Vaud: Places to Explore

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Château-d'Oex

At the crossroads between the Col des Mosses highway to Aigle and the Valais and the route to the Berner Oberland lies Château-d'Oex (pronounced day), a popular sports resort that connects with the greater Gstaad ski region. Its perhaps even greater claim to fame these days is ballooning, with hot-air-balloon competitions that draw mobs of international enthusiasts and fill hotels throughout the region.

Separated from the high-altitude Alpine resorts by the modest Col des Mosses (4,740 feet), the Pays-d'Enhaut (Highlands) hereabouts offer an entirely different culture from that of its Vaud cousins. Here the architecture begins to resemble that of the Berner Oberland, with deep-eaved wooden chalets and a mountain-farm air.

This is still Gruyère cheese country. A style known as L'Etivaz is made from milk drawn exclusively from cows grazed on pastures at elevations between 3,280 feet and 7,216 feet. The sweet, late-blooming flowers they eat impart a flavor that lowland cheeses can't approach. The highlands are also the source of one of Switzerland's most familiar decorative arts: papier découpé, delicate, symmetrical paper cutouts. They are cut in black, often with simple imagery of cattle and farmers, and fixed on white paper for contrast. The real thing is a refined craft and is priced accordingly, but attractive prints reproducing the look are on sale at reduced prices throughout the region.

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