Imagine being trapped in outer space with a toxic, flesh-eating, slime producing, human-killing machine.
What is this human-killing machine?...it's a xenomorph from Alien, a creature I actually saw in person along with many other pieces from the film's set. Last March my husband and I traveled to Gruyeres Switzerland to have a drink at the Giger Bar in the Swiss Alps and visit H.R. Giger's museum. We wanted the entire Alien/ H.R. Giger experience, and it did not disappoint.
As an introduction to why I love Alien, these films are essential for Northerners to get through the brutal freezing Minnesota winter. Alien is best if watched safely within the warmth of your home and whiskey at hand, so that you are best prepared, when surrounded by the sounds of screaming crew members and a hard-working blow torch.
Nothing makes a Minnesota morning quite like scrambled eggs, burning alien flesh, and chest bursters.
For the love of Alien, and in honor of H.R. Giger (pronounced gee-grrr) who tragically passed this last year by falling down a flight of stairs, my husband and I decided to pay homage to the birthplace of the xenomorph, and final resting place of its creator, in Gruyeres, Switzerland. A mere dream that became a reality.
Giger's grave is located in a beautiful medieval town, at the base of the Alpine's snowy peaks. The air is so cold and clear that it gives you chills.
Before you get started, here are a few quick tips for the "Alien experience":
- Buy a Swiss Pass at the Swiss airport, it is about $300 and you can ride your heart away, on anything you want, even the scenic trains.
- You can upgrade to first class while on the trains for really cheap (trains only)! For about $20, you can live like a queen while watching the alps!
- There are two "Giger Bars", you want to start at this one, Gruyeres, NOT the one in Chur.
- Pay close attention to the hours! Giger Bar hours, Giger Museum Hours and your TRAIN HOURS! This is KEY and can ruin your entire trip.
- As you enter the medieval town there is a little information center, figure out your bus routes FIRST, then tackle the tiny town.
- Stay overnight in the Medieval town. Early evening for Giger bar and after for dinner. Then wake up for Giger's Museum and the Chateau Gruyers. Stay the night at Hostellerie Saint-Georges, great dinner and breakfast. We loved this place, they do not fuck around with breakfast, and as everyone may know by now if you follow me on social media, breakfast/brunch is my life: classic macchiato and a waffle or chocolate croissant...done.
When we arrived at the station in Gruyeres, we hiked up the hill AWAY from the cheese factory (yes it's Gruyere cheese). Do not go into the town and parking lot behind the station...
It is a long hike with luggage, if you are unable to walk, you can take a bus that leaves every hour (there is a schedule on a sign at the station), this bus also takes the Swiss Pass.
I recommend arriving mid afternoon since the Giger bar closes at 8pm, save dinner for later on in the evening since you will have all night to eat. For dinner, stay away from the Cafe Chalet de Gruyeres, rude staff, horrible service and crazy expensive. I do not mind expensive if it parallels excellence, however we were there for hours, unwillingly, and the menu is honestly JUST cheese, perhaps I am stating the obvious. Stick with the amazing restaurant at the hotel, really good and fresh! Then after dinner wander the night!
At night you can head to the forest to hear hawks screeching, visit Giger's candle-lit grave and walk the base of the haunted Chateau Gruyeres.
Giger Bar and Museum
When visiting the Giger bar, as noted before, it closes early. It is also much smaller than it appears, so do not be surprised at the scale. The room was also empty, so occasionally we saw tourists peek their heads in and quickly turn away, I am sure this makes Giger smile. Please ask before taking photos. As for drinks, have the Giger Absinthe, and then everything else. There is not much for food here, just chips and cookies etc.
While you are drinking Giger Absinthe, relax and enjoy the view of breathtaking Alps and cement baby heads.
A few fun facts about the Giger bar and Museum
- There are two Giger bars in Switzerland, the other is in Chur, where Giger was born (there is also one in Tokyo).
- The bar and museum took 4 years to build and the ribbon cutting was held in 2003.
- Giger's work parallels "the ambivalence of man towards scientific advances altering the way of nature."
- Don't take children into the Museum: underwear with semen on display, a lot of penetration and carnage, I loved it, maybe not for little Noah.
- The Museum is his own personal collection of art: Dali, Fuchs, Dado Gunter etc. along with pieces from the Alien film (stunning).
- Giger said he only wants to create what frightens him.
- His private apartment is connected above the museum and bar. His patio is made of backbones.
- He used concrete, cast and polished along with fiberglass for the bar's sculptures.
Before you leave in the morning, verify your train itinerary at the information center. This is to make sure you do not get stuck in Gruyeres. Once you have your train schedule (they are REALLY nice and will print an itinerary for you) then hit up the Giger Museum and the Chateau Gruyeres. Both VERY creepy!
As you walk into the museum you HAVE to stop and look closely at the huge metal sculpture, we believe it is supposed to be the gates of hell. We cannot find anything on the artist, if anyone remembers PLEASE comment below. You will also see weird little snails and other creatures emerging from the thawing snow. Also take time to walk around the courtyard for the views.
At first the Chateau seemed historic and cool, however the objects just kept getting creepier at every turn. Note the child's wheelchair, the random hunted woman piece of art, a man with wooden pegs through him, and weapons.
Looking back on this experience made made feel extremely insignificant, and in a good way. There are so many amazing parts of our world that are seen from so many perspectives. Most of the people visiting Gruyeres were from from China or Spain, who did not even know about HR Giger, they were there for the fucking cheese. The mountains, history and darkened beauty of HR Giger's footprint will always be here for others to be a part of. I ache for this trip every-time I have to upload an image and hope that everyone will get to be a part of this beautiful Medieval town before you randomly die from falling down a flight of stairs. Life is fucking short. For those of you in the CGT Society, I think we should plan our annual trip here. Thoughts? I would love to hear about a travel experience that has changed your life, like this has for me. Please share your places below or if you have traveled here I would love to hear what you thought! -CG