Western Switzerland and the Medieval Walled Town of Murten

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Hauptgasse in Murten

As I got off the plane in Zurich Airport, “tardis” in paw, something told me to go west, so I unpacked my sturdy ToulouseMobile and took the Freeway toward Bern and Neuchâtel. I was heading for Romandie, the predominantly French-speaking part of Switzerland, with its rolling hills, great cities and atmospheric medieval towns, small villages and ancient churches. A place whose strong French-Swiss cultural identity embraces the shores of Lake Geneva, on whose banks lie Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey and Montreux.

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Medieval walls of Murten

I stopped short of Neuchatel, at the medieval walled town of Murten (Morat in French). This charming village lies on the eastern shore of the Murten See (Lac de Morat) and is steeped in history. In 1476 the Swiss Confederation thwarted the onslaught of the army of overly ambitious Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. Was it their impeccable sense of timing? The world-famous watch-making industry of the Swiss originated right here, after all, in western Switzerland.

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street in Murten

The town was founded by the Zähringer dynasty in the 12th century and is still encircled by walls dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries. Hauptgasse, the main street through the old town, is lined with 16th century arcaded houses with overhanging eaves. The rampart walk, reached from several points along Deutsche Kirchgasse, offers views of the Murtensee, the castle and the old town’s brown-tiled houses. The courtyard of the 13th century castle commands a great view of the lake. The Berntor (Porte de Berne) with its baroque gatehouse and clock dating from 1712 forms an attractive entrance to this charming medieval village.

After driving through the gate, I parked in front of the 14th Century Adler Hotel — which

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flammkuchen on New Year’s Eve at the Adler

had been the guesthouse to various historic figures such as Goethe, Casanova, and the dukes of Savoy, among others — and took a room there. It was New Year’s Eve; so, close to midnight, I descended to the Irish pub below and enjoyed several beers accompanied by several pieces of flammkuchen (a kind of Swiss pizza made with bread dough rolled out very thin in the shape of a rectangle and covered with fromage blanc, thinly sliced onions, and in this case vegetables, mushrooms (forestière) and gratinée with added gruyère cheese. Flammkuchen—or Tarte flambée—is actually an Alsatian dish and cooked in a wood-fire oven.

It wasn’t long before a strange looking black “bear” with a red and white toque approached me. I caught his straying glances at my rather large flammkuchen. His incredulous expression spoke the obvious: you’re going to eat that whole thing???

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Monnier Tea Room arcade

Instead, he asked in a strong French accent, “May I join you?”

I tried not to stare at his toque whose design was the Canadian flag. He introduced himself as Jacques from Granby Québec and informed me that he was hitching rides across Switzerland (in the winter?!?) and was heading to Zermatt to do a little skiing. I thought: another crazy Canadian! And invited him to sit with me. It was, after all, lots to eat and the New Year not quite upon us…

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Monnier Tea Room bustles on New Year’s Day

We cheerfully saw-in the New Year and then met the following day for a late lunch. Hardly anything was open, being New Year’s Day. The streets appeared abandoned except for the odd sightseeing tourist and wandering local.

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pastries to dream of…

Smartly deciding to follow a couple of well-dressed locals, Jacques led us to an inviting place beneath the arcade of Hauptgasse:  La Confiserie Monniere, a stylish tea-house in the tradition of a confiserie /patisserie / boulangerie / traiteur. It was open! We entered the bustling place and realized that this was where the town had ended up! We were instantly surrounded by exotic daily-made pastries and breads, fine artisanal chocolates, and

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eye-catching quiches

gourmet lunch treats—as customers crowded the counters in search of a gastronomic feast. We stood in a swirling aromatic sea of seductive fragrances. As I peered over their diverse chocolates, a friendly server informed me that one of their popular chocolate specialties is the plum praline, dried plums filled with delicious chocolate cream, coated with the finest chocolate and a dusting of unsweetened cocoa. Magical!

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Monnier’s elegant Tea Room

Jacques and I took a table in the tea-room in the back and the friendly waitress brought us a lovely gourmet sandwich followed by Black Forest cake and café crème.

