Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 3 Appenzell

Today we learned even more about cheese. We went to the big Appenzeller cheese factory, where they make large quantities of cheese. We could view the whole process through windows on the upper floor.
Shaun counted up the curing cheese, 13,200. They had a big machine that would take a board of cheeses, brush it with brine, rotate it and put it back. It would only stay here for a few weeks and then it would be sent to a cureing house for the rest of the time. this cheese is shipped all over the world.Next we went for a little walk up the hill to where that little swiss flag is.
Just a picture of the view on the way up. There are troughs like this all over Switzerland, usually with water flowing into it. You can get a drink or water your animals, very useful.

Once we reached the flag there was a lookout, from that lookout we could see Germany (Hi Heike) behind the church steeple.
And Austria, the little blue mountains in the background.

This is all of our group. The oldest was 82, the youngest 11. Our guide is front and center a native Swiss. They were from all over the U.S. CA, AZ, TX, MN, KY, NJ, MA, NH, of course AR, and Australia.
After we walked back down we went to a museum, where they had reconstructed a old cheese hut. These were typically in the mountains, people would take their cows up to the higher areas in the summer and the cheese maker would care for the cows for the farmers.
A man came into the hut and demonstrated how they would make cheese in these huts, although we found out later that he wasn't completely accurate. (see Day 11) When he had strained all the cheese he poured some whey in a pitcher so we could try it. It was sweet and a little like skim milk.
These mannequins depict the traditional ceremony that takes place in the spring when they take the cows up the mountains. They will ring the bells together to scare away the winter spirits.
This is just an interesting photo, we would see poles like these every once in a while and wondered what they were. As we looked a little closer we noticed the angles at the tops of the poles. We came to the conclusion that they are survey poles for a new house, and the angles are for the peaks of the house. We saw several homes under construction and they used cranes to build them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 2 Biodynamic farm & Cheese maker

Today we went to Sennerei Bachtel which means, cheese house of Bachtel mountain. It is a strictly organic cheese maker. There are 9 dairies that supply milk to this Sennerei. The Farmers use the biodynamic method, which is a way of farming using lunar cycles and keeping everything in harmony. Such as they don't cut the horns off the cows, and use the manure to fertilize the ground.
Also at this Sennerei they made yogurt & Quark which is like a thick yogurt. Their products are not pasteurized except the products that contain fruit & sugar because they will create harmful bacteria. The Senn (cheese-maker) has a degree and then works 3 yrs. as an apprentice before he can head the cheese making. All their cheese is made with a vegetable rennet so that they can market to vegetarians.
The Senn took us down to the cellar to show us the cheese. This black looking cheese is coated with an elderberry juice. The lighter one in the background is a younger cheese and has less coats on it. This was a stronger flavored cheese.
In Switzerland the common practice for preserving their cheese is not to dip it in wax but to soak it in a salt water solution for 24 hrs. Then the brush it daily for 3 days, for 2 weeks every other day, and then once a week. They cure the cheese for about 3 months total. We got to taste test their products we liked it all except the elderberry cheese which was a little strong for Shaun& I.
We then went on a tour of one of the Biodynamic farmers, farm. We walked out to where he was growing grain and by the way side we found some wild cherry trees that were ripe, and very good so we stopped for a snack.
Here are some of the animals on the farm.
Chicken tractor.
The farmer wouldn't get to close to the cows because they would think he was calling them in to milk.
I don't know if you can really see this picture well but it was very fascinating to me. A lot of people had gardens in whatever space they had by their house, but for those that lived in apartments there were these little community plots. There were all these little sheds, some almost looked like tiny cottages by a garden. people would sometimes spend the weekend there in their little shed and tend their garden. It was a garden village. We saw several of these in our travels.
Relaxing after a long day of walking. We had a 11 yr old girl and a 14 yr. old boy in our group. I think that helped us from missing our kids to much. they kept us busy playing games. Our guide was quite the ping pong player, she challenged Shaun to a few games. She is the one on the right with the yellow paddle.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Switzerland Day 1

We had the most amazing 2 1/2 week trip to Switzerland. We loved it. Since we have so much to tell about and so many pictures I will do a day by day account (not all in one post). I hope it is not to boring. I will try to stick to the highlights.

I don't really count the first day since we arrived in Zurich a 7:30 am and we were not meeting with the group until 7:00 pm We were very tired and it was a hot day. We wandered around Zurich for a few of hours then headed to Rapperswil where our hostel was in hopes we could get in and sleep. Well we had a little trouble finding our hostel, the people that we asked didn't seem to know where it was. we wandered up and down these little roads that people kept pointing us to. We were about to try one last little road that here in the states you would call a driveway when we saw some other people with luggage . Yeah! they were from our group. We got to the hostel but couldn't check in until 5:00 pm so we sat out on the back patio and waited a couple more hours. Shaun & I were a little worried by now how this whole tour was going to be after all that, but we met the rest of the group, found our rooms and then hit the sack at 9:30 pm. It has been a long time since we have slept so well. So I don't count this first day because we were tired, cranky, hungry, hot, & frustrated. Now the rest of the trip made up for that first experience 10 times over.

Day 1
Yesterday was hot & humid, today was cool & rainy. We went to lake Luzern and took the William Tell Steamboat ride to the town of Brunnen. The lake was surrounded by mountains. very pretty.
William Tell is a bit of a legend here. The story says he helped free the people from oppression.

Most of the homes here are multiple levels.
We rode the bus to another little town then took a 20 min. walk up to a dairy farm. This house was about 400 yrs old. We toured the farm and then we had a wonderful lunch, which in Switzerland is the biggest meal of the day.
These are Swiss Brown cows which is the most commonly used cow in Switzerland. The Bells on the cows sounded pretty except in the barn where it echos.

This little guy lived in the barn, and was quite friendly.