(Photos by Sandy Zimmerman)
I’m a city gal, the closest I have ever been to cows is seeing them from my car’s windows while driving in the country. I have traveled for 29 years but have never thought of spending time with cows! Before we visited Switzerland, I heard about their farm tours and felt it would be interesting. The charming little village of Grindelwald offers a close-up view of life in the Alps. We were invited on a tour to visit a dairy farm to experience the process of how cheese was made. Most everyone has seen pictures of the dairy farms in the United States, but this was very different. Grindelwald Mountain Cheese is prepared the old traditional way, a ritual as the farmers did centuries ago. Recipes for this simple method were passed down from family to family.
The guide, Hans, drove along the one- lane road watching for oncoming cars until we passed the last local bus stop and reached the top of the mountain at 5,100 feet. After 45 minutes, he stopped at the farmer’s wooden home and we were surrounded by nature. Several exceptionally large cow bells were hanging from the wall near the window’s flower box.
We walked into the farmhouse to a small room where the farmer’s wife was heating cow’s milk in a huge iron pot. Hans explained, “Every day after the cows were milked, she was ready to make cheese. As the milky cheese started to thicken, the woman used a harp-like utensil to cut through the cheese because thick cheese becomes difficult to cut.” We tasted the thick and milky cheese before it became cheese, it was almost cheese! The only step of the entire process of making cheese that was not “Woman Powered” was using a small mechanical mixer for 10 minutes.
The lady placed a metal hoop inside cloth to make a primitive bowl as she reached down and scooped 20 pounds of cheese into the bag repeating this over and over again. Next she had to place the cheese in molds where they were stacked on top of each other and she pressed them down into shape. The cheese hut held all their stock of cheese each numbered with the date to identify the new and aged cheese.
Farmers brought their cows up into the higher Alps during the spring and autumn seasons following the weather to lead them down to what they called,
“Going downtown to the village during the winter”. In spite of all of the modern comforts and inventions today, the Alpine farmers keep to this way of life. The farmhouse was designed with a small room to house 11 cows which connected to the dairy cheese making room, a dining room/ kitchen, with another small building next door used for their bedroom. This was a tour to remember!
The dairy farm tour is offered Thursdays during the summer. See Grindelwald Tourism. Tourists are invited to the January Festival of ice sculptures and snow designs, January 19-24, and other events throughout the year. Jungfrau Tourism: www.myjungfrau.ch www.grindelwald.ch
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Hotel Spinne: www.spinne.ch
Schilhorn Piz Gloria: www.schilthorn.ch
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