Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I realize that we live in Switzerland. We love getting to experience a completely new way of life and new customs. This past weekend was no exception, when we attended the Semsales Desalpe Festival.
What is a Desalpe you might ask? In Switzerland, the cows happily live in the Alps in the summer, munching away on the greenest of grassy pastures. However, the cold snowy temperatures that come in the winter are even too harsh for Swiss cattle. So every Fall, the happy Swiss cows come down from their summer home in the high Alps to their lower grassy pastures and barns.
Most small villages celebrate their return home with a Desalpe Festival, literally translated, “from the Alps”.
We attended the festival in the town of Semsales, in the canton of Fribourg, near Gruyeres. This festival is special because of its spacing. Typically, all the herds are condensed in one parade. However, in Semsales, each group gets the individual spotlight. From 10:00 in the morning until 18:00 in the evening, a total of 14 families march through town proudly, welcoming their herd home for the winter.
We got quite an awakening to the procession when parking our car. Literally, one of the herds came into us!
Walking into town, we got to see quite a few more processions. The first few cows wear very tall ornamentation. Sort of like Christmas trees on their heads:
Then comes the more subdued cows….smaller floral arrangements.
In addition to the cows, groups of musicians were also a special part of the Desalpe. We enjoyed the cowbell group:
They also have delicious cheese and meat based foods.
If you are attending a Desalpe, just make sure to wear old shoes or maybe even some wellies. You are most certainly going to step in something nasty.
For a more interesting visual, check out the video footage from our day at the Desalpe: