Walking with sheep
This Star2 Travel reader and restaurateur didn’t quite dance with the wolves but still had an experience to ‘ baa’ about.
I’VE already had three amazing and dreamy nights in Gimmelwald, in the Bernese Highlands of Switzerland. I pondered what to do next. Perhaps go for a walk?
Before I knew it, I found myself in this parade like no other. I was walking with the sheep ( in other areas, it might be cows or goats or a mix of animals) all trotting in a line. It was the annual Alpabzug ( also called Desalpes by French- speaking Swiss) parade – where farmers and their families and animals descend from the Swiss Alps, where they had spent four months, to head back to their farms. Everyone on the route would cheer them on and sometimes the animals would even be “dressed up”!
I wasn’t sure what it was then, or where they were heading to, so I just followed. We walked over a few bridges and past a breathtaking waterfall and then into the woods. At one point, the bridge was so narrow and long, the sheep had to be calmed down and slowly herded across.
I asked the farmers, in English, where they were heading to but they just smiled because of the communication gap.
There were times when a few sheep strayed to the other side of the meadow to join some other farmer’s sheep and cows. Some of the children quickly ran after them and got them back in line again. Even after an hour, we were still walking, with the farmers happily chatting, accompanied by the sound of the sheep- bells ringing. I was beginning to think it might be too late for me to walk back to my accommodation at Gimmelwald Pension Hotel. All I had wanted was to quickly snap some pictures of the parade; I was not worried as I was sure the farmers would direct me later.
Suddenly, there was a small truck and the people inside it were handing out bottled drinks to everyone. I didn’t take one because I was too shy. Later, I learnt that it was the way the villagers welcomed the participants.
Finally, after “hiking” a bit more, I saw a small yellow sign on the trail saying Stechelberg. I was happy as I was pretty sure that meant it was not too far from the cable car stop. I was proven right as I saw a yellow bus like the one I had taken previously, when I first arrived at the Lauterbrunnen Train Station.
I bade farewell to all the farmers and their families after they had sent all the sheep through the gate by the fence nearby. Some of the children were impressed that I had completed the whole Alpabzug with them.
I was amazed myself when we reached Stechelberg about noon. I had hiked for more than two hours from the 1,363m- high valley of Gimmelwald in just my walking sneakers, without hiking stick or shoes.
I rewarded myself with a wonderful lunch – the grilled local lake fish, the forellen ( trout), and a parfait for dessert. From examining the fish while I was eating, I kind of figured out how they had grilled it. I loved the crispy skin! It turned out to be the best fish I had ever eaten in my life. Now I have introduced this same fish in my menu but prepared in a different style.
Satiated, I decided to not take the bus but instead walk another kilometre to the cable car stand where I took the cable car back to my hotel.
Walk unafraid and with confidence – and you will get a new experience!
the views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.
With a lot of sheep and some farmers for company, as well as amazing views like this, the Alpabzug parade is quite a sight to behold.
the beautiful Swiss village of Gimmelwald in the Swiss Alps.
— Photos: huCK SENG
When the sheep pass through the villages, people come out to celebrate the Alpabzug parade.
the ‘ baa- baa train’ goes trooping along on narrow trails on steep mountains.
this ( trout) resembles the fish that was grilled in Stechelberg, and earned rave reviews from the writer who is a chef himself.