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Sentier des Toblerones, Toblerone Trail, Canton Vaud, Swiss WWII anti-tank fortification line, built 1939-1944 © Karin Bürki. Explore more on Heartbrut.com

Sentier des Toblerones (Toblerone Trail)

Picture of Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Words & Photography: Karin Bürki

Wartime toblerones, fake villas and green invasion

Attention, you are about to enter one of the most fascinating corners of the Swiss Réduit heritage: the Promenthouse fortification line. Made up of some 3000 concrete blocks, it was built during the Second World War to prevent the invasion of German tanks from France. It stretches from the village of Bassins in the Jura foothills to Lake Geneva. Reminiscent of a Toblerone chocolate bar (hence the nickname), the tank barriers follow the natural barrier of the Promenthouse-Sérine valley along three rivers, reaching Nyon after a good 18 kilometres. Originally, the dragon’s teeth protruded 50 metres into Lake Geneva to prevent an amphibious attack.

A walk along the Toblerone Trail is a fascinating expedition into the eerie world of wartime Switzerland. But fear not: today the trail has been completely reconquered by peace-loving forest nature. Now almost completely overgrown with moss, ivy and brambles, the toblerones blend naturally into the gently rolling hills. Nevertheless, the somewhat surreal relics from the Réduit are a vivid reminder of an ominous chapter in recent Swiss history.

The tank barriers were erected by soldiers and many specially recruited local unemployed. Salvaged railway lines were used as temporary transport for the cement. Many patriotic locals gave up parts of their land for free to support the military cause. The first toblerones are small and pyramid-shaped. The standard obstacle is about 2 metres high and weighs between 9 and 14 tonnes. There are twelve pillboxes along the fortification line. Considering their age and exposure to the elements, they are in remarkably good condition. The most spectacular is Villa Rose near Gland. What at first glance appears to be a villa in blushing pink was in fact a concrete fortress armed to the teeth with artillery. Its true purpose was kept under wraps until the 1990s. Now a museum, the villa has been restored to its original state by an association.
Sinister toblerones and pillboxes are not the only attractions along the route. The nature trail winds through enchanted woodlands, rolling fields and winegrowing villages, offering breathtaking views of the never not sublime Lake Geneva.

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut

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