms of the Bernese bailiffs who resided at Chillon when it came under Bernese rule. We had a fun time examining the tiny bears painted above the coats of arms: there’s a regular regiment of them, using lances and swords and whatnot to fight each other. And, as if to push home the fact that Bern equals bear, the hall is dedicated to the animal. A large statue of a bear stands near the entrance, there’s plenty of trivia about bears all across the room, and the central section is devoted to teddy bears. Neither Tarun nor I are especially keen on teddies, but there was information here on how the toy got its name (we have Theodore Roosevelt to thank for that); how they were originally manufactured; and—of course—a large collection of teddies, including old rag-stuffed ones with boot-button eyes. There was even a very jazzy teddy covered with what looked like rhinestones!
Having had our fill of bears, we moved on to the Camera Domini, known for the murals of animals painted on its walls; and, beyond, to the Latrines. A wooden board with strategically placed holes above stone funnels line one side of the room, and (as in all the rooms), there’s additional information on a board on the side. In this case, the trivia consists mainly of some pretty graphic and disgusting medieval illustrations, so if you’re even slightly sensitive about stuff like that, avoid peeking!
From the latrines, we made our way down (a staircase!) to the Wooden Room, probably once used to house the ladies of Savoy. Then, past the chapel and through the third courtyard, we arrived at the Aula Magna. This hall, with its distinctive black-and-white painted walls, was originally used for banquets, and is back today to being rented out for functions and parties. The black marble pillars of the hall are 13th century, as are the tall windows that line one side of the hall, offering a fine view of Lac Leman.
The next interesting room that we came to was the Torture Room (our guide was cautious in referring to it—ungrammatically? —as the `Called Torture Room’). The guide went on to say that this was probably used as a small sitting room or dressing room during the Savoy period, though the Bernese used it to torture people. We found no signs of blood-curdling torture devices; instead, we learnt that the pretty green-and-white pattern of the central pillar is in an unusual 13th century style.
Beyond this, we went through another set of latrines, past the Camera Nova (where the restoration committee headed by Naef held its meetings), and into the Models Room, which contains models of the château at different stages. This room also has photographs and information about the work carried out by Naef and his team in the 1920’s to restore Château Chillon.
Looming above these chambers are the Sentries’ Galleries, long wooden corridors that run along the periphery of the castle and were constantly patrolled. After walking down a couple of these, we thought of turning back, but a quick glance at the guide showed us that the galleries lead up to the 11th century keep, so we decided to persevere—and were richly rewarded. Not that the keep is exceptional. It’s a tower divided into a series of rough wooden rooms one atop the other, linked by sturdy ladder-like staircases. If heights aren’t your thing, or if you have a problem with balance, this isn’t the place for you. But if you want a breathtaking view across the castle, Lac Leman and the surrounding areas—Montreux, the vineyards of Chillon, etc—there’s no beating the keep.
Château Chillon is a must-do if you’re in this part of Switzerland. It’s well maintained, easy to get to, and both fun and informative. Don’t miss this.
From journal Traipsing Around Western Switzerland
February 24, 2006
From journal Fun and Physics in Geneva, Switzerland
by Phyllis Chambers
November 5, 2005
There is a wine museum in the entrance of Chillon Castle. It is very interesting. It is exciting, as the wines are very prized possessions and many have been stored through the ages. They sell the wines from the region and you can also escape and go into the actual chambers of the castle, which I did with fascination and glory. The architecture is very Gothic and there are approximately 24-25 bldg. units to go in and out of with lake views, and you can see the famous rail and tunnels peeking through the castle walls and windows! Some remodeling is still taking place and closed off to the public.
The ceiling is painted with Gothic art and is gorgeous - golds and hues of red and green. The oldest part dates back to the 13th century. It is a restored museum and Count Peter II of Savoy. They have dungeon furnishings, Gothic and from the Lord Byron days, from this period. Quite unique. With the mountains and Lake Geneva and vineyards all in the background out doors and also gifts to be purchased and postcards, T-shirts right outside. Groups can be accommodated as well. Totally awesome weather, warm, wondrous, and gorgeous statues, figurines, and palm trees. Tons of gorgeous swans, boats in the little harbor, and flora and fauna everywhere.
