Estavayer-le-Lac, Stuffed Frogs, and The Unbearable Cuteness of Being

In Switzerland, on the south-east shore of Lake Neuchatel, sits the charming medieval town of Estavayer-le-Lac. Here you can walk the remnants of medieval city walls, wander cobblestone streets, and explore a 14th century castle.

But that isn't all, you can also go boating, swimming, or explore the many miles of the Grand Caricaie, a nature reserve that stretches the length of the south bank of Lake Neuchatel. The marshland is home to over 1000 plants and 10,000 animal species.



And, if that isn't enough to have you totally intrigued, you can also visit the Frog Museum, where buried behind displays of arms, armor, old toys and games, and a collection of every day house hold items, is a display 108 stuffed frogs arranged in poses illustrating satirical scenes from everyday life in the 19th century.

I began the day by renting a car. I ended up with a Mini Cooper. Oh what fun I had driving that little car through the "hills" of Switzerland. And I was glad of its small stature as I squeezed through the gates within remnants of the city walls to find parking near the town center. I was greeted, as I got out of the car, with a scene where flower petals fell onto medieval stone walls lined with banded snails.

Banded snail

Banded snail

Church of St. Laurent


Estavayer-le-Lac has been inhabited since neolithic times. Controlled by the Romans and later the Dukes of Savoy, this little town is fascinating as it is beautiful. I wandered the battlements and investigated the Castle of Chenaux where I found a gray heron haunting a flower-lined pool in the gardens. I ate a pain au chocolate while gazing out across the shores of a lake the color of the Caribbean sea.

Walking up toward the old town walls.

Walking along the old town walls and towers.

Walking along the old town walls and towers.

Approaching the Castle of Chenaux

Castle of Chenaux

Entrance gate/tower

Walkway between towers

Inside the grounds of Castle of Chenaux.

Inside the grounds of Castle of Chenaux.

I paid a visit to the Frog Museum, where in a room with walls covered with art made out of spider webs (which are worth seeing on their own), I saw the odd, vaguely disturbing, and weirdly rather charming stuffed frogs created by Francois Perrier in the 1800's. Then I wandered into the Church of St. Laurent...and found I was still totally churched out from my visit to the Czech Republic last year. Thus I headed to the outskirts of town to where I would spend the night and gain access to the Grand Caicaie...and to an encounter with the unbearable cuteness of being leading to an accident only another photographer may truly appreciate. Ahem.

The Frog Museum

Hand painted playing cards.

Typical crockery

Kitchen implements, lanterns, and a hand crank washer.

And finally the stuffed frogs. These are really amazing, imaginative, and somewhat grizzly little works of art.

Stuffed frogs stuffing themselves!?!

Stuffed frogs feeding fake chickens.

Stuffed frog riding its noble steed, which happens to be a stuffed red squirrel. There is a story here. A marvelous story about a brave frog riding off on his stalwart squirrel to save all frogs from being stuffed...but I digress. Ahem.

I was staying at Chateau de la Corbier, which is a charming little hotel, set among idyllic farms, with what may be the oddest room set up I've ever encountered. My room was comfortable, attractive, clean...and had the bathroom right in it. There were no walls or doors separating the bathroom from the room, the facilities were quite literally in the room. Now, this was fine with me as I was the only one staying in the room. I can't imagine it would work for two people sharing the room unless you have absolutely no qualms about sharing all of your bodily functions within full site of your partner.

A beautiful Friesian horse grazing beneath the flowers of a tree.

Chateau de la Corbier

 It was while looking out the window from my room that I saw Shetland Ponies. Armed with my camera, a late lunch and water, I headed out to investigate my immediate surroundings. I walked up to the field full of Shetland Ponies and discovered one had a foal. This little filly was the cutest damned thing I have ever seen in my life. I wanted to pick her up, which I could have seeing as she was the size of a medium sized dog, and take her home with me. I didn't, of course. Instead, I found her as curious about me and I was about her. She kept coming over to watch me take photos of her. She even showed off by throwing a bit of bark around. And that's when I hit the electric fence...holding my camera. OUCH. Thankfully, both my camera and I were fine but I don't suggest trying this. I've fallen in ditches and fallen off boardwalks into a bog in my efforts to get a shot, but this is the first time I've nearly electrocuted myself and the camera. Anyway, spending a little bit more time with the unbearable cuteness of being (the filly) helped me recover just fine.

Shetland Pony with foal. The unbearable cuteness being (the foal) appearing across the field.

The unbearable cuteness of being noticing me.

The unbearable cuteness of being showing me how daintily she could move.

The unbearable cuteness of being being unbearably cute by showing off by tossing a bit of bark around.

Possibly the sire of the unbearable cuteness of being.

The I headed out into the nature reserve, to find myself on the shores of a beautiful, reed-lined lake, listening to coots calling, watching swans swim quietly through the waves, and watching a buzzard hunting along the shores. There were a profusion of flowers lining the forest floor, a suspicious Mallard couple swimming down a stream, the dark entrances of caves in stone cliffs, the raucous calls of seagulls overhead, and the clock-like calls of a Cuckoo in the distance. It was the perfect afternoon.

On the shore of Lake Neuchatel

Fresh water clam shells line the beach along which I walked.

The reed-lined shores of Lake Neuchatel and the lake's Caribbean-like coloration.

Lake Neuchatel

Wild primroses in the forest

One of several caves I passed.

Multi-colored mushrooms

Day's end