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We had a lovely bike ride through Lenzburg and the surrounding countryside, along route 56 between Schloss Wildegg and Seengen. It’s about 2/3rds paved and takes you through neighborhoods, forests, and farms. On day 2 we had a slightly difficult adventure to find the original Bally factories.

Möriken-Wildegg

***Schloss Wildegg is a much better than average castle. The castle consists of a core of a well-preserved castle from the first half of the 13th century, which at the end of the 17th century was rebuilt and expanded into a residential Baroque castle. The property also includes a gardens and a small aviary. 

We liked it for “castley-ness” and the fact that it’s quite intact, full of furnishings that feel authentic (and apparently, mostly are). It’s on our top 10 list of castles of all time. Julie von Effinger, the last of her line, died in 1912 with no offspring. She bequeathed the castle with almost all of its furnishings and the associated domain to the Swiss Confederation , which handed the entire estate over to the State Museum for administration. The castle was repaired and prepared for museum operation by 1917. 

We stayed at **Romantik Hotel zu den drei Sternen in nearby Brunegg. It’s a bigger place with lots of parking – I think they cater to tour groups and conferences. That said, it’s very nicely done, very quiet, Swissy-cute in an up-to-date way. We were the only guests, but it’s a large place and probably a decent dining stop in normal times.


Schönenwerd

Schönenwerd is best known as the former location of the Bally shoe factories, which had a decisive influence on the village image and life from the mid-19th century until the 1990s. Bally turned Schönenwerd from a farmer to an industrial village with extensive workers’ living quarters. We ran across the history in this article, which paints a picture of a Hershey, Michelin, or Cummins style community with extensive considerations for the workplace and workers living places.Not much is left, and what is has taken very different forms. It’s a rather run down area in Swiss terms.

We had a pleasant walk through the small Bally Park, and worked very hard to find the surprisingly excellent ***Ballyana Museum, which is open 6 hours per month (2-5, first and third Sundays), and hidden in the back parking lot of a school. It’s thoughtfully curated and has an impressive collection of working machines, which they demonstrate for you (ribbon weaving, shoemaking). There’s a Bally family history museum as well at yet another location, times seem to change constantly. Best guess is that it’s open July-Dec and only by appointment.


Seengen

**Schloss Hallwyl is one of the most important moated castles in Switzerland. It’s quite old, 12th century-ish, and has had multiple periods of disrepair, remodeling, and expansion. It’s a striking building from the outside, not particularly interesting on the inside (almost empty). Appears to be popular with the tourists. Worth a stop if you’re in the area, skip otherwise.

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