I am not exactly sure why I chose to title this post using Old English, because I am pretty sure that the Swiss never have and never will speak Old English as part of their daily vernacular.
But I just needed to convey to you all that Ballenberg is old, and you should go there.
Now before I go any further, I am going to make a disclaimer that this photographic journey was a giant fail on my part. The pictures I took don't really show the diversity of Ballenberg, because as I can be prone to do, I got sidetracked. Specifically by taking pictures of animals. And carousels. Sure, sure, this doesn't mean you still aren't going to get an awesome idea of how splendid Ballenberg is, but since Ballenberg is an open air museum dedicated to walking you through the past, through both the agricultural and architectural diversity of Switzerland's different regions, well....you're not going to see that.
But just you wait, because I have pictures of piglets and roosters to come! Can I get an A, for awesome!
We went to Ballenberg on the first Friday that Mom and Dad were here. At this point they weren't quite as jet-lagged, and it was safe for us to venture more than twenty minutes away from their bed. Ballenberg has a huge promotional push going on right now (at least here in Bern) so Dan recommended that we should travel down there and check it out.
As mentioned, Ballenberg is an open air museum, and for any Canadians in the know you might try and liken it to Barkerville. But whereas Barkerville is a goldrush town that has been carefully preserved, Ballenberg instead is a huge architectural landscape that is specifically focused on teaching visitors about
the everday life of the Swiss men and women who farmed and traded, centuries ago.
The museum is divided between Switzerland's different regions (The Bernese Oberland, the Jura, Ticino, the Valais, etc...) and it is a walk and a half to traverse the entire park, but it's worth it. Each different region on display has original homes that have been transported to Ballenberg, and have been kitted out in authentic period furnishings depending on the age of the home. In instances where the curators haven't been able to find authentic furniture to match the period of the house, the interior remains empty.
The houses on display in Ballenberg date from the 1600's to the mid 19th century, and in addition to educating visitors about Switzerland's architectural diversity, Ballenberg is also a functioning agricultural community. There are gardens, native farm animals, cheese huts, grain milling, and bread making. Also, you can buy all the bread, cheese, and sausages that are made on site, from traditional recipes.
Honestly, it really is something to see, and it's now a toss-up for me about what's a better attraction: Ballenberg or Barkerville? On the one hand, at Barkerville you can pan for gold and buy the most delicious sourdough bread and beef jerky, but at Ballenberg you are actually allowed to walk through the old houses, and there's piglets.
When you enter the park, you start in the Bernese Midlands.
Their houses were a thatched-roof construction, and there's an active bee hive.
These bees could sting you.
There are no signs telling you not to stick your paws in the honey pot.
The Swiss operate on the 'common sense' system.
On display here are the different styles of dress for the different regions.
I would have rocked that rooster doily like nobody's business.
This is the inside of a reconstructed Apotheke.
When I said you could walk through these buildings, I was serious.
There are no barricades.
And everything on display is not secured.
So if you are a tragically lame social zero, I guess you could steal.
These dudes provided some mood music.
And a view looking back over one teeny, tiny, part of the West Midlands display.
A trade display, specifically hat making.
Also, a close-up of what a thatched roof is comprised of.
Imagine how raw and chapped your hands would have gotten, twisting that straw.
Ye ol' dirty laundry.
You can buy smoked sausage and other goodies in here.
And now comes the part where I got majorly sidetracked, and stopped documenting all the architectural diversity. For the rest of the day. It should be noted that at this point, we hadn't yet explored even a quarter of the park.
Can you blame me, though?
Hens don't stand a chance when he ruffles his tail feathers.
The word you're looking for is: AWWWW!!!!!
Piglet says: I love you, Mom. Don't be sow-er.
(Get it! Get it! Can I get a high five from the 4-H crowd!)
Billy the goat.
And you guys, Ballenberg is home to the cutest sheep EVER. But they were all hidden away in the forest and I couldn't get a good shot of them. Go to Ballenberg, just to see the sheep. Guaranteed you will fall into a sugar coma from the sweetness.
So, bring a friend to drag your helpless body off the path because otherwise you'll get trampled by the horse and wagons that go by.
Why do kids get all the fun?
I finally remembered to take one last building picture as we were leaving the park at the end of the day.
House from the Valais.
Pretty, version 2.0
Friends, if you are interested in social history, if you care at all about how people used to function before they had cellphones attached to their ear, speed dialling for take-away, while driving home to their egomaniac sized houses, hy thyself to Ballenberg.
I promise you won't hear Old English, but damn you'll see some cute animals and walk through some capital 'O' old houses.