Thanh Trung

Discover the Swiss village of Gruyeres, one of the most charming places in Europe

In a country full of beautiful sites, the ancient village of Gruyeres stands out. The streets are full of legends. The atmosphere is serene yet lively. I was charmed by the village’s cobbled lanes, which wound around like silk sashes. A vendor told me that the streets were cobbled during the Middle Ages and have withstood the test of time. Long ago, a castle stood nearby, serving as a place where villagers could retreat when attacked by intruders. The castle was small but very beautiful, perched on a steep cliff overlooking the village.

The locals are very proud of their village and take great care of it, as shown by the bright flower pots, clean windows and beautifully kept houses, souvenir shops and cafes. I never saw a single piece of rubbish on the ground. It seemed like dust didn’t exist in this fairytale village.

Old legends talk about the surrounding rocky mountains full of wild animals. In contrast, the village feels safe and cozy, with little houses painted white, red and green, their tiny balconies hung with fresh flowers. At the heart of the village lies a little fountain that has bubbled for centuries. The fountain’s rough pebbles contrast with the smooth jets of water.

What makes Gruyeres so special is that its aura of age is authentic. Nothing feels fake, forced or recreated for tourists. Modern life has not overwhelmed this scenic village.  Commercialism has been held at bay. People still live and work in this immaculate setting. As the locals go about their daily lives the village has become a living museum.

I walked all over the village soaking up the culture. As well as admiring the picturesque beauty and unique architecture, I was struck by the atmosphere of simplicity and ease. People were not ostentatious. They were friendly. Seeing me, a waiter bringing food to guests, gave me a genuine smile and said: “Welcome to Gruyeres!”

The famous Vietnamese writer Nguyen Ngoc had a great love of Hoi An, a city in Central Vietnam known for its charming Old Town. Nguyen Ngoc felt that visitors could feel the Hoi An locals’ respect for their heritage and the rich cultural layers that made their town special. Gruyeres evoked these feelings.

A woman in her eighties invited our group of Vietnamese tourists into her yellow-painted house, offered us water and waited patiently as we posed for photos. “Ancient beauty must be vital and able to absorb and transform the beauty brought by visitors,” said this cheerful octogenarian. “To keep our village’s charm, we must open it up to guests.”