Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Switzerland - Chocolate, Cheese and Castle Day Trip

This is a short guide on how to enjoy the world-renown Swiss milk chocolate, the characteristic Gruyere cheese and a time-travel back to the Medieval age in one day.

Departing from Vevey, my friend and I took the train to Broc, which is the center point between Vevey and Bern, the capital of Switzerland.

Maison Cailler, the factory where Cailler chocolate is currently produced, hosts a chocolate museum where you can learn about the history of the cocoa, milk chocolate production in Switzerland, as well as getting interactive hands-on experience on chocolate and its raw components: cocoa bean and cocoa butter.

Cocoa bean

Cocoa butter

There, you will also see the machinery used in the past and in present to process cocoa into chocolate.

The past

The present

See how fast chocolate sticks are made:

Not interested in technical stuff? What about... tasting chocolate? *nomnom*

How to taste chocolate - taken from a display in Maison Cailler

There are about 15-20 different chocolate products that you can taste as much as you want. No kidding. They don't provide you with water, though, so at some point you will start feeling that you had enough chocolate. I recommend bringing at least a bottle of water to rinse your palate so you can enjoy the tasting better. These two sections were my favorites:

Like the chocolates? You can buy them at the shop right at the exit. The shop sells other products that are not available for tasting in the exhibition, and they are typically the special edition chocolates (i.e. winter special flavors). The chocolates sold here are cheaper than in the supermarket.

After too much chocolate (maybe there is never too much for some of you), it's good to have something salty. We took the train from Broc to Gruyere to see how the delicious Swiss cheese is made in La Maison du Gruyere.

I study food technology, so nothing is really new to me. Nevertheless, I find the use of automation pretty amazing. The tanks on the right are where rennet (the enzyme to curd milk into cheese) is added into milk, stirred and cut. On the left is where they drain water and whey from casein curds and mold them into a cheese wheel. The machines automatically turn the cheese wheel from time to time.

Note that the cheese production is only 3-4 times a day, between 9-11 AM and between 1-2 PM. Make sure to plan your trip well!

After an interactive session upstairs, you can also visit the cellar where the cheeses are aged.

The visit took us around 30-45 minutes because we took things slowly. 

Aside from the cheese factory, you can also visit the restaurant. There are better places out there, but if you are only on a short visit to Switzerland and will have no other chance to try the fondue, you can try it here. It's not that the fondue is bad, but my friend and I had better cheese fondue with richer taste of the cheese and the white wine. Also, for the portion, it is a little bit overpriced. With the three of us, we thought of sharing the set menu: Menu gruérien for 44 Francs, but it was not really enough to fill us. This comes with cheese fondue, dried meat platter and meringue with double creme and raspberries.

Cheese fondue (Gruyère AOP and Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP) Served with bread, potatoes, onions and gherkins

Himbeeren, Meringue und Doppelrahm aus dem Greyerzerland - Raspberries, meringue and double cream of Gruyère

Holzplättli mit Trockenfleisch - Wooden plate with dried beef meat

If you live around Vevey, I'd recommend to visit des Trois Siflettes. Check this link for my fondue experience there.

Close to the train station is Gruyere castle and a small town. If you want to buy souvenirs, buy them at La Maison du Gruyere because it is cheaper; don't buy them at the town center.

The interior of the castle was rustic but well-maintained. You should not expect glamorous and bourgeois decorations like in Palace of Versailles, but this castle is for sure bigger than Chateau de Chillon close to Montreux. 

The view from the top of the castle was also splendid, since it is located up the hill. The climb was not too bad, since we kept stopping on every floor to explore the castle.

Lastly, enjoy the scenic sunset in Gruyere:

I would recommend a full day trip for Broc and Gruyere if you don't live close by. Shops closes early in Switzerland, so start exploring early. The restaurant at La Maison du Gruyere closes at 7 PM in between October and May and 8 PM in summer (Jun - Sep).

For more information, check out their official websites:


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