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Explore the Swiss Museum of Games

 

Photos courtesy of Rob Tysall 

The Musée de Jeu is Switzerland’s first and only Museum of Games – and possibly the only museum in the world solely dedicated to games. Ann Evans paid it a visit. 

 

Pic-1.-Swiss-Museum-of-Games.-Pic-Rob-Tysall
Swiss-Museum-of-Games.-Pic-Rob-Tysall

A more picturesque place to house the Swiss Museum of Games would be hard to find. The view from the tower of the 13th century Castle of La Tour-de-Peilz in Switzerland is spectacular. It looks out over the old town in one direction and the tranquil blue-grey waters of Lac Léman or Lake Geneva in the other. Beyond are snow-capped mountains often shrouded in white misty cloud. The view is tranquil and beautiful.

 

Pic-2.-Boy-playing-a-game-300AD.-Pic-Rob-Tysall
Boy-playing-a-game-300AD.-Pic-Rob-Tysall

La Tour-de-Peilz Castle which houses this amazing collection of games stands midway between Vevey and Montreux, on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva. Here you will discover more than 10,000 exhibits that span thousands of years – from the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians right up to 21st century Europe. Games that have been played by paupers and Princes, right across the seven Continents.

 

Pic-3.-Card-set-owned-by-Strauss.-Pic-Rob-Tysall
Card-set-owned-by-Strauss.-Pic-Rob-Tysall

It’s fascinating to see how important playing games was to people of all creeds and cultures. There are ancient exhibits of primitive stone dice and knucklebones; of games played with pebbles or fruit seeds on boards made of stone, such as the oldest game board in the Museum. This was found in a dried-up riverbed in the Jiroft region of Iran believed to date back to between 2500BC and 1500BC. It’s thought to be a very early version of Backgammon that has developed over years of play.

Through the artwork within the games, we get to understand something of the different cultures, traditions and ethos of that region or country. The games are sometimes made from precious metals and stones – jade, mother-of-pearl, silver, gold; also ornately carved wood, marble or painstakingly woven in colourful silks or beautifully hand-painted.

 

Pic-4.-Early-playing-cards-Pic-Rob-Tysall
Early-playing-cards-Pic-Rob-Tysall

We met up with Suzanne Sinclair and Clare Grangier from the museum who talked about the history of the castle and how the museum came to be. “This site has been occupied for 1,000 years,” said Clare. “The castle has been a fortress, a prison, an observation post, a customs post and a private dwelling. It’s been burnt, demolished and re-built! After it was destroyed in the Burgundy Wars in 1747, French Officer Jean Grésier rebuilt it and from the 18th century it has been a private dwelling.”

P

Pic-5.-French-card-game-of-Piquet.-Pic-Rob-Tysall
French-card-game-of-Piquet.-Pic-Rob-Tysall

Suzanne added that it went for sale in the late 1970s and was bought by the municipality of La Tour-de-Peilz with the intention of creating a Museum of Games which could be used by people for fun and recreation. The museum was officially inaugurated in 1987 and since 2003 it has been supported by the Association Friends of the Swiss Museum of Games with the aim of promoting the museum’s development, enrich its collections and strengthen links with the public.

 

Pic-6.-Counter-trays-were-ornately-carved.-Pic-Rob-Tysall
Counter-trays-were-ornately-carved.-Pic-Rob-Tysall

The museum gets between 20,000 to 30,000 visitors a year and also runs workshops, games tournaments and special events. For the last three years there has been an archaeological dig going on.

Suzanne also pointed out the early ‘central heating system’ within the castle of large wood burning stoves covered in Delph tiles. Look closely and you’ll find some tiles depict the actual Castle La Tour-de-Peilz in blue and white.

The walls of the different rooms are full of photographs, posters and screens showing the games in that room being played in their native land. Sometimes played on elaborate boards at other times just scratched into the sand with a stick.

 

Pic-7.-Early-central-heating.-Pic-Rob-Tysall
Early-central-heating.-Pic-Rob-Tysall

The room displaying games from India is rich in colour and materials, with patchwork game boards from the 1840s to 1860s and lots of examples of India’s national game Pachisi which has been played since ancient times. The African room has beautifully carved ‘boards’ for the national game of Awéle – which is a strategic game the equivalent of chess. Although the rules of the game are passed down only through word of mouth. And amongst the Japanese and Chinese displays are ornately carved and decorated games made from precious stones.

 

Pic-8.-Facsimile-of-ancient-manuscript-Libre-de-los-Juegos-by-Alphanso-de-Castills-et-Leon.-Pic-Rob-Tysall
Facsimile-of-ancient-manuscript-Libre-de-los-Juegos-by-Alphanso-de-Castills-et-Leon.-Pic-Rob-Tysall

There are fabulous examples of Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, Punta, chess, playing cards, tarot cards and jigsaws. There’s a room dedicated to the lottery – with grim images warning of the dangers of gambling. Another room is dedicated to British pub games such as skittles and darts. There’s a display of hand-made games made by French prisoners of war in the 19th century. The museum also houses a library containing around 5,000 rare and specialised books related to games. It can be visited on request.

 

Pic-9.-Ann-and-Rob-on-castle-tower-overlooking-Lake-Geneva.-Pic-Rob-Tysall
Ann & Rob on-castle-tower-overlooking-Lake-Geneva.-Pic-Rob-Tysall

And if that’s not enough, you can try your hand at some of the games, browse the shop, buy a game to take home or wander out into the courtyard to experience a large board game or two.  

The museum is about to embark on a major project that will incorporate more interaction between visitors and the games on display. “Our approach is, you watch, you learn, you play,” said Clare.

Details:

Musée de Jeu,

Rue du Château 11, 1814 La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland

https://museedujeu.ch/en/

 

Our thanks to MONTREUX-VEVEY TOURISM,

Website: www.montreuxriviera.com