Everybody loves a knight in shining armour. I didn’t find one in Switzerland, but I did see some beautiful bronze suits of armour at Château de Chillon, an impressive medieval castle that teeters on the edge of Lake Geneva.
There’s nothing quite like 1000 years of history to try and take in on a short visit. In the end, I gave up listening to everything that was coming through the self-guided tour headphones (as I often do) and just had a wander around, soaking up the views and the cool interiors.
But I did get this much: the rocky island on which Chateau de Chillon is built has been occupied since the Bronze Age (around 1150); over the centuries, there has been constant building, alterations, renovations and restorations. The castle was all about controlling the passage between northern and southern Europe.
And I soon found that you could wander here for hours. There are bedchambers and great halls and chapels and courtyards. One of the oldest rooms was once occupied by the Duke of Savoy, and is adorned with 14th century murals.
There are also vaulted underground chambers once used as prisons, and made famous by the English poet Lord Byron, who wrote The Prisoner Of Chillon in 1816 about François de Bonivard, a Genevois monk and politician who was held in the dungeon there from 1530 to 1536. Byron also famously stayed at the Hotel Victoria, on the mountain above the lake (where I also stayed, less famously).
On the lake side, the castle is all about the luxuries of the royal court; on the mountain side it is a fortress, with watchtowers and ramparts, a sentry walk, moat and turrets, all designed over the centuries to prevent attack. Today, on the mountain behind it is the sweep of a modern highway.
So if you find yourself near Montreaux, on the shores of beautiful Lake Geneva, make sure you spare a few hours to explore this medieval survivor.