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 Wanderweg, Tourisme 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.