| Valangin's Main
old days travelers on foot or on horseback, coach or cart
made their way down from the high country in and around La Chaux
du Fonds to the village of Valangin just before the Seyon
Gorge. Here at Valangin they would pay their road tax
before continuing on to Neuchâtel.
| In the 1500s
or so a castle was built at the head of the gorge and beside the river
to collect the taxes of people trafficking on the road at its base,
and to provide some defense probably for local villages, and for Neuchâtel
at the foot of the gorge.
Canton Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Enlarge
Canton Neuchâtel, Switzerland
|| We lived in nearby Neuchâtel for
four years and no one told us of the fine little museum that the castle
housed. The Swiss are so used to having ancient villages, castles,
and superb scenery in their backyard that they don't think of saying
to you, 'Hey, by the way . . . there is an excellent little museum
in the castle at the top of the gorge. Just ten minutes from Neuchâtel.
You can't miss it.'
| Probably most
have never been to the museum themselves, and have only seen the village
of Valangin when passing it on their way to La Chaux du
Fonds. Do people who have grown up among the giant sequoias of
California stop, notice, and appreciate the redwood giants? Not as
much as people who see them for the first time, and so it is with
castles in Switzerland. They are appreciated mostly by those who have
not grown up with them. Anyway, the little town of Valangin,
the castle and the castle museum are worth a visit. The ancient part
of the village is very small. You can almost throw a baseball from one
end to the other. And, there are usually so few people here, you have
little chance of hitting anyone. At one time it was a walled village, and part of
the wall and the village gate still stand, and almost all the buildings
are original. Opposite the town gate is a stone fountain where villagers
once collected water in buckets for home use (few had indoor plumbing
during those days), water their horses and wash their clothes. The
fountain is still functional as are most old fountains in Switzerland
Hotel du Chateau
and Cafe du Chateau, Valangin, Switzerland. Enlarge
|| The village not to mention
the castle is off the tourist routes, so except for local inhabitants
you can pretty much have the village to yourself. One small hotel
with restaurant stands opposite the entrance of the castle. Across
the street from the restaurant is a small bakery. Within the village
are two modest antique shops. The rest of the ancient village consists
of a few other businesses, a church, and living quarters of present
day villagers who happen to be residing in buildings dating back four
or five hundred years.
| Up the street is in the
more 'modern' part of Valangin is a granary, and a little further
beyond, after taking the left fork in the road, a small working sawmill.
Neither are tourist destinations, and the owners would be surprised
if you took any notice of their operations. But actually, small working
saw mills are getting pretty rare these days, so if they has some
logs ready to be sawn into planks it may be worth a look. Though the
machinery now is powered by electricity, the mill sits next to a small
river that provided the power to turn the saws in the old days.
mill, Valangin, Switzerland.
| Buses from Neuchâtel to the village
of Valangin leave from Neuchâtel's square Place Pury.
Check the bus
schedule for departure times. No trains stop here, incidentally.
If you have a car, Valangin is just a ten minute drive from
The castle of Valangin is open
10:00 to 12:00 and 2:00 to 5:00 daily except Mondays and open in
the mornings only on Friday. During the colder months the castle
is closed, but is open from March 1 to December 15. Entrance for
adults is around five francs and less for kids, students, and groups.
For more information be ready to use your French and call 032 857