Thursday, 30 September 2010

They'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain

So imagine you are a Canadian girl who has a weird obsession with Swiss cows.

The obsession began long ago, in 2007, when she stepped off her first mountain train and heard the 'clang, clang, clang' of those brass bells, as the cows were munching on the tender spears of alpine blades. Imagine you turned to your (then) boyfriend (now husband) and exclaimed:

"OH MY GOD! That's the best sound I've ever heard!"

And you meant it.

Then you actually *saw* the cows, and they didn't look anything like the cows you are used to in your part of Canada. Namely because most of the alpine creatures you saw were milking mothers and not beef bovines.

It was official: you were obsessed.

During your hikes you have seen them driven to higher pastures; you have seen an older man on his three legged stool milk his herd of five, carefully pouring the frothy cream into tin pails; you have seen families in their old jeeps, piled into the car with the morning milk pails carefully secured in a trailer attached to the jeep, as they bump down the mountain and into the village to the milk station; you have seen the cheese huts, where the morning milk isn't rattled down the mountain but rather kept on site, poured into giant copper vats, bacteria cultures are added, and cheese making begins.

You see where your milk is coming from; you see where your cheese is coming from; and at some mountain farms you can also see where your butter is coming. And as heard clanging around the mountain meadows, you can see the source of this bounty.

How could you not be obsessed?

So can you imagine it? Can you imagine you're this girl?

Okay, great. Now imagine you're this girl, and you find out that it is a Swiss tradition that these cows (and sheep and goats) after their summer of dining alfresco in mountain meadows, are driven down the mountain in traditional fashion: flowers on their heads, show bells around their necks, farmers and shepherds costumed as they bring--in high fashion--their charges to the valley for winter boarding.


Because this girl sure did.

Two weeks ago (maybe it was three? Or four? Where does the time go??) I heard that there was going to be a farmer's festival in Bern, and the procession would include one family's herd of cows being marched from the mountain and through the streets of Bern to parliament, for it was in parliament square that the farmer's festival was happening.

Then I remembered I had a doctors appointment the same day.


I couldn't check out much of the farmer's festival, but I did get to briefly see the cows and I was excited about that.

But before I get to the pictures, I want to elaborate on something that I thought was really cool: the cow procession was literally one Bernese family's herd; there were only about twelve cows in total. Hundreds of people lined the street to see these twelve cows, in all their finery, march to their pen in front of the parliament building. Then as I was frantically trying to take pictures, it struck me that this farmer's festival was happening a cow patty away from Switzerland's national governing house. That, to me, was really cool. One little family was chosen to represent the entire region, and they got to do so in the shadow of their nation's capital. I guess why I thought this was so cool is because at that moment I fully realized how accessible Switzerland is. I haven't been able to fully put my finger on what it is I like so much about this country, but if I had to choose a word it would be that: accessible.

So on with the pictures. I was able to squeeze myself in the crowd at the very end of the procession--right near the pens.

Traditional jacket, and piercing.

Traditional dress and glasses.
Traditional jacket and piercing.

Traditional H&M jeans.

Ready for the ball.

The not-so-ugly stepsisters.

Little cow poke.

The ladies promenade.

Waiting to be received at the palace (parliament) steps.

Waiting for head dress to be removed.

Bells and ornaments

The shepherd counts his herd.

Filling the water trough.

You can lead a cow to water...

Tradition... pretty.

Little Heidi girl...

...represents her family, her culture, her country.

See you next summer cows!

Looking forward to taking another three hundred pictures of you in your mountain meadows!

1 comment:

Habebi said...

How neat is that!? I love that they have that tradition going on in the capital and virtually at the steps where they gov't is run. Love it! You're so lucky to have that accessibility going on!

I'd love to hear that sound one day btw!