I would be remiss if my blog about Switzerland did not include a post strictly devoted to the cows. At the center of the culture here in La Suisse, the cows wins the day. 65% of domestic food demands are met with Swiss agriculture and 78% of total agricultural production area consists of permanent grasssland and grazing areas. It’s not surprising, given these facts, that the scent of cows and the sound of cow bells are often part of one’s daily commute (or that a common colloquialism among the Swiss is “Ooh, la vache” or “Ooh, the cow”).
From the moment I arrived, the agriculture heritage and traditions in Switzerland have marked my impression of the country. The cows, dairy products, and chocolate are what give Switzerland its unique culture.
As a part of my intensive French course that we had before the semester began, we had the opportunity to visit a cheese factory and then, afterwards, we ate fondue in a barn surrounded by cows. It was quite the experience! Below is a picture of the newspaper article they wrote about us entitled “A first fondue among the cows” (as you can see, I was enjoying myself).
Another cow experience that I will forever remember is our trip to Plaffeien to watch the Désalpes celebration. Each year at the end of the summer, the cows are moved down from the top of the mountain where they had been grazing in order to be housed away for the winter. They are decorated in flowers and wear large bells around their necks as they are paraded through the city. Vendors set up small booths with local specialities and traditional Swiss music fills the air. There were also traditional flag-throwers that performed with their red and white Swiss flags contrasting beautifully against the clear blue sky.
As the winter months have come, I no longer hear the cows as much, as they are now kept primarily in their barns. However, my reflections on the warm summer days and the delightful fondue among les vaches will forever remain in my memory.