Video: Flights of fancy
La Gruyère: a great destination for curious minds
If you have had your fill of natural history and art museums, La Gruyère might be able to satisfy your craving for something a little more unconventional. The Association des Musées en Gruyère proposes three visits that are sure to surprise, beguile, and give your brain cells a thorough workout, without a still life or stuffed animal in sight! All you have to do is open your mind and let your curiosity guide you.
A hair-raising experience at Electrobroc
The Electrobroc Energy Information Centre invites the curious of all ages to discover the fascinating world of energy, far from any technical or moralizing prejudices.
This is an exhibition on a huge scale: spread over close to 1,200 m2, it takes visitors on an extended tour of the fast-moving, topical and multifaceted subject of energy. Thanks to a wealth of explanatory panels, models, detailed presentations, demonstrations and awe-inspiring machines and equipment, you are sure to leave Electrobroc with your grey cells fully charged!
The exhibition showcases the latest renewable energy trends and developments, explains the stakes for our planet and offers advice on the practical steps that we can take in our everyday lives to consume energy more responsibly. At the same time, Electrobroc highlights the indispensable role that the Sarine river has played throughout the history of electricity generation in the region, providing the canton of Fribourg with a natural, local and renewable source of energy.
This high-voltage tour delivers a real jolt of energy to visitors of all ages.
After the tour, you can continue your journey into this fascinating world by setting out on one of several walking trails that highlight the vital role the natural environment plays in the region’s electricity production. One such trail takes you through the majestic Gorges de la Jogne to the Montsalvens dam, the first double-curvature arch dam in Europe.
Natural and cultural heritage lovers are also spoilt for choice. The Gruyère Pays-d’Enhaut Regional Nature Park, which extends across the cantons of Fribourg and Vaud, has designed three hiking trails that show off its exceptional heritage sites to their best advantage. You can cool off with a stroll along the shores of Lake Gruyère before enjoying some delicious traditional cuisine at Le Gruyérien in Morlon.
Wallpaper Museum – More than a pretty pattern
The canton of Fribourg boasts a museum given over entirely to wallpaper. Nestled in the scenic pays de Glâne, the Musée papier peint opened its doors in 2007. Inside the Château de Mézières, which was once home to the wealthy de Diesbach family, you will discover a stunning collection of lovingly restored wallpapers dating as far back as the 18th century.
This period revolutionised the art of wallpaper making. Instead of single sheets, technical advances meant that it could be produced in rolls, block-printed and decorated with distemper colours. Its popularity soared and delicately patterned paper soon adorned the walls of Europe’s finest homes. As artistic fashions changed, so too did wallpaper motifs. In Mézières, the walls are the storytellers. They serve as an important record of design history and reflect changing tastes across the ages.
The public can admire the fragile beauty of the original wall coverings in 12 of the mansion’s rooms, which once served as the private quarters of its patrician residents. The Museum also hosts a wide range of events and temporary exhibitions throughout the year, offering visitors an unforgettable experience in these wonderful historic surroundings.
Take to the skies at the Espace Ballon
A trip to the Espace Ballon provides a fitting end to this wonderfully quirky journey. The museum celebrates the amazing world of ballooning and is within easy reach from Gruyères village.
From the novels of Jules Verne to the record-breaking feats of Auguste Piccard, the hot-air balloon has long been the preferred mode of transport for adventurers. It fired the imagination of novelists more than two centuries ago, and daredevils through the ages feverishly dreamt of climbing into its basket and conquering the skies. But these huge balloons are benign conquerors, skimming the skyline and floating discreetly above the fields and tree tops.
For brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, the sky was indeed the limit. In 1783 they launched the first ever flight of its kind using an enormous balloon fashioned out of silk. Although the first attempts by the Breitling-Orbiter to fly non-stop around the world failed, the history of ballooning is strewn with triumph after triumph, each one pushing the boundaries of technology a little bit further in their bid to tame the skies. Generations of dreamers and risk takers dared to imagine that they would one day succeed in defying the laws of gravity.
Over time, the village of Château d’Oex has emerged as the ballooning capital of Switzerland, thanks in no small part to its particularly conducive microclimate. For the last 40 years, it has organised the International Balloon Festival which draws crowds some 100 hot-air balloons from around the world eager to take part in this aerial ballet.
Unsurprisingly, the village is also home to a museum given over entirely to these gentle giants of aviation. Once home to the local council, the building now houses an interactive exhibition that lets visitors circumnavigate this poetic world and explore the history and technology behind these magnificent flying machines. A stone’s throw from the hot air balloon take-off site, visitors can admire the capsule in which balloonists Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones made their first attempt to fly non-stop around the world.
The exhibition is an exploration of the wild blue yonder but also of the men who dared to take to reach for the sky. Luckily, few singed their wings.