Usually, saying that you're watching the cows come home implies a certain amount of boredom but in Switzerland, the pastime is anything but boring!
A group of us - Cathy & Girish Nadkarni; Laurie and Dottie with friends Susanne & Jim; Kathy & Bob Curran & their dog Rudy; Greg & I - met at the IBIS hotel in Bulle and walked into town for dinner. Next morning, we met in the lobby at the unholy hour of 07:50 to caravan into the town of Charmey. Once parked, we had a delicious breakfast of pastries and great coffee at a patisserie. Thus fortified, we were ready for some serious cow watching!
|Cathy N, Girish, Susanne, Greg, Laurie, Dottie|
|Susanne, Cathy N, Girish, Jim, Laurie, Dottie, Greg|
|Okay, so Cathy,Dottie and I are taking pictures. And Laurie is ... directing the parade?|
First, there was a marching band or two. They marched down the street one way and then a while later marched back up the other way. The crowds all seemed to be bunched in the middle of town so we headed towards the edge of town, which was the direction in which the herds would come. The French term for the event is desalpes. It's the traditional return of the cows to the valleys after four months in alpine pastures. The event is celebrated throughout Switzerland but perhaps the best known occurs in Charmey, in the Gruyere region.
|Alp horn players.|
The parade of animals goes right through the center of town and, the town being in the mountains, there really is no other road to use as a detour. So they have the farmers bring their herds through every half hour, giving time to allow the backlog of cars to get through town. Farming families take great pride in dressing themselves and their animals in traditional garb. The program listed which alpine meadow each herd was coming from and where they were headed. The poor animals had a really long commute: good thing it only happens twice a year (up and down). The long walk, the huge bells clanging away right under their ears, the floral chapeaus and the milling crowds made for some very stressed cows, as evidenced by the chocolate trail through town.
We discovered that cows weren't the only animals being brought down.
|The big cauldron was used to make cheese. Traditionally, herdsmen would make and eat cheese out of the milk all summer in the alpine pastures and sell the extra when they brought the cows back down.|
|"You take over. I'm pooped!"|
As always, people watching provided half the fun.
There was a regional market selling food and handicrafts. This artist made amazing wood cutouts.
Greg and I left at noon, following this herd out of town for several miles.
|Finally, several agonizingly slow miles later, the cows headed off the road and up this hill.|
On the way back to Zurich, we drove through some beautiful mountain scenery in the Bernese Oberland region. We stopped for lunch at Gstaad, a town in a gorgeous setting that tried too hard to be quaint and where the BP (Beautiful People) and BP wannabes strolled around trying to look blase.
|It's hard to act blase, even for a BP, when you're dealing with a child throwing a very calculated tantrum. Finally, he just stuck his stogie back in his mouth and strolled away. The child finally gave up and followed.|
Just another weekend in Paradise.