Saturday

 

I’ll tell you about the concert last evening in due course.  We fell into bed having made the hotel car park curfew but were up early again this morning because we had A Plan for Saturday, our last day in Switzerland.

 

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The weather forecast was as good as yesterday and we didn’t want to waste a fine and sunny day mooching around shops or inside a museum or similar.  We’d thought of another day out by train or boat, but it seemed silly to leave a perfectly good and paid for hire car in the garage and splurge more money on tickets.

I loaded the My Switzerland app on my ipad and as has happened on previous occasions, the answer was on the opening page.  The Plan was to go to Ballenberg, then.

 

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Though we set off in bright sunshine, with a few misty clouds settled on the surface of the lake, by the time we reached Luzern, the fog had really closed in.  Oh dear, we had no coats with us and had planned for fine weather.

 

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You can imagine how we felt when, having gone over the Brunig Pass, we saw this view.  Speechless for once (well, for a few seconds, at least)

 

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We thought we’d have to wait a while before it opened, but shortly after 10am we were able to buy our tickets and go inside – to enjoy a quiet hour or two before everyone else came!

 

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The introductory signs offered a little suggestion of what lay ahead and in that charming, slightly tongue in cheek manner the Swiss have, a description of the theme for 2012 was outlined. 

 

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We have been here at least once before, but a long time ago and undoubtedly the park has expanded considerably.  On such a beautiful morning, however, it was a delight to step out into the fresh air (no smells yet!) and walk down into the park and to the first house.

 

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The buildings are all real, reconstructed here on site having been donated by their owners from all parts of Switzerland.  They are gathered in regional groups and each one is open so that visitors can go inside and see how it would have been during a particular time in its history. 

 

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Some buildings have a particular focus and this one was the base for a demonstration of linen production today.  You can see the flax stems laid out on the grass there, the wet dew and the warm sunshine helping to break down the tough outer fibres of the stems before processing.

 

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This is the “rippling” process, where the outer layer is broken down by bashing it in between two pieces of wood.  We enjoyed watching all of these little techniques almost as much as observing the interaction between the various women demonstrators.  At this time of the morning, they were just getting going and those outside were starting the various stages of the flax production.  What seemed to be the most challenging part, however, was achieving the standards required of the elderly lady who was going to spin this flax, for she appeared to have the most exacting requirements.  The younger women in particular were finding this a little trying!

 

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The whole park was most photogenic and I could have spent a morning in one place alone, simply noting all the small details which someone had taken care to make just right.

 

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Inside the linen processing house, a charming lady was weaving some linen on a loom similar to the one I used in Laos.  She was patiently explaining to an observer exactly how the loom worked and how the pattern was achieved.  I admired the beautiful edges she had created and she smiled and commented that it had taken 40 years of practice to be able to do that – and it still wasn’t easy!  How do I know that?!

 

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The central part of this particular house had a smoky fire burning and the smoke combined with the sunshine streaming in through the windows to create a magical light inside.

 

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And where there’s smoke there’s sausage!  Up in the ceiling, were hanging several hundred sausages, contributing another layer of scent to this atmosphere – we suddenly realised that we’d started to follow our noses!

 

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The fresh air smelled all the sweeter after that smoky house, and the next one we came to looked so pretty, with the two white geese swimming in the pond to the side of it.

 

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We found a hatmaker’s inside, with this room set up for making felt hats

 

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and a workshop for making straw hats next door.  No demonstrations here right now, but everything there so that it was easy to understand what went on.

 

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I loved the details of a nearby thatch roof, too!

 

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In some houses, the story of the original owners was told, there were photographs and details of their lives.  This photo was (I think) in the silk ribbon weaving house, where a fine display of the history and relevance of decorative ribbons was on show alongside a large electric loom.

 

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Of course, these were all hugely important cottage industries of the time and it was really interesting to see how they developed into the specialist factories of today.

 

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Watchmaking for example.  A workshop was in a neighbouring house and we know from our own friend’s example, how the Swiss watchmaking process is still partly outsourced from people working in their homes.  For many years, our friend collected a small package of gold components from a box by her door every day.  Having opened this package, she would refine each piece carefully, by hand and return them all to the box to be collected later.  These tiny, hand finished pieces would be part of a very expensive Rolex watch at some point and it was fascinating to think that so many Swiss women had spent time ensuring that every last piece was absolutely perfect.

 

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The outside of the silk ribbon weaving house was so attractive, painted in white and a muted green not so far from our own house paint, which blended so well with the faded brown timbers and the lovely weathered tile roof.  Part of the attraction here is that the site itself is so lovely, regardless of the actual exhibits.

 

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Several of the houses had an enviable wood stack outside, this one being particularly well organised, with kindling at one end and the larger pieces at the other.  My hero gazed jealously at this, wondering if we might ask our own wood supplier to please ensure every piece is a standard length?

 

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The park is built on the side of a hill (mountain!) however, and that makes for hunger after a short while.  The cheese and sausage shop appeared at just the right time for us and we spent no time choosing our lunch.  Once again, the shop assistant helped us out by cutting the cheese into smaller pieces!

 

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We resisted the meringues (which you knew came from down the road in Meiringen, didn’t you?)

 

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and sat to eat our lunch to the sound of the goats grazing the pasture just over our shoulders.

 

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The deeper tones of the cowbells were there too, though that particular family was to be found over the hill.

 

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By now, we were a little weary, but around the corner was something to put a spring in our step again

 

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The most wondrous view.  One of those magical moments when one simply has to stand still, absorb the atmosphere and wish for the ability to write poetry!

 

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With renewed vigour we completed the western part of the park, leaving plenty of houses in the eastern section for our next visit.  After a short visit to the museum shop, we returned to our car feeling that we’d spent our day in the most fulfilling way.

 

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We chose a scenic route back to Rapperswil and both sat with broad smiles on our faces the whole journey.

Magnificent.

There’s no place like…

Only in Switzerland