Not shaken, but stirred – a weekend in Martigny

We were there for the 50th birthday party of George, a friend of Joelle, from her time in Prague. Following on the theme of the last post, although this is not a Gran Tourismo competition entry, we stayed with locals and celebrated with them. We stayed at the top floor apartment of George’s sister with views from her kitchen looking North at the imposing château de la Bâtiaz. The balcony and windows on the other side were equally as impressive with the “V” of South to the Col de Forclaz carving its way between the high Alps, towards Chamonix. It was mid October the grapes had been harvested and there was already snow on the tops of the surrounding mountains. It pleased me to see even more snow falling over the course of the weekend.

For the celebration of George’s 50th we dined at a Table d’Hote. Located at a house in the next village on the road towards Verbier and the Grand St Bernard Pass. The food was to a very high standard and locally sourced. One of George’s friend’s joked that the Foie Gras was from local geese, that had been anaesthetised to ensure not suffer as they were force fed. The courses were accompanied by wines from the Valais, Switzerland which are amongst my favourite in the world, certainly a very underrated wine region.


Château de la Bâtiaz, HDR


Château de la Bâtiaz


Château de la Bâtiaz


The only car carrying wooden bridge in the Valais (HDR)




One of the many works of art adorning the roundabouts. This one is by Hans Erni.


More artwork in a roundabout

With only a weekend and lots of folks to catch up with, we didn’t have time for much tourist activity, but we managed a walk around the town. We did a little shopping and sat down in a café for a hot chocolate.

The later photos are from earlier visits to the Foundation Gianadda. It is built on the foundations of a Celtic temple found when the area was being developed in the 1970’s. It now houses an art museum with a world class Sculpture Park and regular exhibitions by artists including Picasso, Hans Erni, Rodin. In fact they have a major exhibition every six months or so. The building also houses a motor museum which is included with the admission price.


Foundation Gianadda


Foundation Gianadda


Roman Amphitheatre


There are substantial Roman remains in the town. The amphitheatre being the most rewarding to see. My imagination is always fired by images of fighting gladiators and the less lucky fighting wild animals. I suppose it’s more likely that it was used mainly for the Roman Army to carry out endless drill practice. Either way it is either haunted by the dead gladiators or foot soldiers who were bored to death.

However in the case of the Martigny there is still an event that gets the spectators’ blood racing.  A cow fighting competition is held there early October. Unfortunately I have never witnessed it but this YouTube video gives an idea of the event:

The sound of the cow bells ringing as the cows lock horns gives it a very Alpine feel. NB. No cows were harmed in the making of the video, as their horns are filed down if they are too sharp and a vet is on hand at all times.


Drinking with the locals


A discussion on a Travel Bulletin Board led to my meeting with Karin, a native Municher. I had never met her before, so when I arrived in the city, I phoned and arranged to meet her where Rosenheimstrasse meets the bridge over the River Isar. I parked and phoned her again to say I was at our rendez-vous point. “Where are you exactly?” she enquired? I scanned for a landmark or street sign. “Einbahnstraße” I replied. She laughed, “That means One Way Street!”. I walked towards the bridge and saw Karin dressed in a fetching dirndl. We hugged hello and headed for Theresienwiese via the U-Bahn.
The large tents and insane fun fair surprised me, but there was more to come.  Karin suggested the Augustiner-Festhalle, because she preferred their brew, a great reason at a beer festival!  As we walked there she explained that the Hofbräu-Festzelt attracted the most tourists but revellers often got too rowdy. We squeezed onto a table full of locals, most dressed in lederhosen or dirndls and soon the whole table chatted as if we had known each other years. The oom-pah band played traditional German songs, the beer flowed, we ate pretzels, the singing got louder, more people stood up and raised their glasses. My highlight was 8,000 people singing “Smoke on the Water” accompanied by the Brass Band while we stood precariously on trestle stools holding our litres of beer. A memorable night, thanks to Karin’s local insight.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition