Monday, October 3, 2011

The Dèsalpes in Saint Cergue

We went to St. Cergue to see the Dèsalpes, the descent of the milk cows from the summer meadows to the valleys for the winter.  The best milkers wear flowery headdresses and their enormous festival bells, and the sound is deafening.

Lines of cowherds kept the cows from veering off the road, and controlled the pace of the herds.  The pace was brisk, and I'm sure they came far.  A friend of ours joined some cowherds for the Dèsalpes one year, and he walked 18 km. to get down from the mountains.

Many of the cowherds wore traditional white blouses and puff-sleeved black velvet jackets.

A fruitière is a fromagerie, a place where cheese is made.


The cows were nervous and the roads got very messy.  My son's reaction: "I hate cows."
This man is carrying an alpine milking stool on his back.  Why do you suppose the milking stool only has one leg?

That's right, so the milker can balance on a hillside, like this boy is doing.

These people were getting ready to play the alpenhorn.

After watching the dancers for a few minutes I was overwhelmed with an urge to put on a costume, learn folk dancing, and be Swiss.


 We saw many beautiful bells.

 Some of them had elaborate leatherwork, embroidery, and hand painting on the collars.

 These men are preparing raclette.  After the heaters melt the cheese, they scraped it off onto potatoes, and served it with cornichons and mini corn.

 These men are competing to see how far they can throw a heavy log of wood.

 We saw food stands with garlic, sausages, cheese, beer, wine from the Canton of Vaud, homemade fruit liquers and traditional clothing.

To make up for the cows, we got our son some Barbe à Papa.  Barbe à Papa means Papa's Beard in French.


Rosemary said...

How I would love to see the Dėsalpes, we have always been there at the wrong time.
My son has been living in Norway for 3 years. His wife and two daughters all wear Norwegian costumes on National Day, and the locals are appreciative that they do.

softearthart said...

One can feel the atmosphere Beth, delightful, cheers Marie

Cammie said...

so glad you got to see this, finally! right up your ally. yay switzerland.

Mama Goose said...

Wie komisch! Heute habe ich genau dieses Thema besucht! I was researching the history of swiss cheese and reading about the associated festivals, then I saw your post. How very comical and coincidental. Thank you so much for sharing. It enriches what I have been reading.

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is just lovely! Just north of us, in Brattleboro, Vermont, there's an annual event something like this called The Strolling of the Heifers (riffing on the running of the bulls, natch). But no amazing long alpen horns or Swiss misses dancing in colorful frocks. (Substitute "hemp-clad/tie-dyed hippies hawking sustainable/eco/organics" and that's nearer our mark.)

Beth said...

My daughter lives in made me laugh with your description of the festival denizens. Beth

nunu said...

wow! i love it all! the cows in switzerland were something i loved, but i guess i didn't see them at their worst. lol... you should get a dirndl while you are there, some trachtenkleider for your family and join in next year or at the new festival! i love how there are always cultural celebrations such as these going on in europe.

mrana said...

WOW! I love this, the flowery headdresses are so incredible, and the milking stools, and the traditional dress, and the foods. Hmmm. Thank you for sharing your adventures with the world, so I may live for a moment vicariously in another realm. Beautiful.

much love,

Beth said...

Thanks!!! I hope I get to experience many more days which celebrate the traditions of Switzerland, and share them with you. Beth