Hiking in Appenzell
We recently sent Ryder-Walker guest Lisa Allen to the Appenzell region of eastern Switzerland. To say that she enjoyed herself would be an understatement. Here is her trip recap.
I am in Paradise! No, not that one! The OTHER one! Yesterday, in a town near Appenzell, called Weissbad, I finally SAW IT! Shepherds and boys in FULL Swiss “dress” AND their APPENELLER MOUNTAIN DOG bringing cattle back to the farm!!!!!! IT WAS BREATHTAKING!!!! And, in Appenzell, on October 4, I shall be present for the CATTLE SHOW!!!! Today and tomorrow, there are Swiss choirs playing, in FULL SWISS dress, on traditional instruments, all over town and the music carries me to another realm. They are having a huge competition. The food, the coffee, the cheese, all AMAZING!!! Eleven men played alphorns in the center of town an hour ago!!!! I am wearing my Swiss Berner Club 100th Anniversary pin and carrying pictures of the Berners and Appenzeller! I LOVE IT HERE but, after 8 days, I must return to the USA next week.
Never in my life have I made as thrilling a journey as this! I have taken cable cars up mountains where traditional Swiss farms dot the hillsides as do intimate places of worship. I began to plan my trip to Appenzellerland a year ago and it is greater than all my dreams! Stores in Appenzell sell the lovliest Swiss items and one can watch native craftsmen painting and doing leatherwork. I just watched a horse pull a wagon through Appenzell and two days ago, I saw an Appenzeller Mountain Dog and traditionally dressed herdsmen and boys moving cattle down a country road. I have listened to bands from all over Switzerland playing music for a competition in the town and they are mostly dressed in native attire. Tuesday, I shall enjoy the town’s annual cattle show. I feel as though my entire life has been leading to this week and shall remember every detail, forever! I have taken hundreds of photos. In Appenzellerland, perhaps more than anywhere on Earth, one finds peace and spiritual healing! Oh, my! Too, the buildings are magnificent, with detailed drawings of Swiss shields, flowers, and herding scenes!
Until you have spent time in Appenzellerland, been enchanted and moved by its special melodies, stood beside shepherds, keen and sturdy, and watched Swiss Cattle Dogs doing the work for which they were bred, you may not, cannot, in your soul, understand the most elemental joy of Maria from “The Sound Of Music,” as when, with arms raised to touch the hands of God, she frolics around the deep green hills of her native country. She has realized, like me that, in the simple, one can discover the sublime and the extraordinary. The Swiss must preserve, especially, those rituals perfomed under the canopy of Mother Nature.
Last night, I fell asleep with the melody in my mind of the hammer dulcimer being played by a young man in traditional grab in the establishment where I had the most delicious salad I have ever tasted, made with apple dressing covered greens and fruits and vegetables which, it seemed, had been picked and prepared just then from Swiss meadows, for me. Then, very early this morning, Tuesday, I proceeded to one end of town where people began to line the streets. I stood next to Mona Lisa, a lovely and fit Appenzeller Mountain Dog and, of course, a photo of Piber was shown to her owner in which Piber is pulling a goat cart. Piber is my Appenzell Cattle Dog.
People from around the country and the world began to wait for the show to begin. Soon, Swiss ceremonial bells heralded the arrival of the first herd of cattle, trotting proudly through town with shepherds dressed in native costume guiding their charges with staffs and halters to the large field where each cow would be tethered to fences for the day, with hay and water readily available. The cattle, herd after herd, passed under a large arch which had been built, decorated with garlands and Swiss bells.
Appenzell Cattle Dogs abounded to keep their herds properly on the road. In front of many herds were little children moving white goats along the road and, of course, the children take this job quite seriously and were dressed as young shepherds and shepherdesses, in an only very slightly modified manner compared to the adult version. Swiss and cantonal flags waved proudly, high on poles, and the light fog soon was but a memory, with the hills shining in all their glory!
to be continued…
Let me describe what the men wear to the celebratory events. I shall try to “paint” an accurate picture for you.
