As a little girl I always dreamed of living in a castle (which little girl doesn’t!!) With a moat and high towers, lots of beautiful horses and a prince charming to save the day. The castle in this week’s blog post (which is a long one, I’m just warning you! 🙂 ) definitely didn’t have any horses or princes (not anymore at least) but once upon a time it bustled with activity. Over 1000 years old, It was originally built as a Roman outpost to control the road from Burgundy to the St. Bernard Pass. (You can see magnificent views from the pass in last week’s blog post here.). Built on the narrow shore between Montreaux and Villeneuve, this island castle on the Eastern banks of Lake Geneva is a must see stop on a trip to Switzerland.
History of the Castle
Although the oldest parts of the castle haven’t been definitively dated, renovations and excavations carried out through the centuries affirm that the site of the castle has been occupied since the bronze age. Its rocky island position gave it natural protection, as well as strategic control over the passage between northern and southern Europe.
Over the centuries it was the summer home of the Counts of Savoy and its most famous prisoner was Francois de Bonivard (A Protestant monk who fell into political dispute with his family and was chained in the Dungeon in 1530). 300 years later, Lord Byron visited Chillon and after hearing Bonivard’s story, penned his famous poem “The prisoner of Chillon” (and etched his name in one of the pillars in the Dungeon!). With all this history and the beautiful restoration work it’s easy to see why the castle is one of the most visited historic sites in Switzerland.
Transported back in time
Impressive in size, with breathtaking views of Lake Geneva, this beautiful castle transports you back to the middle ages from the moment you step inside the courtyard. The rough stone turrets with wooden walkways and lookout points give you a real sense of what it must’ve been like to live in and protect the castle.
The castle grounds and buildings offer something for everyone. There are beautifully renovated and restored buildings, interactive play stations for little kids to discover the ways of the people of the times and countless historical artefacts depicting the weaponry and protective gear (think knights on horses in suits of armour :D). And although the castle has over 2 dozen buildings and 3 courtyards, it is best known for its dungeons which are carved out of the rock that support the castles foundations.
I could’ve explored this medieval masterpiece for hours – and I did – but I eventually had to drag myself away and take a leisurely stroll along the banks of Lake Geneva to get back to the train station. If you have been following me on instagram for some time you would’ve read about the day I got lost in Switzerland…how I ended up on the wrong train and almost crossed the border into Italy…. Well this was THAT day! For those of you who haven’t heard the story of my Swiss MISadventure, I’ll give you the short version!! hahaha.
Lost in Switzerland.
On my walk back to the train station, my phone died because of the copious amount of pictures I had taken at the castle (because while I was taking pictures with my real camera, I was also snapping away on my phone so I could share them instantly with my friends and family back home). I wasn’t too concerned as I knew where to go and Daniele had told me how to get back to Ollon. Who needs a phone, I mean how hard could it be, right?? Well apparently …quite hard! As an hour and a half later (my train trip was only supposed to take me 30 minutes max!!) when I landed in a little town called Visp, which is almost 100km’s in the opposite direction of where I needed to be! Now bear in mind I am a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language, without a phone or a clue of where I am and how to get back!!! :O LUCKILY for me, the very helpful customer service assistant at the railway terminal could a) speak English and b) tell me how I was going to get back to where I was supposed to be! Note to self: Always make sure you have a portable phone charger when touring!
I had poor Michelle and Daniele (my wonderful hosts for my Swiss trip – you can read all about their beautiful town in the first and 2nd blog posts here and here) frantically calling their home to see if I had arrived. I was supposed to meet up with my wonderful client Debbie to capture epic mountain shots for her Yoga website at 5pm that afternoon and she was driving around the village looking for me incase I’d gotten lost walking back from the train station… and all the while I was sitting on the train anxiously worrying about how terribly unprofessional I looked by not being on time for my afternoon photo session! Talk about a crazy afternoon!
All’s well that ends well
Thankfully it all worked out. I found my way back home (after a rather treacherous climb up a very steep hill!!) Debbie found me at Michelle and Dan’s house and we still made it to our mountain tops to get her epic yoga images – There’ll be a blog post soon on the Swiss sessions 😉 – And now I have an epic “lost in Switzerland” story to share whenever the need for a funny story arises. What fun is travelling if you haven’t gotten lost at least once right??
I hope you enjoy these images from my epic day out.
Weaponry and Suits of Armour
Beautiful rooms and views over Lake Geneva
After leaving the Chateau I walked along the picturesque Lake Geneva pathway on the way to the train. There were so many beautiful things to see and take pictures of and I spotted this sweet pooch – watching all the tourists walking up and down the promenade. He has made himself a nice little viewing spot in his garden fence!!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this weeks blog. I love to read your comments and would be so interested to know what you thought of this beautiful piece of Swiss history!!