Thiers Things to Do

  • View of the entrance
    View of the entrance
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  • Backside and bell tower
    Backside and bell tower
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  • Old wall painting
    Old wall painting
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Most Recent Things to Do in Thiers

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    Le musée de la coutellerie

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Not only Swiss knives have lots of blades. . . .
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    The museum of cutlery is of course a must see in the city of Thiers; not only local production is displayed here but also from the whole world, and it tells about the history of knives.
    There are an incredible variety of knives, going from masterpieces with 36 elements (blades, scissors, etc. . . ), like on the first picture, to very simple but beautiful folding knives like on picture 2 through strange “safe” knives, which can open only with a pass code on turning buttons, like a safe (picture 3).
    The objects are displayed on three levels in a medieval house, and most are wonderfully displayed, with coloured background, in glass cases or containers; the items are also well labelled and there is a lot to learn with some fun, and . . . euh, if I knew there are specific knives for any specialised work, here I saw for the first time castrator knives (picture 4) , and looking at them for the first time made me cold in the back (brrr), later, I thought, there are different sizes. . . . . haha, no, it is not for the pope’s delicate ears (yes, there were castrated singers, in order they keep their little boys voices. . . . . ), different sizes for different animal species, what were you thinking? :)))
    On picture 5 is the medieval house hosting the museum.
    October –May: closed Monday; 10-12 am and 2-6 pm 5 Euros; kids and students half price
    June September: open every day; 10.12.30 am and 1.30 7 pm; 6.30 Euros; kids, students, half price.

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    Museum; learn about knife making

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Explaining how its done. . .
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    The museum displays also old tools in the basement, and a guide explains what they were for, and how they were used; we see how steel plates were cut, then shape given to the knives, assembling, sharpening. . . . . wood, horn, ivory, handle material, how they were chosen, used. . . . . and finally there is a demonstration of knife making by a worker and he captivated all visitors with his explanations and his skills (first picture); another worker assembles handle and blade (picture 2).
    In the basement are the old tools (pictures 3 and 4) as they were used half a century ago; there is also a video room in the basement where you can see how these tools worked.
    Visiting the museum is also interesting for having a few views and perspectives we usually do not have on streets bordered with half timbered houses (picture 5)
    October –May: closed Monday; 10-12 am and 2-6 pm 5 Euros; kids and students half price
    June September: open every day; 10.12.30 am and 1.30 7 pm; 6.30 Euros; kids, students, half price.

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    Museum; vendetta knife, and other knives

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    For a
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    “The crime of passion knife”, this is the name of this unique piece on the first picture, and I like the idea of the person (not necessary a guy!) choosing a beautiful knife, an artwork, to kill (there must be a “good” reason!) the person he (she) loves! More common, in the Mediterranean area is the “vendetta knife” (picture 2), which looks better than just an ordinary knife to kill your best enemy. . . . More peaceful is this little bird on picture3.
    There are a lot of strange and funny knives in the museum, and the museum did a good effort to display them very well and also to give as many (not too technical) explanations on many of the knives, the traditions, history, etc. . . .
    In the 19th and even first half of the 20th century, there were specialised peddlers walking in the countries to sell knives and they had special aprons to display they merchandise (picture 4), and the show case on picture 5 was certainly to display samples for the peddlers who chose what they wanted to sell in the places they visited. Old stories, but today, I would not buy a knife on the web . . .
    October –May: closed Monday; 10-12 am and 2-6 pm 5 Euros; kids and students half price
    June September: open every day; 10.12.30 am and 1.30 7 pm; 6.30 Euros; kids, students, half price.

