I don’t know if there’s an exact translation for “Desalpes” (other than “awesome,” of course). If I had to guess, it would be something like, “coming down the mountain,” or “coming down from the Alps.” It is a HUGE celebration overflowing with all-things-Swiss, and it happens every fall. This is my third fall in Switzerland, but only the first time I was able to attend, and boy, am I happy I got to experience this event. Because it is definitely an experience.
In the summer months, the farmers take their cows up the mountain to graze in higher pastures. I don’t know why…change of scenery, cleaner air, new pastures? But when falls returns, the cows come back down. They’re not hauled in trailers or trucks, they walk…all the way down. Several towns host festivals to watch what can only be described as a parade. Lots and lots of cows…wearing the LARGEST cowbells I’ve ever seen, and if you’re lucky, floral headdresses! They’re accompanied by some of the farmers and their children – all of whom are dressed in traditional Swiss outfits. And then, there’s the occasional horse, goat, or dog who are also decorated for the event. It’s really amazing!
Desalpes takes place over several weekends in a number of different Swiss towns, but we chose to drive 30-40 minutes away to Charmey – one of the towns closest to us.
The event kicks off with a marching band, complete with all of the typical marching band instruments…plus some alphorns! (This is Switzerland, after all!)
After the band, there was a pause while we waited for the cows, who were apparently moving slower than expected. To pass the time, my friend and I decided to try one of the specialty foods of the day – a special kind of mustard called, Moutarde Bénichon. You dip bread made with saffron into it. I don’t know what to think of it. Kind of sweet, but a whole lot of other things were going on. I don’t think I would have it again.
And then it started…first the goats!
And then…the main event…THE COWS!!! I was SHOCKED at how LOUD the cowbells were!
[A Christmas tree for a headdress?! I guess this is acceptable at Desalpes!]
[Look at the size of that cowbell!!]
[Wrapping up with goats again at the end!]
So many fun friends were up for this Saturday morning adventure! Including our littlest friend (who shockingly wasn’t phased by the loud cowbells at all)!
The backdrop of the whole event was spectacular! Sunshine and mountains!
And how fun to hear the alphorns perform…complete with flag twirler in the background!
What a wonderful day full of things you literally wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world! This country is full of incredible traditions. I’m glad I got to experience one of the best!