Switzerland Part VI

The more observant of you may have noticed that I completely forgot to talk about Castle Chillon. Skiing will have to wait until the next post.

Castle Chillon resides in canton Vaud between the towns of Villeneuve and Montreux. You reach it by crossing an amazing bit of architecture of Swiss making. Slender towers hold up a highway that overlooks Lake Geneva. Only, you don't really realize how high up you are until you are at the castle and can look up. I was pretty startled. Again, the Swiss are not afraid of heights.

If you've ever tried to imagine what it is like to live in a castle, or the Middle Ages, then Chillon embodies it all. If you've never thought about it, but have seen Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail ('Go away or I shall taunt you for a second tima!') then that works too. (By the way, it's really important to pronounce the n on Chillon; without it, the word becomes something extraordinarily offensive to the person you are talking to.)

Chillon is a massive edifice encompassing 25 buildings on a slab of rock surrounded on all sides by water. Courtyards, grand halls, little drawing rooms, spiraling secret passageways, dungeons, it has it all. The oldest parts date to the 13th century, under the rulership of Peter II of Savoy. Over the next couple of hundred years it was built up to what it is today.

The most famous story surrounding the castle is that of Bonivard. He had suggested independence for Geneva and was subsequently chained to a stone pillar in the dungeon from 1530-1536. His plight inspired the poet Byron to scribe an ode to him. Bonivard was eventually freed by the Swiss. Having been in the dungeon and sat in the spot where he was chained, it's simply amazing he didn't go insane. He must have had an impressive list of showtunes memorized to wile away the time.

Here are some more pictures to give you an idea of what the place looks like, since I'm not doing a very good job describing it.

The castle. The entry. The dungeon. A courtyard. Bonivard's prison.

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