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    A water mill which still works

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The mills, deep down in the valley. . .
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    Vallee des rouets: Valley of small wheels, valley of water mills;
    A few kilometres from Thiers the Durolle river cuts deep gorges in the Forez Mountains and the energy of the fast waters has long been used in the local steel and knife industry; most mills in the valley (picture one) have been used for shaping and sharpening the knives, mainly ordinary knives; there were several tens of mills and the last mill ceased activity in 1976.
    From June to September, the museum proposes to visit the valley of mills, and it is a nice one hour hike you can do in the shade of the trees along the river, discovering the old mills, and visiting the Lyonnet mill where a guide explains the work which was done in the mills.
    A very easy walking track (picture 2) takes you down to the valley, where you soon arrive to the Lyonnet mill where the wheel is still working (picture 3), and where you will learn about the hard work of knife-making with one of the guides (picture 4), in the workshop as it was 50 years ago. Machines and tools are in working conditions, and the guide can even show how to use some of them (picture 5)
    Combined ticket with the museum ; you do not have to use the ticket to the valley the same day; valid till end September, and shuttle is included.
    October –May: closed Monday; 10-12 am and 2-6 pm 5 Euros; kids and students half price
    June September: open every day; 10.12.30 am and 1.30 7 pm; 6.30 Euros; kids, students, half price.

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    Vallée des Rouets

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Ruins of an old mill
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    After having visited the Lyonnet mill, you can enjoy nature and special archaeology walking along the Durolle river banks, back to the information centre where the bus from the museum left you when you arrived.
    Ruins of mills and steel wheels (first picture) give some charm to the walk along the running waters under the shade of willows, poplars, alders and other trees (picture 2), in a very green ambience; many stone wheels used to shape and sharpen knives and other tools are astray along the path (picture 3), some of which are really huge and it is impressive to think about how they have been transported down the valley without breaking them! Of course, if you have a knife, you can grind and sharpen it on one of these stones (picture 4); choose a fine grained stone, preferably. These sandstone wheels were “imported” from the Limagne area not far from Clermont-Ferrand, or from Lorraine, in the East of France, and it took days to get them safely down from the road to the mills: like glass, some types of sandstone can be very hard, but fragile to shocks! Some of the wheels are used for decoration (picture 5) near the information centre where the short hike takes you back.
    Combined ticket with the museum ; you do not have to use the ticket to the valley the same day; valid till end September, and shuttle is included.
    October –May: closed Monday; 10-12 am and 2-6 pm 5 Euros; kids and students half price
    June September: open every day; 10.12.30 am and 1.30 7 pm; 6.30 Euros; kids, students, half price.

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    The dogs of the knife-makers!

    by kokoryko Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The workers were laying on that sort of board
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    Shaping and sharpening the blades of knives was an incredibly hard job, and people who did this did not live very old and generally suffered the last years of their life bad rheumatisms. On the first picture is a board where the worker was laying above a turning wheel and was working like the worker here (picture 2) demonstrates in the museum. In real life, I mean in the mills of the valley, the boards were above the river, in humid atmosphere, summer or winter. . . . . So the workers had big dogs, whose job was to keep them warm, and they were laying on the back or the legs of the worker all time the worker needed them . . . . animal warmth. . . . third picture from museum website; sometimes, instead of dogs, they had kids to keep them warm; imagine the kids, in winter, without moving. . . . and we are happy using tools. . . sometimes it is better not to know how they are manufactured. . . .
    Combined ticket with the museum ; you do not have to use the ticket to the valley the same day; valid till end September, and shuttle is included.
    October –May: closed Monday; 10-12 am and 2-6 pm 5 Euros; kids and students half price
    June September: open every day; 10.12.30 am and 1.30 7 pm; 6.30 Euros; kids, students, half price.

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    Abbatial house

    by kokoryko Written Mar 12, 2009

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    View of the entrance
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    Next to St Symphorien (on he other side of the street) is an abbatial house (Logis Abbatial du Moutier), which look quite impressive with its two towers; it is possible to visit this “house”, an old abbey, but only in July and August, in the afternoons; a pity, as a number of websites show interesting pictures from the gardens and interesting architectural details of the buildings.
    I did not visit and only can show what is outside, but I will certainly visit when I go back to Thiers; a museum is inside, and this abbey is on the list of “historical buildings” of the French ministry of Culture, so, worth a visit.

