The cows have come home

 

We had no plans for today, except for an arrangement to meet friends for apero and dinner this evening, so did a little search online to see what was on.  The answer was here so off we went in the general direction of Luzern, initially, and then onward to the village of Emmetten, where today there would be the “Alpabzug”, when the cows would be brought down through the village after spending the summer on the high alp above the lake.

 

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We left the car in the car park and walked down into the centre of the village, where the market was getting going and the band were tuning up.

 

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Dressed in their traditional costume, the band made a great sound and provided the perfect accompaniment to our mooch around the village market.

 

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We decided to take a look around, taste a bit of cheese here and salami there and chat to one or two of the stallholders.

 

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We liked the toy stall which was selling a range of farming figures, much the same as those Britain’s toys Edward used to collect as a child.  But the traditional farming roles here were rather more clearly defined for the 21st century, for there was the vet,

 

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the chain saw operator and the strimming man.

 

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The farmer’s wife with a bowl of eggs and the farmer himself, with the pig under his arm were possibly a little more conventionally cast.

 

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Having looked around the market, we decided to explore a little further, enjoying the fine weather and the glorious views along the valley.

 

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Looking up, we were surprised to see a few hang gliders not far above our heads.  I was happy to keep my feet firmly on the ground, though.

 

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The post bus passed us by at regular intervals, too – well, this is Switzerland, after all!

 

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Even out in the sticks, there’s a regular and reliable service.

 

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I took a fancy to this traditionally restored house, near the centre of the village.  Sitting comfortably in a smallish patch of green , it faced the valley and would have marvellous views from those upstairs windows.

 

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It was getting near lunchtime by now, so we returned to the marketplace and found seats at one of the tables where we ordered drinks and bratwurst.  The band were relaxing there, too.

 

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We watched as the little cablecar carried the milk churns up the mountainside and wondered at what time the cows would come home?  No-one seemed to know, though most thought it would be shortly after lunchtime.  So we waited.

 

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It was no problem – the local cider was good and the people watching was fascinating.

 

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Shortly after 12.30pm we noticed people moving, forming groups along the roadside and we looked up the street.  Was something happening up there?

 

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There was no doubt about the noise – a cacophony of bells was coming towards us and zooming in with my camera, sure enough, here they came.

 

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There really is nothing quite like it.  The sound of the cowbells, the pride with which the herdsmen have dressed their cows for the occasion and the way the village turns out to greet them all is quite remarkable.

 

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Each of the cows wore a headress with flowers and flags and of course, an enormous bell.

 

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Most walked quietly on, following the herd and needing little direction.  They eyed those of us on the pavement with curiosity, but paid us no attention otherwise.

 

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Just one or two skittered about, got a little jumpy and wanted to be off in a different direction.  They were soon brought back into the herd and coaxed on their way.

 

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A few towards the back were less ornately decorated, but were nevertheless beautifully groomed and tagged along behind the main herd.  The noise was extraordinary and in little more than a couple of minutes, they were past.

 

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There they were, gone.  We followed them so far, to the car park, where we jumped in our car and headed off up the valley.  That had been worth waiting for!

 

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A little further along, we stopped to take in the magnificent view.  We were in no hurry to return to the hotel and had time to stop and stare.

So we did.

 

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More than once, in fact.  Here, high above the Vierwaldstaettersee, we stood for a while and simply absorbed it all.  Another couple were there at the same time, from the Netherlands, judging from their car registration and we all shared the wonder, nodding and smiling in agreement that it was indeed “wunderschön

 

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We were at Seelisberg and consulted our map to decide which route to take.

 

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Except our map was a walking map rather than a driving map, and the printing around Seelisberg was so concentrated that it was difficult to see where the roads around there were.  We wanted to make our way south to Altdorf, but was there a road under that heavy red walking route?

We set off and drove on further.  “Make a U turn” said the GPS.  We ignored her and continued behind another car.  “Make a U turn” she said again.  We ignored her and carried on – that signpost said “Treib” so there must be a road.  “Make a U turn” she repeated.  But now, the road was getting narrower and we began to doubt our judgement.  Should we?   “Make a U turn" she said again – and this time, oh for heaven’s sake, we did!  Later on, you’ll see why this was the right decision!

 

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So, back we drove, through Seelisberg and snapping a quick shot of the most incongruous building, formerly a grand hotel but now the Global Headquarters of the Transcendental Meditation movement.  How fortunate of them to have such a beautiful spot in which to study!

 

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Of course, our route took us back through Emmetten, where we hoped we wouldn’t get stuck behind another group of cows.  Thankfully, we didn’t and our journey back was trouble free, behind the farmer’s cattle wagon.  As he slowed down to take this corner, though, we spotted something there in the lane, right on the bend. 

 

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He was coming to pick up one of his stragglers – one of the cows from the procession earlier was standing there with her herdswoman, waiting for a lift.  Had the cows come this far then?

 

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Well, yes, they had, for as we indicated to turn left at the junction to join the motorway, we could see them making their way down there on the road into town. In the time we’d taken to drive beyond Seelisberg and back, the herd had walked 4 or 5km down the mountain.  Well, all but one had walked…the other had hitched a lift!

 

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We bade them farewell and joined the motorway towards Fluelen, to make our way home via a different route.

 

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The motorway went into a tunnel shortly afterwards and for several kilometres, we drove directly underneath the villages in which we’d just been standing. 

 

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Driving along the opposite side of the lake, having turned the corner at Fluelen, we spotted the Meditation centre high up there on the alp and the Seelisberg viewpoint just a bit further along.  Then looking directly beneath as the wooded hillside fell directly into the lake, with no shelf nor ledge between the rock and the water, we realised that we had been right to “Make a U turn”!

An hour or so later, we were back, with just enough time to shower and change before meeting our friends.  An evening in good company with the best of Swiss hospitality was a lovely way to round off another wonderful day.

I wonder where we’ll end up tomorrow?!

A day full of culture

Kirschblüte & Edelweiss