I sat back and enjoyed the moment. Jacques had agreed to join me on my trip, since both our destinations were eventually the alpine resort town of Zermatt.

All in all, not a bad way to greet the first day of the New Year, I thought.  Hello, 2012! Hello, café crème! Hello, Swiss pastry! Hello, Magic!

Ce sera un an merveilleux! Bonne Année!


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12 Responses
  1. Cathy says:

    Such a lovely verbal “cheesecake” you’ve left for us in your blog! I am drooling. Welcome home, Toulouse! What a joy to read about your adventures in Suisse!

  2. Toulouse LeTrek says:

    Thank you, Cathy! I’m very happy to be back in Canada and visiting my good friends in Toronto. Although, as you might guess, I am always in search of the perfect cafe creme, which to be sure, is the norm in Switzerland, and Europe in general …. I will be going back soon, I expect! I have not seen everything and some experiences are meant to be twicely felt! Meow! :-3

    Ton ami,
    Toulouse :-3

  3. SF Girl says:

    Hi, Toulouse!

    Great article. What a lovely introduction to your Swiss tour … I look forward to more stories of historic medieval towns, brooding castles, dark chocolate, cheese, wine and adventure … and then there’s Zermatt … in a class of its own! Can’t wait to hear about it!

    Your friend,

  4. Toulouse LeTrek says:

    You will have to wait for Zermatt, Nina … I will visit many other places before I get to that splendid alpine resort town. Did you know that you can only reach it by cog train? You have to park your car at Taesch, then take all your belongings with you on the train. The village of Zermatt is magical! — WAIT! You got me talking about it before I’ve written my article! LOL!

    Ton ami,
    Toulouse :-3

  5. Margaret says:

    Quelle merveilleuse façon de fêter le nouvel an ….. mais vous devez regarder ces Crazy Canucks! LOL! Dans l’attente de nouvelles aventures! Salute, Margaret

  6. Toulouse LeTrek says:

    Merci, merci, Margaret! Vous parlez tres bien francais! Plus aventures en Suisse viendra bientôt! As for Crazy Canucks … I know one very well! She writes science fiction books … :-3

    Ton ami,
    Toulouse :-3

  7. Jenni the Diva says:

    Bonjour cher ami! Merci, merci pour le partage de cette aventure magique de Swizerland! Vos paroles et les images ont captivé mon cœur dans un monde d’émerveillement. Mes moustaches frémissant et mon âme chante plongé dans des réflexions douces.
    Il sera agréable d’avoir un peu de temps un salon avec vous bientôt je l’espère.
    Jusqu’à la prochaine fois …. Jenni, Ness et Cat Teddy

  8. Toulouse LeTrek says:

    Ahhhhhh….. merci, merci Jenni, Ness et Cat Teddy! Mon coeur chante avec vous tous!
    I see that you have picked up French wonderfully! See you soon!

    Ton ami,
    Toulouse :-3

  9. Cathy says:

    Zermatt is a MUST, Toulouse! Did you know that I was born in Zermatt under the shadow of the Matterhorn?

  10. Toulouse LeTrek says:

    Voyons! C’est vrai??? I didn’t know that, Cathy! Have you been back? It is a beautiful little village. I wouldn’t mind living there for a while …I would show you all the sites … (they have one of the best chocolateries in Switzerland!) … meow! … Wait until you see my article on it!

    Ton ami,
    Toulouse :-3

  11. Carina says:

    Quest-ce qui’il reste a dire!!!!…Toulouse,.eh biens, je me rapelle quand j’ai fais du ski a Zermatt–j’etais sur le monde (on top of the world):-)

    Merci pour l’experience gastronomique et historique! C’etait un “conduit” merveilleux:-)



  12. Toulouse LeTrek says:

    Merci, merci, Carina! You’re welcome too! Yes, Zermatt is definitely on top of the world! My friend Jacques is a skier … I’m more of an apres-skier … meow …

    Ton ami,
    Toulouse :-3
    p.s. vous parlez tres bien le Francais!

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