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    St Symphorien du Moutier

    by kokoryko Written Mar 12, 2009

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    Little old church
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    Random walking in the small cities of central France, always brings interesting surprises, and this has been verified in Thiers, too; it may have changed since my last visit, but it really interesting to visit the small garden next to the church and to have a look at the ruins which are apparently under renovation (or demolition?) and find little bits and pieces of past life. It is just a little church with a square tower (picture 1), set in a “wild” garden, and walking around you will begin to dream amongst the old stone walls, windows, perspectives (picture 2), and come across ruins of a small abbey (picture 3). Just walk, look at the old walls, arches, windows (picture 4), have a rest, dream, and come back to the garden and enjoy the view of St Symphorien again, and notice the peach tree (picture 5), indicating the climate is not that bad at the feet of the Forez Mountains.

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    St Genes church

    by kokoryko Written Mar 12, 2009

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    Backside and bell tower
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    Genes was a local saint killed by barbars (or Roman) in the third century and a church had been erected on his grave in the 6th century; monks re-built a roman church in the 11th century, and the main building we visit today dates back to that time. The biggest cupola of Auvergne is in this church.
    As very often in Auvergne, different rock types (colours) have been used as shown on the first picture; you already see it is a roman church, but it has been renovated as you can see on picture 2 where a gothic ceiling is above the typical Auvergne wide roman arches; this is a quite big church, and it is very quiet inside, there is a spiritual atmosphere in this church, where old paintings on the walls (picture 3) invite to pray, or at least think peacefully, and the modern statue of Jeanne d’Arc (picture 4) is not at all misplaced here, I found it beautiful here, and that changes from the usual “military” representations of the holy patroness of France. After having visited the church inside, received a bit of peace (after all these knives seen all day!!!), it is good to walk around the church under the buttresses (picture 5) which go over the narrow alleys.

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    Hole of hell

    by kokoryko Written Mar 12, 2009

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    An old factory
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    Creux de l’enfer or hole of hell, it is the old industrial area of Thiers, where in the 19th century, the modern cutlery industry flourished; today it is still hell, but also because all is abandoned, the factories are closed, falling in ruins. . . . and I just can recommend a visit in the area, as it tells a lot about the recent past and it is also moving to see how things vanish, how time makes its work, how the world changes.
    The area is also called Vallée des usines (factories valley), along the Durolle river, just east of the city, accessible by feet from there, on several places. The factory of the first picture looks in good shape despite abandonment; almost all factories are abandoned (picture 2), and there is a strange ambience when you walk in the ruins (picture 3), but some places are rehabilitated and already a centre for contemporary art (picture 4) has been opened in an old factory, called l’Enfer. I did not visit this art centre, as it was closed or under construction, but they have an interesting website; and why “hole of hell”? The river at that place is very noisy with its waterfalls, the hell! (picture 5). I wish the valley of factories will regain life one day, and this cultural centre is a beginning of resurrection. . . .

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    Cutlery shops

    by kokoryko Written Mar 11, 2009

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    Nice display of ordinary things.
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    It is almost impossible not to step on a cutlery shop when walking in one of the main streets of Thiers; there are all types of items displayed and there are “generalist” shops and more or less specialized shops; just do some window shopping in several shops and then you may want to decide to enter one of them and enquire for the objects you are interested in. I have my folding knife (inherited from my father who had it since 20 years) and other knives and a cork puller coming from Thiers, but still like to look into the windows and appreciate the work, energy and creativity put in some beautiful or just “interesting” objects.
    Yes, even “common” kitchen cutlery can be well displayed and interesting to look at (first picture); some of the shops are at the basement of half timbered houses. . . (picture 2), and that adds to the charm. . . and look on the left, a wonderful archaeological remain: a shop where Lumière (the inventors of cinema in its modern form, long before Hollywood by the way, and just to remind. . . ) films were sold a century ago. Despite reflections, the weapons are not virtual, but real (picture 3); some shop owners offer to engrave your name or blazon on the blade of the knife (a big one!) or the sword you intend to purchase (takes a few minutes). “L’Homme des Bois” shop (picture 4) is to me one of the most interesting if you are looking for outdoor knives or “nature” knives (peaceful knives for mushrooms with a brush, hunting knives. . . . or may be a vendetta knife (yes! for that purpose use a special knife) etc. . .. . . check here: http://www.hommedesbois.fr/ )
    I wrote about elegance. . . the Laguiole type knives are beautiful, and when designers “sublimate” them, there can be beauty, elegance, . . . art is not far (picture 5) . . . I carry a piece of art in my pocket all day long. . . . .