Let us begin with the feet. Dark ankle high shoes have a buckle at the top, with a decorative Swiss design. White stockings reach to the knee and are held to the leg by short leather pieces which go around the leg, a thin belt of sorts, one might say with, of course, metal Swiss figurines on them. For “trousers,” yellow three-quarter length “breeches” are worn. Or, for “formal” wear, such as the awards dinner for the cattle show, in the evening, the men wear brown trousers, instead of yellow breeches.
Around the waist is worn a very ornate silver chain type “belt” and a “kerchief,” which is colorful and covered with Swiss symbolism, is tucked into the waist and a triangle section of the kerchief lies against the breeches.
White short sleeved shirts were worn and the handsome black leather suspenders decorated with herding, brass Swiss figurines, much like the typical Swiss belt or dog leash. Short red vests with embroidered flowers on them and other typical Swiss designs are worn and metal clasps fasten the sides of the vest, in front, to each other. Where a tie would hang is either a Swiss buckle or pin, not certain which of these two.
While the boys wear the Swiss caps with which we are familiar, the men wear regular black hats with floral “garlands” wrapped around them. All the men wear a dangling earring on one ear. I shall describe the lovely dresses worn by the women when my photographs are developed.
Let us return to the Cattle Show in Appenzell. We have learned about the attire of the participants and established that herd after herd are brought through the town, with white goats led by children often in the lead, under a well-decorated welcoming arch, to the grounds of the show, where the cattle are tied for part of the day, with hay and water available. Many visitors of many nationalities, too, come to admire them, with at least one delighted American!
The cattle are often helped to maintain the proper route by dogs, several Appenzellers included! The sight of these cattle, the brown kind, for which Switzerland is known, their shepherds, the Swiss bells worn around their necks, the cattle dogs and more filled me with even greater excitement to be in such a land, where beauty is so natural and history and tradition so prized and valued.
The men herding the cattle, in full Swiss attire for this very major event, chanted and yodeled as they guided their herds down the streets to the show grounds. In one herd, each cow wore a tall “hat” made of flowers, lovely and artistically detailed. Bulls, who are “as big as houses” were usually assigned a single handler. Their mooing was music to my ears, a symphony of sorts. The family owning each herd hung their huge, signature Swiss bell, with wide and colorful straps, and their shoulder baskets, intricately woven and painted with herding scenery, for all to see. Judges carefully examine the cows and watch them as they are moved by handlers and place floral arrangements on the heads of the winners in various categories.
Vendors sell fresh food, cheese, milk shakes, pastries, and gifts. It is a tradition that on this day only, boys as young as six years old can “enjoy a smoke” and they all did.
In the mid-afternoon, the crowd again lines the streets of the town to watch herd after herd return to their farms in a procession as grand as that of the morning, and once the shepherds have bedded their cattle, the men return to Appenzell for an evening of music and to receive their awards. As is typical of the Swiss, who pride themselves on cleanliness, Appenzell public works officials almost immediately hose the streets to wash away “deposits” left by the cattle.
Never have I seen such a spectacle and it will forever fill my mind’s eye!
I visited Appenzell, Switzerland for the first time, for a day, last year, with a group with whom I was touring Switzerland and I knew, long before we arrived, that I would fall deeply and fully in love with the area and the town. In fact, I adore it and feel as though perhaps, in another life, I was or shall be there. The neatly trimmed hills, with cattle quietly grazing, the superb chalets with barns attached, the colorful customs and traditions, tried and true, practiced and upheld through time, the buildings painted with ancient and spiritual trims combine to fill me with awe and as deep a sense of joy as one can experience without bursting at the seams.
When I am in Appenzell, I feel as though I have arrived home, finally and in totality. In Appenzellerland and the town, too, all that is Swiss and especially beautiful is epitomized and held dear.
Nothing pleases me more than to share my fun there, the childlike joy I experienced during my journey. I intend to make at least an annual “pilgrimage” to this place of miracles, where my soul becomes interwoven with countryside and custom until it is indistinguishable from them.
Lisa Allen, SE Mass.