Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Winter 2008-2009

Alison's visit (1)


Alison and Mark have been in the greater Munich region for meetings, and now, just before dashing back to Santiago, Chile, here they are right on our doorstep for a few days.

The Château de Chillon

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.

Mark and Alison in Ollon, Switzerland, 4 April 2009. We've dashed over to Ollon to say hello to Lisa and Mercedes and pick up our snowshoes for tomorrow.

And now we've come along to visit the Castle of Chillon on Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman -- Alison's virtually grown up here, but it's a first visit for Mark to the finest compact castle in Europe. We firmly believe that. Or one of the finest. Right up there.

Dwight and Mark poised at the entrance for the Grand Tour

The main courtyard, just inside the gatehouse. Lots of changes since we were last here -- first, excellent interpretive signage throughout, thoughtful explanations in French and English and sometimes German as well. Second, a welcome centre and a vending machine meditation room where once there were only staff offices. That lady's headed for the chocolate sweets machine fast.

Bonivard's cellar -- as always, Byron's graffitied name on the pillar [viz. the little glass plaque on the column], but now with intelligent signs about Byron's poem on François Bonivard's six-year imprisonment here by the Savoyards, 1530-36 -- "My very chains and I grew friends"!

Like this -- the "mythe romantique" of Bonivard's captivity. Nearby, there's an explanation of how the vaulted ceiling of the dungeon (which is also the castle foundation) was built.

In some places, not shown here, the wooden scaffolding that held the newly-built vaulting in place until it settled can still be seen, something very rare in Europe evidently, and shows how the thing was made.

Alison enjoying the 11th century crypt

Risen from the crypt

It's bear week at Chillon. There's an elaborate historical display of the history and evolution of bear-hunting and teddy-bear-cuddling in what used to be the Coat-of-Arms Hall, and it's all very well done but fascinating only if you've got a great affection for teddy-bears, or real bears. The English translations of the commentary are uncommonly good, and turned out to have been made by a former colleague.

The "Constable's Dining Room". Informative explanations of medieval dining practices -- but all the crossbows and halberds that used to be here are gone! They're stuck up in the castle keep now. Which makes sense.

The "Bernese Bedroom", evidently at one time with ready access to the postern gate down at the lake level for the quick getaway when required. (It was required in 1536, when Savoy's governor slipped off across the lake whilst the Bernese army were hammering on the front gates.)

The guest room

Alison doing courtyard scenes from the "Coat-of-Arms Hall". It turns out that neither of us thought to take photos of the teddy bear exhibits filling the room just behind us, which is just as well.

Mark in repose

The view back towards the Guest Room and the "Antechamber" outside the Bernese Bedroom. Mind the step.

Between the second and third courtyards, with the castle keep on the far side

In the residential part of the castle, the Camera Domini (lord's room), changing rooms, the loo, etc.

Medieval lords were smaller and could get down these staircases more easily than we can now.

The view from the watchtower on the far side: Montreux and the intervening suburbs, like Territet, and the lakeside walking path all the way to the Montreux Casino.

Also from the watchtower, up on the left is the A9 motorway viaduct heading towards Italy

We've done all the residential and official interiors, and it's time for a walk along the shoreside fortifications. Chillon, throughout much of its history, was a regional seat of government and, essentially, a fortified tollbooth. The ancient road from Italy to northern Europe passed between the castle's front gate, just offshore, and the cliffs coming down to the lake about 50 meters away.

When the traffic and tolls became overwhelming, in about 1200 the nearby town of Villeneuve ("new town") was legally created to pre-collect the tolls before the shippers passed through the narrow defile by the castle. (Though the settlement had been there since Celtic and Roman times under the name of "Pennelucos".)

The outer shoreside walls and towers, built outside the original keep and its glacis.

Alison and her Sony

The shoreside walls and the glacis again

Alison and Mark at the far end

Mark on the ramparts

Ramparts without Mark

An interior walkway above the first courtyard, with the keep looming behind

Mark and Ali at the watchtower, also called the clock tower, over the front gates.

The first courtyard from the lakeside ramparts over the residential block.

Mark precedes us. The A9 autoroute viaduct is on the upper right.

The entrance gatetower and watchtower, and the first courtyard, from the top of the castle keep, the original 11th century part of the castle, heightened somewhat in the early 14th century to its present 25 metres (82 feet).

View over the residential block and Lake Geneva

Out of the keep and down towards the exit. The gardeny Second Courtyard is on the left.

The natural moat outside the front gate.

Moat residents

The keep and the shoreside towers

The bridge across the moat, entrance, and clock tower

We got out just in time. They're closing up. It's either the end of visiting hours or they've been warned that the Bernese are coming back again.

The classic view of the Château de Chillon, one of the most perfect compact castles in Europe.

Mark and Alison at the Chillon lakeboat dock

A gratuitous additional view

-- Photos by Alison and Dwight

Marlowe's visits to Chillon, 1986 and 2002
Alison's visit to Chillon, 2003
Marlowe's supplementary views, 2007

Alison and Mark at Chillon, 2009

Marlowe & William at Chillon, 2012


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 12 April 2009, revised 16 October 2014.


Alison Beth Peck