Thursday, February 21, 2019

Destinations: Switzerland (1987): Chateau de Chillon

Credit: The photograph was taken by self
The photograph is of Chateau de Chillo a write-up on which has been uploaded

The piece is a write-up on my visit to Chateau de Chillon in 1987 wit nembers of my family

Situated at the far end of Lake Geneva, Chateau de Chillon is a place of prime tourist interest around Geneva. The highway from Geneva takes one past Lausanne and Montreux to more than eight hundred years old Chateau. It is supposed to be the prettiest Swiss chateau, located as it is on a rocky outcrop on the banks of the Lake close to the French border. Some say it dates back to Roman times but its construction seems to have begun around nine hundred years ago. It was owned by three different nobilities during different periods of history – the House of Savoy, the Berenese and Vaud. It was in control of the Savoy family for around four hundred years (12th Century to 16th Century) during which the Chateau was expanded and improved and was extensively used. The turrets were incorporated during their control. Berne and Vaud continue to be cantons in Switzerland; the city of Berne is also the capital of the country.

A chateau is nothing but the residence, with or without fortifications, of nobles or the gentry of the gone-by era. Its English equivalent is a castle – a stately home. As somebody has said, “it is personal (and usually hereditary) badge of afamilythat, with some official rank, locally represents the royal authority; thus, the wordchâteauoften refers to the dwelling of a member of either the French royalty or the nobility”. Loire Valley in France is famous for chateaux (plural of chauteau) that were built by French kings and French nobility.

Accessible by a small bridge, Chateau de Chillon (pronounced Shiyon) is surrounded by the waters of Lake Geneva. The Lake probably worked as a natural moat for the Chateau. Built over a period of, centuries, it has buildings and outhouses. The chateau appeared to be without much of interior decoration. However, some old pieces of furniture were of interest. The windows were interesting as these were designed for not only letting fresh Alpine air in, but also for viewing the placid waters sitting comfortably on a rather broad sill. From some of them one got stunning views of the Lake.

The Chateau is also known for its dungeons. Cut into the rocks, they must have given the prisoners a prolonged life in their dark and dank confines. These, however, are now tastefully illuminated to give the visitor a more accurate perception of their forbidding confines. The dungeons gave the Chateau somewhat of a notoriety, more so after Lord Byron, the English poet, having visited the Chateau, wrote his famous historically factual poem “Prisoner of Chillon castle” – a prisoner who, it seems, was a man fighting injustices of the House of Savoy.

As we arrived at the Chateau I noticed two Swiss men blowing into horns making unfamiliar sounds. I have had occasion to come across massive horns measuring around six feet used by hill people. I once saw a photograph of Tibetan horns which appeared bigger that its Swiss counterpart having a bell that, unlike a Swiss one, was not curved and upturned. The player sat on a high stool to blow into the horn the end part of which rested on a table like fixture. At the Chateau two players or the musicians in what appeared to be traditional dresses stood in front of the Chateau blowing into the long pipe through their mouthpieces. The bases of the curved and upturned bell of the horn rested on the ground.

About the Writer

Pushing 80 I was born in Gwalior in Central India to parents who were educated in Calcutta, now Kolkata. My father did his master's in English in 1916. He was a professor of English in the then only college in Gwalior. After qualifying in the exams for entry in to central civil services I served the government of India for 34 years reaching the very top of the professional cadres of the Indian Postal Service. I also acted as consultant ion behalf of the Universal Postal Union in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland.
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