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    The man of the woods

    by kokoryko Updated Mar 11, 2009

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    Wooden facade
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    Next to the cutlery museum is this house. Before visiting the museum, have a look at that house, where the whole first level is wooden, with strange sculptures decorating the façade; the three first pictures show details of the façade, with the strange character on the left side: a sort of a “homme des bois”, a man of the woods. There are a lot of details to look at on the façade and I particularly like the monsters “eating” the columns (picture 4), and building them in the same time. This house is here since five centuries at least, and if the world changed, life changed too, but basically, in front of the old houses, people keep meeting, having a chat, commenting life as it goes. . . (picture 5).
    This house is in the historical patrimony inventory of the French ministry of culture (Base Mérimée) (see weblink)

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    Look at the houses!

    by kokoryko Written Mar 11, 2009

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    Maison du Pirou
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    Walking in the streets you will of course notice the houses, and some are quite interesting to look at, for the timber, the sculptures, the windows, the door frames. . . . All these details show that Thiers was a wealthy city in the past.
    On pictures 1 and 2, is the “Maison du Pirou”, an old house which has been well restored and is very well located at a street crossing and next to a small square, so it is possible to have an overall view, which is rarely the case in Thiers, in the narrow streets.
    So it is possible to look at the carpenters work (picture 3), and the windows and their curtains in local lacework.
    Some houses are under renovation (or just abandoned?) and it is possible to look at the general wooden framework of the walls on the street side (picture 4); the houses do not look too bad when they are renovated: on picture 5, a part of a renovated street, with an interesting sign for a knives shop.

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    Walk in medieval and renaissance streets

    by kokoryko Written Mar 11, 2009

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    A
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    The narrow streets bordered by high houses are a characteristic of Thiers, and more characteristic are some “peddes” (houses crossing the street at first floor), like on the first picture; this one here is even a “Chambre d’hotes” (homestay), and I may be nice to stay here. Most of the streets of the old city are very narrow and steep, , in some, the cars cannot enter, and it is just nice to walk and look at the old houses. Some keep in shade all day (picture 2), other are wider, and show interesting contrasts between medieval half timbered houses on one side and a balcony with a nice art deco glass marquise (picture3).
    Another typical “pedde” on picture 4, like a little bridge over the street, and on picture 5, a very quiet street, where you see only pedestrians; you may notice the Spanish flags; at the time of visit, there was a festival which had Spain as main theme. Walk in the streets, they are changing all times. . . .

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    Arriving in Thiers

    by kokoryko Written Mar 11, 2009

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    View from the lower city side
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    When you arrive in Thiers coming from West, you approach the Forez mountains, and getting closer, the city will appear on the slopes of the mountains; Thiers is all steep narrow streets, and you must be prepared to walk in the shade of the narrow streets, if you want to discover a bit of the atmosphere of the city; before going up, it is worth to stop by the Durolle river, walk to the old bridge (picture 2) and from there have a first look at the city, where no high building stands out from the skyline, not even a church bell tower.
    Near the bridge, the banks of the small river are grown with high grass and some wild flowers (picture 3), and if it is time, why not picnic here, watching the ducks on the water (picture 4), or look at the houses built along the river. If you look at Thiers from here (picture 5), you may think what you see here has nothing to do with what I wrote in the introduction and half timbered houses. . . . Half timber is on the facades, the sides people show, here you see what is usually not seen, the not beautiful side of the houses.

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