|The Jura Vaudois|
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To the west of Yverdon is a stretch of hilly countryside known as the Jura Vaudois, characterized by rushing streams (and the remnants of iron-working industries which exploited their power), hidden valleys and ancient cobbled villages. The area lies wholly within Canton Vaud hard up against the French frontier – one of Europe’s oldest borders, unchanged since 1186. Main town of the region is Vallorbe, of only passing interest in itself, but positioned at the southern end of a pass through the Jura mountains that has been used since antiquity as a route from France southeast to the Grand-St-Bernard pass, and thus into Italy. Railway engineers followed the old roads when they carved a tunnel from Vallorbe beneath the Jura early in the twentieth century, forming the last link in a chain that allowed the launch of the classic Orient-Express train journey from Paris to Venice and onto Istanbul. The Jura Vaudois was also a stopoff for medieval pilgrims following the Chemin de St-Jacques from Germany southwest to Santiago de Compostela in Spain: Romanesque and Gothic churches at Orbe and Montcherand and the huge priory at Romainmôtier fulfilled both spiritual and material needs on the mammoth journey. Behind parallel bands of hills, and guarded by high peaks at either end, the secluded Vallée de Joux has only a couple of roads, a handful of villages, and some great walking and cross-country skiing routes.