Chocolate, cheese, pies heavy with cream – Gruyères in Switzerland promises all these, with excellent wine, lake-to-plate fish and some fine views on the menu as well
Words: PRIMROSE MONTEIRO-D’SOUZA
Photographs: JEREMIAH CHRISTANAND RAO
Cherry the cow won’t stop talking.
She won’t stop leading you down the garden path either, nor excuse you from bending low to sniff at vanilla orchids, thyme, cumin. She will begin your tour by emphasising her superiority to you – a mere human, with just one stomach to her four, and without the “magical” ability she possesses to chew the cud and turn grass into milk. Still, apart from that small delusion of greatness, she’s a cool cow, willing to whisper the secrets in your ear – secure in the knowledge that you will never be able to make the cheese that her girlfriends and she help in producing.
You haven’t taken a tour till you’ve been led by a cow on a surprisingly intimate audio tour.
You’re in Gruyères, in the Fribourg region in the western part of Switzerland. The Pays de Fribourg is one of the country’s better-kept secrets – few outside Switzerland know of its untamed pre-Alpine landscape, its architectural cocoons of Fribourg City and Murten, and the Mediterranean atmosphere of Lake Murten and Lake Neuchâtel, just an hour’s drive from the mountains. It’s hard, however, to find a food enthusiast who doesn’t know Gruyère cheese – sweet and a little salty, nutty when young and growing more complex with time, best showcased in baking and fondues. And, of course, ideal for nibbling at as if you were Jerry Mouse.
And the brilliance of the Gruyère cheese comes, undoubtedly, from the milk that Cherry and her girlfriends so magnanimously produce for the world – 25 litres each every day, to make the 48 wheels of cheese that La Maison Du Gruyère produces daily. A multi-sensory audio tour through the modern dairy has Cherry leading you by the nose, working with lift-and-sniff canisters to experience the different flowers and herbs in the rolling hills of the Fribourg pre-Alps that go into giving her milk – and the cheese – its distinctive cachet.
Gruyère cheese has been around since 1115 AD, and, unsurprisingly, you’re going to want more of it than just the taster squares that are part of your tour ticket. The Gruyères Market on the premises is where you buy your stash.