Wartime Toblerones (No sweet tooth required)
Achtung: you are about to enter one of the most intriguing cornes of Switzerland’s reduit heritage: the Promenthouse Fortification Line comprises almost 3000 angular concrete anti-tank blocks, nicknamed after the famous honey & chocolate bar. Erected during WWII to prevent German tank invasion from France, the line extends from the village of Bassins in the Jura foothills to Lake Geneva. It follows the natural barrier of the Promenthouse-Sérine valley along the course of three rivers before reaching the medieval lakeside town of Nyon, a good 18 km later. The Toblerone Trail makes for a fascinating journey into the eerie world of wartime Switzerland – now thoroughly invaded by the friendly forces of woodland nature.
The anti-tank barriers were built in-situ by soldiers and scores of unemployed workers. Discarded rails served as a makeshift means of transport for the cement. A great number of patriotic locals transfered parts of their land free of charge in support of the military cause.
The first batch of the toblerones are small and pyramid-shaped. The standard-issue obstacle measures around 2 metres in height and weighs between 9-14 tons. Originally the dragon’s teeth used to extend 50 metres into Lake Geneva to prevent an amphibious assault.
The fortification line also features twelve pillboxes along its route. Though weather-beaten, the chaps are in a remarkably good shape, considering their age and exposure to the elements. The most spectacular one is Villa Rose near Gland. The seemingly stately home in fetching blushed pink was in fact armed to the teeth with enemy-destroying weaponry. Its true purpose was kept under wraps until the 1990s. Now a museum, the villa has been restored to its original wartime state.
The slightly surrealist world of wartime toblerones and scores of fortresses lining the route are not the only attractions, though. Now converted into an educational trail, the path snakes along magical woodland, gurgling rivers and winegrowers’ villages, offering splendid views over the never not sublime Lake Geneva. Undisturbed by enemy troops the tank traps have been quietly invaded by the friendly forces of nature in the ensuing nine decades of peacetime. Covered in moss, yvy and brambles they provide an ideal habitat for insects and other small animals. While the toblerones have blended perfectly into the gorges, forestland and acres of gently rolling fields and vineyards, they continue to stamp their still slightly eerie mark on this idyllic stretch of La Côte region.
© Karin Bürki/Heartbrut