The season of the “désalpe” is here again, when the cows led by La Reine come down from their summer pastures, where they have been feeding on lush grass and alpine flowers. The spectacle of hundreds of cows –giant bells round their necks, ornate floral bouquets on their heads – clattering through village streets at a fast trot is a sight to behold. The farmers, often in traditional dress, work hard to keep the animals on track and – it being Switzerland – they follow a strict timetable – to the nearest ten minutes. Behind come horse or donkey drawn carts carrying the giant copper pots in which thousands of litres of milk were heated over wood fires to produce hundreds of giant wheels of cheese over the season.
Some désalpes are combined with other events, such as the Vacherin Mont-d’Or Festival in Charbonnières, where the first of the new season’s cheeses, in their distinctive spruce boxes, are celebrated. Enjoy squads of cow bell ringers, whip crackers and alp horn players, as you peruse artisanal products of all descriptions. These events are a real celebration of the seasons and a sense of a job well done! Dates and locations: 13 September: Gryon, from 10h; 20 September: Crans Montana, 11h30; 27 September: Charbonnières, Charmey and St Cergue, all from 9h00; 4 October: Semsales, from 7h00.