Castle Hunting: Chenaux

Castles are often like this - a jumbled collection of styles and parts fit together haphazardly and changed often. The fortress and house at Estavayer-Le-Lac, the grand castle/chateau Chenaux, is a great example of this process of modification, destruction and addition. Little of what is visible is original, yet it hasn't really been renovated or recreated. Instead, the walls have been pockmarked with new windows, closed in by townhouses, made indefensible and more glamorous, opened up for roadways and replaced with new materials. None of this was done with preservation in mind, and the rambling place is perhaps even more authentic feeling because of it.
The main building is currently occupied by a police station and off limits - unless you're brought in for booking, that is. The grounds around the prefecture are open for visitors, though, and are beautifully maintained. Carp swim in the pool and Lac de Neuchâtel is visible in the distance. A few people in suits (presumably men of the law) were smoking in the main courtyard, which served as a parking lot. The brick tower shown above, along with its twin on the other side of the main house, was one of the last defensive structures built here.
Here are two of the towers - there are 14 in all, spread around the town. The stone structure on the right was one of the original defensive buildings built here, in 1290. Some two hundred years later, the brick tower on the left was erected, in 1503. The difference in style is immediately evident, especially when they are separated by the chateau building between, which was turned into living quarters in the 1700's and then fitted with nice windows for the gendarmerie.
As you can see, it's lilac season in the valley towns of Switzerland. We have been surrounded by purple and white blossoms and the scent of late spring - a surprise, considering the elevation and the wintry conditions at home.
Anyhow, the walls of Chenaux are really quite long, but it's difficult to see them because they wind through recent buildings and cut through large swaths of fenced property. Here and there, they are approachable and sometimes even climbable. There is a poorly marked but interesting walk through the town that roughly follows the fortification's footprint. We meandered along it for about an hour, enjoying the sunshine and the warmth of the day.
An aside: Estavayer-Le-Lac is known as the city of frogs. We're not entirely sure why, though there is a nineteenth century collection of taxidermied examples housed in a local museum. This huge frog bench sat, seemingly aghast, in someone's front lawn. It really amused us and we would have sat on it, but there was a fence.
We left the town and immediately drove into a rainstorm. It was a satisfying picture day, with a lot of interesting bits and pieces to shoot. I must admit, when I first saw the big windows and wide open doors, I thought we were out of luck on the castle front - usually I like to go for real defensive structures instead of chateaus. It was a fascinating place, though, and had some great remnants of its pre-manorial self. Also, it was one of the lovelier castles we've been to, with magnificent views out over the lake and some very pretty grounds.
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