Switzerland - Charmey (DesAlpes Festival)

by Kimp 7. October 2011 00:33


Photo Blog

You will have to read the photo captions to find out about the cow attack. It is a much better story with pictures.

Swiss traditional dairy farms are heavily subsidized by the Swiss government. Dairy farming is still done the way it has been, for hundreds of years.

Switzerland is the only country in the world, where siblings fight, to be the one who inherits the family farm.
The Swiss government owns lots of farm land high in the Alps and they let the farmers use it for grazing their cattle in the late spring, summer and early fall.

The way it works, is that there are several caretakers who live in rustic houses up in the alps and care for a particular plot of land and the animals who are there. The farmers then intermix their cattle and walk them up the mountain to the lush green pastures. All of the milk that is produced in the first few weeks goes into making cheese. Since it is up in the mountains, bringing the milk down is difficult. I is much easier to make cheese out of it. These weeks have been known to produce the best tasting cheese and since the cows are intermixed, each alp's created cheese, has a different flavor then it had the year before. When you are hiking through the Alps the summer, you are often walking directly through this farm land and there are often docile sheep and cows grazing around you. The cows all wear cow bells, that you'll hear at random from sun up to sun down, in the mountains.
Near the end of September, its time to bring the cows back down to lower pasture and separate them again.  The cows and farmers are dressed up, and the cows are paraded down the mountains, marched through town and put in a holding area where they are separated back into their respective herds for the farmers to take them to their winter quarters. This whole operation is called Des Alpes (or Desalpes) and it literally means coming down from the Alps.
In town there's a big festival where traditional Swiss culture is on display and the farmers sell their cheese's.
The best DesAlpes place I have seen is in Charmey Switzerland. The local language there is French as you can tell my the name of the town.
For me, Switzerland has been a safe haven. A place where I can go and be in complete peace with everything. I was stuck working late the day I was supposed to arrive near there, and I knew that these farmers typically turn in around 8:30 P.M. I didn't get there until about 1:00 A.M. and I thought that I was going to be sleeping in my car, because there is no way I was going to wake them up. It was pitch black and pretty cold when I pulled up to the house, but for some reason, I went up to the door anyway. Taped to the outside of the door was an unsealed envelope with my name on it. I opened it and there was a key and a note on the inside. Caroline is a very nice women from Belgium who runs this place, and she said that she tried to wait up, but was to tired. The note went on to read, help yourself to the beer in the fridge. Sweet!!! I entered and I didn't want to turn the lights on and wake anyone, so I was making my way through the place in the pitch black darkness. I ended up banging into a bunch of things like a bull in a china shop. The next morning Caroline told me, she had heard me come in.
I ate lunch up in the mountains. The place I was at, was not to packed when I sat down (this being French in culture, they eat very late), but it was later when four women arrived. One of them asked if they could sit at my table and I made room as they pulled another small table up to mine. I had a lot of wine there and after a while I was speaking sentences with words from about 4 different languages in the same sentence. The funny thing is, they were following exactly what I was saying. I often do not pronounce foreign words correctly, and I can tell when I really bastardize a words pronunciation, from the following reaction. The most boisterous women, would be talking a million miles an hour in French, then mispronounce a word like I did, then they all four would bust a gut laughing, because it took her a short while to figure it out and now she is telling the others. Like, Oh I thought he was talking about this, but this is really what he meant when he said ... At the end, I walked out of there with my tail between my legs.


Tags: ,

Culture | Travel

Add comment