From journal Journey to Switzerland's Lake Geneva Region
November 4, 2005
Montreux is known as the Pearl of the Swiss Riviera. Castles, outdoor cafes, shopping, Lake Geneva, fantastic views, gorgeous strawberry-pink sunsets, a business central location, as well as fabulous hotels... the most exciting, of course, was the Raffles Hotel. It is right in the middle of the area by the lake, where you can walk on the path about a short 45 minute walk from the Montreux Tourism Board. In there they will give you discount coupons and helpful flyers and pamphlets to let you know the schedules of what is going on in the city. There is a fantastic gorgeous casino, Montreux Casino.
Montreux is only 45 minutes from Geneva! The airport is so centrally located, it's a cinch! The town of Montreux is so fascinating; it is from the 19th century. Chillon is the best known castle. There are a lot of jazz festivals and classical musical events every year. Montreaux has a mild climate, and the walking area is several miles like a promenade. I enjoyed the backdrop of mountains in the back around Lake Geneva and the gorgeous statues and flowers everywhere. There are, surprisingly, palm trees all over the place and along the promenade. People walk, jog, and bicycle ride on the path around the lake in the center part of town. You can see the wonderful trains coming around the bend and waterfalls as well - the Golden Pass. Nightclubs and discos are galore in the central area and all around for dinner or engaging at night.
August 24, 2005
Who ever started the catel picked just the perfect spot on the rocky islet just a few meters off the shore of the lake, allowing the elegant lines of Chateau to reflect in to its calm waters with imposing mountain range as a backdrop.
Chateau de Chillon was in 19th centurie converted in to a museum offering a splendid tour to all visitors. Addmition costs 8chf, student discount is available. It will take you about two whole hours to go through 25 connecting buildings that compose the castel.
Do not forget to visit the dungeon where Bonivard was imprisoned. The third pillar still holds the signature scratched in by Lord Byron himself.
You can reach the castle by train or car but probably the best way is on foot. Take a nice long walk from town of Montreux along the promenade on the lake wich looks more like a botanical garden. It should take you about 45 minutes if you can resist not to make too many stops to admire the view.
From journal Monterux
September 10, 2003
The castle has a long and distinguished history -- the earliest written reference dates from 1160 (though it’s believed that the rock on which the castle was built was inhabited in antiquity), and Roman coins and debris were found during excavations in 1896.
Over the gatehouse (on stilts, replacing the drawbridge) to buy tickets and into a courtyard (if you’re lucky, there are medieval dance performances at weekends) with various chambers containing exhibitions of old landscapes and some portraits. The signposted tour (you get a map with your ticket) takes you into the dungeons where the Savoyard dukes imprisoned François Bonivard -- look for the ring and chain on the fifth pillar along. The dungeon is, spookily, still complete with barred window looking out over the water, which these days laps below floor level (Byron wrote about the damp and that the room was often flooded -- the inscription of his name on the third pillar can be seen).
Next, upstairs, you go into the remarkably grand knights’ halls, follow secret twisting passages between lavish bedchambers, look through Gothic windows (often open for the views), and see the 14th-century frescoed chapel (which cheats, cleverly, with modern trompe-l’oeil slide projections of coloured images on the back walls where the decorations have faded).
Top sights are the Bernese bedchamber, which still has its original 1580s bird-and-ribbon decorations; and the Hall of Arms, which is covered with escutcheons of the Bernese bailiffs. The Lords' Chamber is also well preserved, with original 13th- and 14th-century paintings and a fabulous chimneypiece with rustic scenes of animals in an orchard with St. George slaying a dragon; the adjacent Great Hall of the Count enjoys chequered walls, a 15th-century wooden ceiling, and quite breathtaking views over the lake. Lastly, there is a ramp up to the clock tower for a bird's-eye view of the castle interior and the surrounding areas.
Open Jan./Feb. and Nov./Dec. 10am-4pm; March & Oct. 9:30am-5pm; April to Sept. 9am-6pm. Accessible by train (stop of the same name) and car (recommended drive of about 2 hours round the lake from Geneva for some gorgeous views, plus stop-offs in Vevey (for a well-preserved medieval village) and Evian, for the waters - bring your passport to cross into and back out of France en route).
From journal Geneve, Genf, Geneva - a polyglot city
August 3, 2002
Admission 7.5 SF for adults, 3.5 SF for children 6 to 16.
From journal Montreux and Château de Chillon