26 September 2011


On Saturday 24th September, Roy and I drove the little Panda (all shiny and new after being fixed) up a windy, mountain road to an alpine village called Grimentz to meet up with our friends who were looking after a giant helium balloon. I should probably explain what the balloon is all about so I don't leave you wondering what the hell it was for. Roy's work, along with the Valais cantonal police were holding a competition. There's a link here for more information, but basically it was a competition (from what I can gather) to promote communication through social networks. There were ten, giant helium balloons scattered throughout the canton of Valais and people had to search for them in teams and communicate to their team via networks and whoever finds all ten balloons, wins 10'000 CHF. Our friends were responsible for looking after one of the balloons and they had to stay in the location with the balloon for six hours. So to prevent the boredom of being near the balloon for six hours, they asked some people to join them for a picnic. It just so happened that the town of Grimentz was holding a celebration for "Désalpe to Grimentz" - bringing the cows down from the mountains for the winter.

In Valais there is a breed of cows called "Hérens"and you can see and hear them in most mountain villages. The breed is particularly territorial and naturally like to fight each other to establish a hierarchy within the herd and around the time of year that the cows go up the mountain after winter and down the mountain before winter, they hold cow fights to choose the best cow to lead the herd on the move.

We arrived in the village and joined our friends in a cafe in the middle of town and after a while we heard the familiar sound of cow bells ringing out through the streets. People started gathering in the streets to watch the procession mosey on through the town with their bells hanging around their necks. There were groups of cows coming through the main street with their farmers walking alongside with sticks to give stragglers a gentle tap to get them moving in the right direction.

There was even a St-Bernard 

They decorate the Queen cows

After the cows, came a group of traditionally dressed people. I'm not too sure on the history of the clothing etc but it looked pretty cool.

After all of the cows had finished walking through the town, they gathered them in a yard where they displayed the "queens" (best milk producers and the ones that win the cow fights) and people mill around drinking wine and eating cheese.

The town of Grimentz is a traditional looking village with narrow, cobbled roads with grand, wooden chalets and displays of traditional crafts that the town prided itself on. There was a flour mill which was run by the water that runs down the mountain - you can even buy the flour that they still grind in the mill.

We finished exploring the town and made ourselves comfortable next to the balloon and played some board games to entertain ourselves until it was time to bring down the balloon. We had a bit of fun playing with the helium from the balloon - much to the bemusement of the locals. It was nice to escape to the mountains for a day of cow watching, cheese eating and getting a sense of Swiss, mountain culture.

1 comment:

  1. That looks like fun!!! Seeing photos of those cows brings back memories of Nepal (only the Swiss ones are a bit more clean & friendly looking!)... I want to go back now!!!