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Aigle walkabout

A dreary grey afternoon in the hub of the Chablais Vaudois


Aigle is a sometimes charming town at the eastern end of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), population about 10,000, located just 2km up the road from us in Ollon. Here are some views of the upper, and older, part of the town on a walkabout in mid-October 2015.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

We're here to run a few errands, walk a few errands actually, and we just keep on walking for a while.

Aigle had a Bronze Age past, and in Roman times it lay athwart the main road connecting Aventicum and Vevey over the Grand St Bernard pass to Rome. The medieval town remained under Savoyard rule for 400 years from 1076, and was established as a town with market rights in 1231 and as a free city in 1314.

In 1475, however, the feisty farmers from the Pays-d'Enhaut (those people from 'up there') came down from the mountains to the north, burnt the tower of the Château d'Aigle and plundered the town, then traded Aigle (and Ollon) to the Bernese in return from some tax breaks (Birmingham, Switzerland: a village history (1999), pp. 28-29).

The German-speaking Bernese set up an administrative bailiwick, based in Aigle, to govern their first French-speaking territorial acquisition. The Protestant canton of Vaud then superseded Bern's rule after Napoleon's reordering of things in the early 19th century.

All this time, we've been strolling along the interesting pedestrian Rue du Bourg, looking for the Optic2000 to pick up our new glasses. And here it is. Across from the Red Ship Pub.

We've reached the crossing of the Rue de la Gare, the central thoroughfare

The central Rue de la Gare. Aigle serves as the hub for a number of regional transportation links, and is thus one of the most important and best-served stops on the international rail system passing from France and western Switzerland up the Rhône valley over the Alps to Italy. The track in the street is for the Aigle-Leysin cog rail train linking the federal system with the mountain resort of Leysin since 1900.

Aigle's a great wine centre, with the local white wines of the Chasselas grape considered to be amongst the best in the world. The claim has been made that the white wine from neighboring Yvorne is indeed the best in the world, especially for fondue and raclette.

The old town of Aigle runs eastward up into the narrow valley of the Grande Eau towards the mountain region of Ormont and the Pays d'Enhaut; with the arrival of the main railroads in the 1850s, town development began to move down towards the rail station closer to the Rhône, where there's now a much greater concentration of high-rise apartment flats and small-scale industry.

Kristin and the church of St Maurice. The famous nearby Abbey of St Maurice, or Agaune, internationally important from the 6th century, had established a priory and cloister here at least by about 1140.

The neighbors. Leysin lurks up in the fog behind that cliff in the background. We're walking along the Avenue du Cloître, in the old part of town still known by that name, once a free-standing sub-village amongst the vineyards, clustered around the old priory cloister of St Maurice.

The present sanctuary building dates from the late 11th century, coeval with the beginnings of the nearby Château, but was restructured in the late 15th. After the region around Aigle was inducted by the Bernese into the Swiss Confederation in 1476, the church was ripe to become Protestant in the next century; Guillaume Farel preached the Reformation just down the street in 1526.

The gothic nave with a few chapels

The organ (1964)

The vestibule

The belltower dates from a reconstruction done in about 1490.

Circumambulating the old church of Saint Maurice, a.k.a. the Church of the Cloister

We're proceeding further into the Le Cloître old town near the Château.

The flourishing wine trade

Up to the castle. (My old running route came down through here, and the cobblestones were murder.)

The castle from the northwest

The Château d'Aigle. Exhibitors and vendors are setting up for a gala exhibition of alternative medicines to be held over the weekend.

The present castle is a late 15th century Bernese restructuring around the two 12th century towers. It long served as the residence of the Bernese bailiff but was purchased by the town in 1804 and thereafter served as courts, a prison, a poorhouse, and presently as a well-known museum of wine and wine-making.

The large square tower dates from 1490, a Berneuse improvement.

We're walking along the Chemin du Cloître, still in the old part of town.

A funny tree

The castle peeking

The Chemin de Rochebord back towards the downtown

A fixer-upper along the Avenue de Loës, with the rail line running up from Aigle to the mountain resort of Les Diablerets. The three regional lines out of Aigle run up to Leysin, to Les Diablerets, and via our village of Ollon up to the ski resort of Champéry across the valley in the canton of Valais.

The Auberge des Messageries on the Rue du Midi. From time to time they have rognons on special.

The Catholic Church

Back onto the Rue de la Gare

And the Rue Farel leading seamlessly into the Rue du Bourg, the centre of the medieval town

More views of Aigle and the château, April 2014


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 25 November 2015.


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