We were a little slow to leave our friend’s house in Zurich – partly due to me making the most of the facilities, partly due to me making the most of the time with our friends, who are moving to Singapore, and partly due to Risa over indulging yesterday and needing a sleep in.
It was cloudy again this morning, but by the time we left a little after lunch, the skies had cleared. As we drove out of town, we caught the clearest glimpses of Lake Zurich and the surrounding mountains in our rear view mirror. We didn’t have the time to stop to enjoy it though, as we had to race to the other side of Switzerland to catch a museum before it shut – especially important as I believed it would be closed for the next two days. We purchased a toll road sticker when we first arrived in Switzerland, which allowed us to use the toll roads for *free – *free if you don’t count the 40CHF for the toll sticker. We managed to average nearly 90kph, and crossed from Zurich to Gruyere in no time at all.
H.R. Giger Museum
I’ve been a long time fan of H.R. Giger’s work – and, believe it or not, I knew of his other work before knowing of his involvement in the design of the alien from Alien. His work isn’t to everyone’s taste, and reading the reviews of the museum on Google/TripAdvisor, it was clear that many weren’t aware of his work outside of Alien – it’s not particularly suitable for children, weak stomachs, or those with strong religious sentiments.
I’d wanted to visit his museum for quite a long time, and never actually thought that it would happen, as Gruyere isn’t a normal place for tourists to visit – it’s beautiful, but so is everywhere in Switzerland. Gruyere is quite a small town, and it amazed me that two different guide books did not make a single mention of his gallery/café.
Our timing wasn’t the best, with a little over an hour before closing. I didn’t want to rush, but I also didn’t want to miss out. The museum itself banned photography, but it was possible inside the gift shop area. The gift shop had some of his famous prints available, as well as some incredible sculptures – though, your tastes may vary.
The first area was related to his work on Alien, with early sketches of the alien, the Engineer in his cockpit, as well as the spaceship. We’d recently re-watched Prometheus through to Alien 3, so the memory was very fresh in our minds. There was also some of the puppets and costumes used in the pre-CGI era films. As a fan, it was really, really cool to see. And, I guess this is what most people come to see.
There were some areas that had warnings about the explicit content, hidden behind thick curtains. While not quite my taste, it was still quite interesting to see, and wonder what was going on the man’s mind. It was interesting until a prudish, and unfortunately loud, American duo vocalised their shock and disgust at everything they saw. Risa did a great job at shutting them up, as it was beyond annoying.
There were further rooms with his other paintings – though many were copies, as the originals were in other galleries. Still, regardless of them being originals or reproductions, seeing these images at full size was fantastic, there was so much detail in them I hadn’t seen before, and it was possible to start to see how many of them were constructed.
The second floor had more of his works, but the crowning piece for me was the enormous sculpted dining table. Again, it’s not to everyone’s tastes, and I can’t imagine too many rooms that it would look suitable, but it looked so damn cool.
The third floor had Giger’s personal collection, featuring works from other artists. There was some similarity in some of the works, and a few were a little extreme, but on the whole, it was interesting to see something fresh.
It also had an incredible view from the museum out of the town below – though sadly I’d left my camera in the cloakroom – since photography was forbidden.
We’d rushed a little more than I’d liked, but we’d just managed to see the entire museum before they were closing. As a final gift, there were a few more sculptures outside the museum, including a giant sculpture of one of my favourite of his paintings – Birth Machine.
H.R. Giger Café
Across the street from the museum, there is also a H.R. Giger café/bar. This was every bit as exciting as his museum, with an interior like something out of Alien. The ceiling looked organic, like the backbone of one of his alien creatures. The chairs, the bar, the tables were also something from his imagination. Just like the museum, I’d wanted to visit this since I learned of its existence many years ago.
The drinks were a little expensive – 4.5CHF for a glass of sparkling water – but we treated it as an admission fee, with a free glass of water. Had we wanted to drink beer, it was a cheaper option.
Inside there were also some sculptures of his paintings, including a terrifying wall of baby faces.
It was a bit of a rush to make it here, but in my mind, it was worth all the effort to have finally seen his work. Sadly I wasn’t able to make it while he was still alive – he passed away back in 2014.
The castle closed at the same time as the Giger Museum. Since it was a choice between the two, the castle clearly lost – and I don’t regret the decision. It seemed that there was some sort of re-enactment going on today, as there was a steady stream of people in traditional clothing making their way back from the hilltop castle.
It was a tiny village, but it was beautiful, and in a beautiful location – especially now that the skies had cleared.
We were walking down the main street, making our way back to our car, but we couldn’t escape the smell of cheese. People were eating fondue outdoors, as well as a collection of fromagerie that could be smelt before being seen. We succumbed, and popped into one of the small cheese shops and picked up a couple of local cheeses to try – including the namesake Gruyeres, which was firm, rich and had small delicious crunchy crystals inside.
We were lucky again finding cheap parking. This small town, not too far from Gruyere, had some free dedicated motorhome parking areas – you just had to pay the city tax at the tourist office. It’s not a town we would have ever visited if it didn’t have cheap overnight parking, but since we were here, it was a great little town to wander around. There were almost no signs of commercial tourism here, just a town going about its daily life.
There was a hilltop fort, ramparts, towers, a large cathedral (that was beign renovated), and pretty streets.
As much as we enjoyed seeing this town, the sun was unexpectedly shining, and we had mountains to go visit – we could see Mont Blanc, but we weren’t headed that way just yet.