It is always fun when people come to Switzerland for the first time. The looks on their faces when they see the landscape is priceless. It also means that Julie and I get to experience some new things as well. We able to experience two new things this past weekend. We got see an Alpabfahrt or Alpabzug parade. We also rode the worlds steepest funicular train. Hopefully we will continue to have some new visitors, because it is always fun to find something to with a visitor that I have not had the chance to do.
Depending on what part of Switzerland you live this annual celebration is called alpabfahrt or alpabzug. They mean the same thing. A literal translation is simply alpine descent or alpine deduction. So coming OUT of the alps. The celebrations occur usually between the 2nd weekend of September and the 2nd weekend of October. I have to admit it seemed awfully warm last weekend to be thinking about winter. The temperature was pushing 30 degrees and we were baking while we were waiting for the cows to march by. I really felt sorry for some of the children leading the cows, goats, and sheep. Many were walking barefoot, and the heat from the road had to be torture on their feet. I don’t know for how long the animals and the people were walking, but it was a long way. As we left the town of Urnäsch we passed one of the groups and they were walking to the village of Waldstatt 4 miles away!
In the Appenzeller region, each group consists of a small group of goats, followed by 3 or 4 herdsmen dressed in native outfits. Immediately behind the herdsmen are the three “bell cows. These are three boss cows of the herd. The bells the cows wear are harmonized to each other. The four herdsmen will either sing, or yodel to the tones of the bell whenever they come near people. After the cows pass, the owners of the herd walk. They are identified by always wearing brown. The last part of the parade is a wagon that contains all of the apparatus needed for making cheese and butter on the mountains.
In other regions of the country the parade is similar but the tradition of the bell cows is different. The cows will still wear a bell (just like almost every cow in Switzerland), but the cow will wear a headdress of flowers. Some of these get very ornate. The bells also are not nearly as large as the ones found in Appenzell.
In the spring this tradition is reversed. There is a big party because winter is over as the cows go back up to the mountains. The first half of the video below is of one of the parades we saw. The second part of the video was for the second new thing we did last weekend.
Stoos pronounced more like close in “Please close the door.” is a town located in the canton of Schwyz. The town is located 1/2 way up a mountain. There are two peaks on the mountain. Fronalpstock is the peak we visited. At the top of the mountain you look over LuzernSee (Lake Luzern, Mt RIgi, Mt Pilatus, and the city of Luzern. The other peak is named Klingenstock. One of the most famous hikes in Switzerland is between these two peaks. It is called the ridge hike, it of course goes along the ridge of the mountain where one side overlooks the ski area and the other side is pretty much a cliff about 1800 meters down. I have already told my children that if they come visit this spring we are taking that hike. They may have to leave me on the side of the mountain, but that hike looks absolutely amazing!!!!!
I do not know what the population is of Stoos. I am guessing a couple of hundred permanent residents. However, I think it would a great place for a ski vacation. It is one of the only places I have seen, here, that you can actually ski from your house to a chair lift!
Besides the views at the top, the main attraction is the ride up the mountain. You start at the bottom and board the strangest looking train you will ever see. It looks like four giant barrels pushing a half barrel. The train was built in 2017. It is a funicular training meaning it works similar to a giant gondola. There are two trains, and they are always at opposite ends from each other. The trains run on one track separated into two right in the middle, so they can pass. There is a giant cable that actually pulls the train up and lowers the train down the hill.
This is the steepest funicular in the world. At the steepest the gradient is 47 degrees, but you never realize how steep it is because the train levels the cars automatically. The train can take 1500 passengers per hour. It takes about 5 minutes to make the trip. The train climbs about 750 meters. The ride is almost 2 kilometers long. Two more tidbits of useless information. The gift shop and lodge are heated with the waste heat from the engine room of train. The hot water in the lodge is heated by capturing the braking energy of the train! Julie and I have been able to ride quite a few funiculars while here, but this was by far the most unique.
We got some good pictures of our travels last week. Another side trip we took was the the Abby Library at St Gallen. I have talked about this place many times as it is one my favorite places to visit in Switzerland. They have really opened up the rules on taking pictures. So we have quite a few pictures from the library this week. The pictures below are a panoramic picture of the ceiling, and a panoramic view of one side of the library. It amazes me each and every time I see it!
Next week there will not be a post as we are heading to Munich for Oktoberfest. I figure I will be in no condition to post while we are there, but hopefully on Monday or Tuesday my head will have cleared enough to write coherently!
Talk to you soon, enjoy the pictures.