Europe

Gruyères – Aliens Ate My Cheese

They didn’t really, but this post features cheese and aliens prominently, so that seemed like the only reasonable way to unite those two subjects together.

Hello Gang. I know Bex posted about this yesterday, but I can’t get over how expensive Switzerland is. It’s seems recursively expensive…even if you take into account how expensive it is, it tricks you and is even more expensive than you thought it would be. It knows that you know, and it ups its game!

Yesterday I went to Burger King (yeah, I know), and bought a Whopper Meal. I gave the counter gal a $20 (Swiss francs; that’s about $23). She gave me back 3 francs and some other little coins. I thought she was pulling the old “you gave me a ten” switcheroo. Then I looked up at the menu and saw that Whopper Meals are 16+ francs. Dude.

On the trip, we have amassed a collection of coins that we think are fun. We have kept a few of the best from each place that we have been. The Swiss coins aren’t that amazing, but we may keep a five franc piece; it’s enormous. Then again, we may not be able to afford the luxury of keeping any extra Swiss money.

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For all the expense, I have to say that Switzerland is a beautiful place. My God, it is gorgeous. I wish you could see what I am seeing right now. As I type this, I am sitting on the balcony at Sophia and Fernando’s flat (they are our Air BnB hosts in Zürich), it’s 21:15, and the sun has just set. There is still plenty of light out. Birds are chirping. I am watching people sail and boat around beautiful Lake Zürich. To my right, I see the Swiss Alps rising high in the mist. We published in yesterday’s post a panoramic photo taken from this spot, but it is hard to do it justice. I hope I can always remember this view.

Today we ventured to scenic Gruyères, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

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This is the home of cheese fondue. If you have ever eaten cheese fondue other than Cheez Whiz and Rotel (not that there is anything wrong with that, Chelsea) you have had cheese from Gruyères. Coincidentally, it is called Gruyère cheese. This stuff is delicious when mixed with Emmanthaler cheese and wine, and served molten. By itself, it tastes like sweaty socks smell. Or maybe its just an acquired taste.

Getting to Gruyères from Zürich was a fun adventure in and of itself. It required four separate trains, and some of our “layovers” were mere minutes in length. There was thus “dashing”. Thanks to awesome trip planning by my travel partner and principal photographer, we navigated the Swiss rail system without incident. The town of Gruyères is a beautiful, small village in western Switzerland, not too far from the French border. On our approach into the town, we encountered several belled cows, each one clang-clang-clanging with every movement of its colossal bovine noggin. The bells are charming and delightful for the newcomers; perhaps they are grating for the residents.

20140626-222831.jpgMore Cowbell! Try to imagine 5 or 6 Will Ferrells clanging randomly, continuously, on cowbells.

The town itself is beautiful, although somewhat touristy. The place exists to sell cheese, chocolate, and knives. Oh yes, there is one other thing. Gruyères features a museum dedicated to her most famous resident, one H.R. Giger.

Don’t recognize that name? Well, I bet you’ll recognize his most famous creation.

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That’s right. Giger is the man who visualized the monster, as well as the ships and other set pieces, for the Alien films. He was a noted painter before this film, and he of course continued to work in film and other visual arts after Alien. But that film includes his most famous and recognizable work.

Sadly, Giger died recently after a fall. As a matter of fact, he died in May 2014, while Becci and I were on this trip. While he lived, he spent his time between homes in Gruyères and Zürich. He was active as a painter from the mid 1960’s until his death. His work on the film Alien began when the film’s makers were inspired by Giger’s painting Necronom IV. They hired him to do design work for Alien, and he continued that work across several of the Alien film series. He worked also on the film Species, and his paintings were used for album covers by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Deborah Harry.

Giger’s drawings and paintings are generally dark and nightmarish. His most distinctive stylish innovation is the representation of human bodies and machines in a cold, interconnected relationship, which he described as “biomechanical”. He said that he was inspired by the works of Ernst Fuchs and Salvador Dali. There were several Fuchs pieces in Giger’s personal art collection, which is on display in a section of the museum.

20140626-222451.jpgThis cool little sculpture is based on a drawing called “Birth Machine”, I think.

Giger suffered from night terrors, and his paintings are to some extent inspired by his experiences with that disorder. He studied interior and industrial design at the School of Commercial Art in Zürich, and he made his first paintings as a form of art therapy. Based on the work that I saw on display, I’m not sure he got better. It’s quite possible that he remained tormented, and got way worse. His paintings are beautiful, and fascinating, but are unquestionably dark and menacing. Every painting features sexual imagery. Most feature dangerous or deadly machinery. There was even an “Over 18” room full of sketches and paintings. It coulda been named the “sodomy and torture” room.

They forbid picture taking in the museum, so we only have a few photos from in there.

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I suggest that you take a spin through some of his stuff however. It’s a trip. I love this guy, although this stuff is totally messed up.

No trip to the Giger museum would be complete without a trip to the Giger bar across the street. Where else can you sit in a chair like that?

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Before we bailed out of Gruyères, we decided to see what all of the fuss is about with their cheese-making operation. Gruyères cheese is aged, and this factory uses cheese-curing robots. These robots move in the cellar shelves, manipulate the wheels of cheese, turn them back, move them, and brush them with brine water and perform salting.

20140626-223956.jpgStinky cheese wheels!

We finally bid sweet adieu to Gruyères, and made it back to Zürich in time to whip up a batch of tacos for taco night!

20140626-223636.jpgBon apetit!

Tomorrow: Motörhead…

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1 reply »

  1. I had to go to Zurich for work once (2 lifetimes ago) and remember how crazy expensive it was – $12 for a can of coke?? Try explaining that one to your boss on your expense report…….

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