Perched on a hilltop in the Swiss canton of Fribourg is the medieval village of Gruyères - the place that gives its name to the famous Gruyère cheese. Gruyères is encircled with bucolic pastures, some filled with those cheese-generating bovines, and has a pleasant order to it common to rural Switzerland.
A short walk up through the fields and you enter a walled village where, on the surface, nothing has changed since medieval times. Shops and tourist attractions now fill the old buildings and cafes spill out onto the cobbled streets. Heading deeper into the village you arrive at the Château St. Germain and are confronted by a pair of nightmarish xenomorphs with spiked breasts.
In 1998 Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor and set designer Hans Ruedi Giger acquired the Saint-Germain Castle which now houses the H. R. Giger Museum. The museum is a permanent repository of many of Giger's key works, his private art collection and the Museum Gallery where he curated the works of other artists.
The entrance to the museum gives adequate warning as to what lies inside. The museum is the largest and most impressive collection of the artist's paintings, sculptures, furniture and film designs, dating from the early 1960s. These include many of his most famous works from Ridley Scott's Alien movie and subsequent sequels. Giger worked on a wide range of mediums from album art to microphone stands and the museum reflects all these with a substantial amount of work related to the Alien franchise. It's obvious Giger was obsessed with the darker side of life and some of the work on display is sexually graphic and would give the Predator night terrors. If you were a fan before visiting then nothing here will disenfranchise you.
Adjacent to the Museum is the Museum HR Giger Bar. Completed in 2003, the bar is a unique experience. The ceiling, walls, floors, fittings, tables and chairs are all modelled by the artist in the style of his acclaimed biomechanical designs. If you are familiar with the 'Pilot' scene in Alien in which Dallas reports:
Alien life form. Looks like it's been dead a long time. Fossilised. Looks like it's growing out of the chair. Bones are bent outward like he exploded from inside.
It's like having a drink in there. It's worth a visit but don't try and take photos without buying something - they will kick you out with Swiss efficiency.
The juxtaposition of the museum and the village is startling and makes the visit all the more enjoyable. The village is also home to a more convention museum and a Tibet museum, making it a cultural overload before you even get to the cheese.Rue du Château 2, Château St-Germain, 1663 Gruyères, Switzerland
Phone: +41 26 921 22 00
|Times||April to October Monday to Friday 10:00 - 18:00 Saturday and Sunday 10:00 to 18:30|
|October to March Tuesday to Friday 13:00 - 17:00 Saturday and Sunday 10:00 - 18:00|