Don’t Let The Cows Out!

In the US, we have a strong tradition of property rights.  In theory, every man (and woman) is the king (or queen) of his castle (or trailer) and can do what they want with their land, including barring others from trespassing.  Other countries, like Switzerland, have a different take.  There, landowners are regarded more as stewards of the people’s land.  As a result, Switzerland’s hiking trails (known as WanderwegTourisme Pédestre, and Sentiero Escursionistic in German, French and Italian respectively), cross through people’s property.  With around 60,000 km/37,282 miles of in such a small country, how could they not?

Yellow diamonds mark hiking routes (some cultural trails, old pilgrims’ roads, etc. have brown signposts).  When we first arrived in Switzerland, we weren’t sure whether we would get in trouble for following the trails.  They lead through people’s pastures, woods and yards.  We even followed one right through the middle of someone’s barn!

I know, for an American who grows up with “get off my land,” this is a hard concept to wrap your head around. Farmers receive significant benefits from the government so they don’t seem to mind to much.  If the Swiss government made me a steward of the land and defrayed the cost of my insanely beautiful mountain views, I wouldn’t mind hikers either… as long as they didn’t let my cows loose.

We’ve never seen so many types of cow barriers – and he grew up on a farm!  Amazed by the variety, I started taking pictures of them.  Who knew there were so many different ways to keep cows in?

Note the little ladder for people to walk over on the right side in the photo above. Genius.  Not that it couldn’t be improved by a railing.  Solar powered cow fences like the one below are pretty common.  Now I’ve seen everything.

Some fences are a little more old school.  I like how they wrote “please close the door” in Sharpie (in German) on the gate post.

Whatever you do, be careful, when taking pictures.  Don’t back up into one of these bad boys or you are in for a nasty shock.   Take my word for it.

You see some good old-fashioned American-style barbed wire too.  It’s not good to back up into either.  You’d think I’d learn, but with views like these, it’s easy to be distracted.

The turnstiles are pretty cool, kind of like getting on the subway.   You see, in Switzerland, they take their cows pretty seriously.  If you have tasted their dairy, you know why.  In fact, it was just in the news last week that dairy farmers in Switzerland are field-testing a new device that allows cows to send texts to show they are, um, feeling frisky.  Yep.  You read that correctly.   Some Swiss cows are have sensors that gauge their readiness to mate and sends their owner a text message when they’re in heat.

Whatever you do, just be sure to close the gate and don’t let the cows out!  Who knows what kind of trouble they could get up to?

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We Fit Almost Every Swiss Cliche Into One Day

My mom has been visiting.  We wanted her to see as much Swissness as possible during her visit so we took her to Brig to see the Cow Festival.*  It was perfect.  I’m sure that if we brainstormed, we could fit a few more Swiss clichés into the day, but they hit all the big ones.

It was interesting to watch them try to move something so big that did not want to move.

We arrived in Brig a bit early and got to see the cows arriving.  They may walk down from alpine pastures, but they take trailers to the parade.  The cows are a special kind of Swiss cow that is raised almost exclusively in the Valais region, Herens.  These cows are known for being particularly aggressive.  In the spring, this area has cow fighting contests.  Here’s a YouTube clip for inquiring minds.

Do I look like I want to wear a flower hat?
I’m in love.  Again.  We had a connection.
My favorite part of the parade
Traditional costumes

This is the capital of raclette.  When in Rome…

What’s a parade without someone handing out samples of local wine? 
They also baptise the crowd with wine. Yes, they really do. Check out the guy in the plaid shirt’s face.
Alphorns!  They sounded great echoing through the valley.
They handed out the apples decorating this float to the crowd.  They did not hand out the cauliflower.
I’m not sure if this is traditionally Swiss.
Carved woods signs announcing the top cows = uber Swiss
Note the ribbons.  That cow is all done up for a night on the town.

Mountain Reine National translates to National Mountain Queen.  She is the prize cow so to speak.  Do you think she won the smack down? 

Sometimes, the cows got really excited about hitting the grass at the end of the parade.
They were lined up according to number and set about eating (and, ahem,  answering nature’s call).
Another cute parade participant
Sorry I didn’t get any decent pictures of the goats.  They were unruly to say the least.
Other parade participants. It said “Heidi” across the back of the cart!
*In the end of September and beginning of October, Switzerland has festivals all over the country to celebrate cow’s descent from alpine pastures.  This was one such affair.

 

Lost in Translation – Prize Bull

 
English Translation:
“FORS” WILL BE HARD WON
 

Christened yesterday “Fors-ver-der-Lueg”. This young bull is the pride of breeder Kaltacker (Bern), Hans Bichsel. It must be said that the animal has been chosen to be delivered to winner 2013 edition of the National Swiss Wrestling Festival (aka Schwingen) of struggle, which has has kicked off in Burgdorf.

 
I’m speachless. This is fantastic! We must go next year.
 

 

Glad We Aren’t Lactose Intolerant

I am so glad that we are not lactose intolerant.  This is a country of dairy where the cow is practically a national symbol (not to discount the goat and sheep’s milk products you see everywhere).  The Swiss do dairy.  They do it a lot.  They do it very, very well.  As a result, we find ourselves constantly trying new, wonderful dairy products.  Delightful (and tasty).  If you are lactose intolerant, you can still easily enjoy the good food here. It is of high quality and very fresh. You will just miss out on some of the abundant dairy yumminess.

To prove my point that the Swiss do a lot of dairy, I took photos of just some of the dairy in one grocery store.  Mind you there is another one across the street.  Enjoy!

P.S. I pounded not one, but two delicious youghrts for breakfast this morning and having mountian milk in my coffee. Excessive? No, just a delightful, darylicious way to start your day.
 

 

Les Incompetents Vol. 2 – Being Taken at the Museum of the Alpine Cow

Okay, I think it really translates as the Museum of the Alpine Pastures of Cows but that is beside the point. Since he is from a cattle farm, when we passed this museum we had to stop.  We were so excited that when we pulled up to the old barn containing it, I went straight inside and asked the old gentlemen sitting there (in my best French) what the price of admission was.  There was no sign for prices.  They said 12 Euros. I think it was free and should have kept my big mouth shut.

Enjoy the pictures of cow bells.  They had lots.  I wouldn’t necessarily have made the trip across the pond for it, but it was interesting. Nevertheless, I showed them. I took pictures before I realized you weren’t supposed to do so. Double oops.