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Gruyères

[groo-yair, gri-; Fr. gry-yer]
Gruyères is a city in the district of Gruyère in the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland. Its German name is Greyerz.

The medieval town is an important tourist location in the upper valley of the Saane river, and gives its name to the well-known cheese.

Geography

Gruyères is 810 m above sea level, 4.5 km south-south-east of the district capital Bulle. The historical town is placed on top of an isolated hill north of the alps, in the foothills of mount Moléson. It is also the location where the Saane river (French name: Sarine) leaves the Fribourg alps.

The 28.4 km² area of the municipality comprises a section of the Saane valley and of the Fribourg alps. The central part of the area is the plains of Alluvial (690 m above sea level) next to the alps, between Gruyères and Broc, from which the hill of Gruyères rises to 828 m above sea level. From the west, the brook Trême meets the Saane. East of the Saane, the municipality area ends in a small corner, bordered by the ridges of Dent de Broc (1829 m above sea level) in the north and Dent du Chamois (1830 m above sea level) in the south, ending at the valley of Motélon. The two peaks with their saddle between them are a popular subject for photographs of Gruyères.

Southwest of Gruyères, the municipality comprises most of the catchment area of the brook Albeuve, which originates on the flanks of mount Moléson. The top of mount Moléson is the highest point of the municipality, reaching 2002 m above sea level. It is worth an excursion. West of the Moléson, the densely wooded right valley side of the Trême and the terasse of La Part Dieu belong to Gruyères. 1997, 5% of the area was used for settlements, 49% wood and bosk, 41% agricultural and about 5% was unusable land.

The municipality of Gruyères also comprises the two villages of Epagny (715 m above sea level) to the north and Pringy (750 m above sea level) to the west of the town hill. Further, the small village Saussivue (710 above sea level) to the south and the holiday settlement Moléson-Village (1132 m above sea level) in the valley of the Albeuve in the foothills of mount Moléson as well as several isolated farms. Neighbour municipalities of Gruyères are Broc, Charmey, Bas-Intyamon, Haut-Intyamon, Semsales, Vaulruz, Vuadens, Bulle, La Tour-de-Trême and Le Pâquier.

Population

With a population of 1556 (end of 2002), Gruyères is among the medium sized municipalities of the canton of Fribourg. 90.4% of its residents are French speaking, 3.9% German and 1.2% Portuguese (2000). In 1850, the population was 972; in 1900 there were 1389 residents. After the maximum in about 1920 (1711 residents), the population decreased until 1950 by almost 25% to 1302 residents. Since then, a slow growth can be observed.

Economics

Gruyères has always been a rural town. Agricultural products from the surroundings were processed and brought to the market here. Formerly, the focus was on trading cheese and small and big animals. There were several mills and sawmills and since 18th century a gun powder factory. Until the beginning of the 20th century, straw-twisting was also rather important.

Nowadays, Gruyères provides about 750 jobs. Only 9% of the working are in the primary sector, agriculture is only a minor factor for jobs. About 27% are working in the industrial sector, services provides about 64% of the jobs (stand 2001).

Agriculture is still specialised in milk production and cattle-breeding. It delivers raw materials for the cheese production and meat treating. Most important is the famous Gruyère cheese. Forestry is also a factor, but tillage is less applied. In secondary sector, there are cabinetmaking, precision mechanics and craftworks. Services has a lot of jobs to offer in gastronomics and hotels. The villages of Epagny and Pringy have in the last years become a living place for commuters, mostly working in the town of Bulle. ৳

Tourism

Gruyères cheese is an important factor in supporting the tourist trade in the region. A major tourist attraction is the medieval town of Gruyères with its castle, containing a regional museum and an arts museum. There are cultural activities in the castle (concerts, theater). There is a cheese factory in Pringy which is open to visitors. Nearby is Mont Moléson, a mountain suitable for climbing, or for the less athletic there is a cablecar to the summit which was rebuilt in 1998. The resort town Moléson-Village caters for both summer and winter tourism.

Transportation

A trackless train is the only vehicle allowed in the town's pedestrianised streets.

History

Gruyères stands in the midst of the Fribourg green pre-Alpine foothills. The castle, one of the most prestigious in Switzerland, towers majestically above the medieval town. The crane (in french: “grue”) - its heraldic representation - inspired the name Gruyères. Despite the importance of the House of Gruyères its beginnings remain quite mysterious. Nineteen counts are accounted for in the period between the 11th and 16th century. The last of them, Michel, had been in financial trouble almost all his life only to end in bankruptcy in 1554. His creditors the cantons of Fribourg and Bern shared his earldom between them. From 1555 to 1798 the castle became residence to the bailiffs and then to the prefects sent by Fribourg. In 1849 the castle was put up for sale and sold to the Bovy and Balland families, who stayed at the castle during summer time and restored it with the help of their painter friends. The castle was then bought back by the canton of Fribourg in 1938, made into a museum and opened to the public. Since 1993, a foundation ensures the conservation as well as the highlighting of the building and the collection.

The Castle

The tour of the castle offers a walk through eight centuries of architecture, history and culture. The building was constructed between 1270 and 1282 in the typical square plan of the fortifications in Savoy. The end of the 15th century stands out as the golden age in the history of the counts. In 1476, count Louis takes part in the Burgundy war by the Confederates’ side. Following this deed of valour, modernization works were undertaken. The adjustment of the esplanade with its chapel, the spiral staircase in the courtyard and the transformation of the main building go back to that time. Thus, the castle loses its fortress appearance to become a stately residence. The baroque interiors remind one of the time when the bailiffs sent by Fribourg lived there. The romantic landscapes were painted in mid 19th century by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Barthélemy Menn and other well known artists.

Sightseeing

Close to the Pre-Alps, the town of Gruyères charms for its picturesque architecture, its craftsmanship and its comfortable hotels and restaurants. The Castle, its historical collection as well as its exhibitions and numerous activities boards the Museum of HR Giger, creator of the “Alien”. Gruyères gave its name to the region and to its delicious cheese.

Notes

External links

  • http://www.gruyeres.ch
  • http://www.castle-gruyeres.ch

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