A Village not on the Map


With the snow-capped Alps in the far distance, the ridgeline of the mountains is sharp and clear.The village of which I took a picture a few weeks ago, must be beautiful in the deep fall colors.

Dairy farmers who made cheese in the mountain lodges in the Alps meadows during summer, come back to the villages at the foot of the mountain, bringing cows with them. The cows are decorated with colorful flowers and special costumes, and walk through the village ringing the bells. This is called “cow parade” descending the mountains. At the Chästeilet (which literally means “dividing of the chees”) Festival held in the village, the faramers divide the piled-up huge round cheeses to the dairy farmers depending on the amount of milk they used. It is a traditional festival seen in various areas in the Alps.

Out of the milk from one cow, approximately 6 pieces of huge cheese, weighing more than 10 kg, can be made during one summer. I understand they have a traditional method of calculation, telling which cow of which farmer has given so much milk. This seriousness really sounds like Swiss.

Once I have seen this festival in a very thick photo book. Under a clear blue sky, they wear traditional clothes and hats handed down through generations in the village, and proudly carry the cheeses. I thought it would be great to meet some cattleman with a deep wrinkled face, a mustache, and mysterious eyes just like a mountain avatar.

I searched in the Internet and made a phone call to the department that looked appropriate. It seemed 2 weeks too early for the “Cheese Dividing Festival.” However, I was told that there is a small dairy farm house that gives away, not divide, cheese over the weekend. As the weather turned out beautiful, we decided to go for a drive to the Alps.

By train, the station you get off is Zweisimmen in the Province of Bern. It is well known as a summer and ski resort.From here, you may take the mail bus, which runs one every hour, to get to the house, the venue of this day. However, this place was farther from our place than we had expected, and due to the gridlock on the way, we missed this bus.

“We have to drive very close to the edge of the cliff roads without guardrails. It can be quite dangerous driving such winding roads,” said my husband, who had weakness in heights, and much hesitated to drive. Wether we would wait for 1 hour or drive up the road. Consequently we decided to drive and we input the address on the navigator, but it did not show on the map because it was such a small village. Before long, we came to a halt.

We were lost, and asked some people who were resting in the middle of their walks. They said, “Go back a little, and turn at the water fountain; we think that’s the place you’re looking for.”

1800 meters above sea level. The chorus of yodel started to surround us. The language might be ancient Swiss German. Although I was not able to hear the words, the voices of the singing group of 10 people wearing sky-blue uniforms, echoed in the Alps and reverberated in transparent vibrato.
Huge mountains standing in front of us, scattered houses, green farmlands, and plants and flowers in the plateau. The tone resonating to the wild nature was too beautiful, and it touched my heart like somewhere unknown, which made me very emotional.

Although it was before lunchtime, wooden tables and benches were almost full. We were able to sit where we could see the mountains in front of us, and we ordered the local beer, cheese, and fresh ham.


Although people gathered together, it had a quiet atmosphere just like a pre-celebration. We came to realize that this was the house that produced the cheese for the village. We were guided to the storage where all the cheeses were neatly arranged side by side.

The person who guided us was the eldest son of Mr. Santschi, who provided this venue that day. We learned that his morning ritual included soaking a total of 800 round cheeses, each weighing 15 kg, into the salt water then placing them back into the original locations.
There is a famous sport called , which is like a cross of Sumo and wrestling, originated from the Alps kids’ play. It is a fighting sport and Swiss national sport where you swing your oponent around to put him down. He was a player of this sport. We saw him as a macho man with muscled chest, but we realized that he trained himself with cheese, instead of dumbbells, every morning.

We were given some share of this year’s cheese from the storage, and we went back down slowly, enjoying looking at the cows eating grass or taking a nap with the Alps in the background.

Every house and store in the small town at the foot of the mountain had full of red or pink geraniums, which were gently in harmony with the delicately carved preserved wooden architecture that is unique to this region.

As Switzerland has unique breads by each region, we dropped in at one bread shop first. Here, we got the address of a cheese shop of this town.
We selected Gruyere, Emmental, Reblochon, goat cheese, and fruit cheese.

That night, we tried those cheeses with figs and grapes for dinner with our guests from Germany, to go with La Côte, white wine from the Lake Geneva. Every cheese demonstrated wonderful flavor.


Downloaded the photos into my computer, I clicked sceneries that were postcard-like even when cut at any angle.

While Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, I feel things move slowly compared to Tokyo. The biggest difference is the fact that we have forests and lakes within the city. Even on boulevards, you see spring water everywhere, and you can bring your lips closer to drink. It is crisp and cold, the water from the mountains.

People here fully enjoy weekends, and days for annual paid vacation is 50 days or longer. Having said that, the stress level suffered by the people working in the center of this financial world is abnormally high. I hear that those men who wish to quietly move to a remote village in the Alps and become “cattlemen” are not a minority.

I cannot imagine the severity of the Alps when locked in the snow, and I don’t believe that cows will be cooperative all the time.

Although I understand that most of them fail during the apprenticeship and return to the city, one former elite banker in his 40s was introduced as a success story on TV. He lives with cows, has leaned how to make cheese, and have become a successful farmer living in the Alps.

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