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A-Z Guidebook: Switzerland, Ballenberg

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*Compliments of the season. I know that it’s a busy time of year for most of you so thanks for those who take the time to contribute and to the readers who visit and comment on A-Z. This month:

S or Surprise

What seems like only yesterday but is quite some time ago now, Anthony and I took 18 months off work to travel around Europe with side trips to the Middle East, North Africa and delightfully balmy Florida. People asked us how we could afford to fund such a trip. There was of course lots of saving of leave, budgeting and planning involved but a big contributor was house swaps. One of those swaps was for three months in Bern, Switzerland. Bern is not very far (by Australian standards) from the Bernese Oberland, the primary mountain region with famous names such as the Matterhorn and Eiger. We spent many days there hiking up, down and across but on one particular Sunday, we decided to head to Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum which showcases traditional rural life.

Three women in traditional folk dress play large musical horns in Ballenberg, Switzerland

As luck would have it, the day we visited was Mother’s Day so there was a special ‘gathering of the peoples’. Families, folk group and choirs from all over the country descended upon Ballenberg, each wearing the regional dress particular to their canton. The outfits were wonderful. Detailed embroidery, pretty aprons, decorated waistcoats, feathered hats, buckled leather shoes. Everyone was definitely turned out in their Sunday best. In addition to Ballenberg’s buildings and demonstrations of traditional craft and agriculture, there were folk dances, singing and plenty of laughter. We heard these horns from some distance and were surprised and delighted to see that the music was being provided by three women. As two Aussies who sometimes find it difficult to pin down what traditional ‘Australian culture’ is, this huge dose of Alpine merriment and Swiss nationalism on a Sunday afternoon was an eye opener and hugely enjoyable. Make sure it’s on your list.


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9 comments… add one
  • sherry from sherrys pickings December 15, 2016, 11:43 am

    this looks like it was a fun day. Yes i agree hard to pinpoint aussie culture but you know when you are standing in it (as the song goes).. merry xmas.

    • Fiona Ryan December 22, 2016, 11:27 am

      Australia You’re Standing In It – That’s a flashback Sherry.

  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime December 15, 2016, 1:56 pm

    I’ve considered house swaps and it is something we will look into when ours is finished.

    • Fiona Ryan December 22, 2016, 11:26 am

      It’s a lot of work and there’s some degree of trust involved but you have an opportunity to visit places you may not have otherwise considered.

  • retrostuart December 21, 2016, 6:46 am

    Nice photo and outfits. It sounds like a gret occasion. House swapping is a good idea to maximise travel opportunities. How easy was it to organise?

    • Fiona Ryan December 22, 2016, 10:30 am

      Hi Stuart – we did many house swaps over an extended period whilst we were away for 18 months. It wasn’t hard but takes a lot of planning and tenacity to actually go from ‘I’m interested to I’m locked in’. The good thing is, as you are staying in each other’s houses, there is a level of mutual respect to begin with. As we were away so long, we had a ‘support person’ who cam in after each swap just to check everything was Ok, the house was clean and tidy etc before the next swappers came in. Normally, it a reciprocal swap ie: you are at their place for the same period they are in yours but the more flexibility you have, the better your options. ie: they may want to come in January (to get away from the cold) whilst you are camping at the beach. Then you may visit in March when they are off doing something else and the house is vacant for you. I can see there’s lots of interest on this topic so I’ll write a post with more tips. in the mean time, I recommend Intervac and HomeforExchange as two very good websites (there are many but I found these to be the best).

  • Joy @MyTravelingJoys December 21, 2016, 5:17 pm

    How cool to see these different traditions as you travel! I’ve only been to Zurich and have been scared away from Switzerland because of the price tag, but would love to explore more. 😉

    • Fiona Ryan December 22, 2016, 10:07 am

      Yes, there is no denying the price tag. We lived very frugally. In fact, had a small farm at the end of our street so lived off milk, eggs and potato as that’s what was available and cheap. Many of our best memories are as a result on an extensive house swap program we undertook in 2009/10/11, based in Europe. We would never have been able to stay in Switzerland any other way. I can’t recommend swapping highly enough.

  • Liz Posmyk January 1, 2017, 3:09 pm

    Not sure how I feel about house swapping, but I did enjoy this post. Happy new year to you, Fiona xx

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