Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 6 Bettmeralp & salve making

Today we took a gondola ride up Bettmeralp, this was predominately the summer grazing area for the cows. But now it is mostly a ski resort. Once we got to the town there were several other lifts going further up the mountain. And of course the view was beautiful.When we got out of the gondola there were these signs telling you how far away certain landmarks were. When we saw Yellowstone we were excited, it is close to home.
From there we met Lisa, our guide for the day. She owns a little resturant and she studies herbs, plants and makes herbal salves, oils, balms, etc. She took us on a walk up in the hills, pointing out different plant & herbs, explaining their uses.
This is Lemon Thyme
This is Ladies Mantle
Ladies Mantle is very good for the skin, like botox. After she got through telling us all the good things it does all us women wanted to roll around in it.
Yarrow which is common everywhere.
This is just a patch of wild flowers and herbs that were growing all over the mountain side. This is why the milk & cheese tastes so good and why it smells so good when they cut hay.
We were then instructed to gather a good handful of one of the three herbs mentioned above.
Shaun chose Lemon Thyme and I of course chose Ladies Mantle.

With herbs in hand we walked on down to the little town.
We then sat outside and mushed up our herbs with a little oil. Shaun's face is great here. I can't believe he was actually enjoying this.
We made these little Bunsen burners to heat up our mixture and cause the good properties of the plants to be released into the oil.
While we waited for our oil to infuse we had lunch. I wish you could see the food a little better but everything had edible flowers in it.
Shaun enjoying his salad with flowers.
After lunch we strained our herbs from our oil, you can see the different colors from the different plants. At this stage you can use the oil for massage.
But we went a step further and added wool wax and beeswax, stirring it until it starts solidifying then pouring it into our containers. Shaun & I had a little left over so we combined them to make an original concoction.
When we were done we had some time to explore, so we took another gondola ride further up the mountain to see this glacier. It looks like a road.
We got to have a snowball fight in summer. Pretty thick snow, that means it is ever thicker in winter!
Just to give you a little perspective on how high we were.
Here is the cold lake you could see from the picture above.
And of course a cow with a bell!
We went to a little dairy and got some fresh milk while we were there.
What can I say about this picture? Amazing, awesome, breathtaking....
I am in Heaven.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 5 (the best day!) Ershmatt & bread making

Today we traveled up to the little mountain village of Erschmatt. We went to Burger und Backhaus (the Burger families bread baking house) The Families would get together and bake bread at the same time so they would use as little wood as possible. The oven takes 2 days to heat. We came here to bake our own traditional rye bread. Traditionally men were the ones to make the bread as you will see in later pictures it was hard work. The lady to the right in this picture broke the tradition and was the first female to bake bread in this haus. (the man on the left gave us the tour and history of the town.) You can't really tell by this picture but when you looked inside this oven it was the depth and width of the room, in other words you could fit a lot of bread in there.

We went into the mixing room which was heated to aid in the raising of the bread. (we were pouring sweat by the time we were done.) If you look down in the right hand corner at what looks like a little gunnysack is actually the sourdough starter from the last batch of bread.Here our Aussie friend is disolving the starter in warm water.Next we start mixing up the dough, The picture is a little hazy on account of the flour being thrown into the trough. Thus far it is pretty easy mixing. We mix it until it is thick enough to stay in place.It is pushed down to one end and covered with more flour to keep it from drying out.x + x is marked into the top, a little prayer is given, God (+) multiply (x) our dough.
While the dough was rising they fed us a very nice lunch, then we went for a walk around town. The houses are built close together on a more rocky ground to allow the more fertile soil to be used for hay, crops and grazing. Can you see the date on this header? 1595, that is the year this barn was built.
The main door opens up to a threshing floor with bins on the side for holding the grains. this barn would have been used by a couple of families. Our guide demonstrated how the threshing was done.

The little door to the right of the main door was this room below, used to store foods and dry the rye bread. The winter winds and dry air would do such a good job that they would have to use a hammer or axe to break the bread. They would then have to put it in soup to soften it, or they would put it in their mouth and suck on it all day. Yum!
Now I bet you are wondering, "How did they keep the critters out?" Well if you look closely you will notice the foundation of the barn is on stones on stilts. That kept the mice from crawling into the barns. Pretty smart! This barn was built into the hillside so it had a little basement where goats were housed.

Here is a view of a different barn with no room underneath, I wonder why? You can see the foundation really well in this picture.
Now back to the bread,
It looked like lava and had grown to fill the trough. you can kind of see the stretched out x .

Now is where the muscles come in handy. We did more mixing.The dough was pretty stiff by the time we were done.
Now it is time to roll out the dough. These are some of the bread presses. The one on the left is pretty old.
You shape the dough into a little cone.
Press it, cut slits to allow to raise.
WaLa! you have a bunch of Rye breads that look like base balls
After the dough was done we had to let it rise once more. So while we were waiting a local music teacher (for grade schoolers) took us to the choir balcony of the local church and taught us some common Swiss songs, Here is one of the songs we sang.

We then took our bread to a little (take less time to heat) oven next door to be baked.
We then had a nice little snack and watched a old (1940-50) movie on how they made the bread. It was done in winter, probably because of the warmth of the fires. Instead of a snack or lunch while the bread was rising they would drink. It started to become quite comical every time there was a break in their work they would drink.
Later in the trip we ate some of the bread we made, it was tough and chewy. When we had their rye bread it was cut very thin and tasted a little better. Were just amateurs.
This day was wonderful we really got immersed in the culture, we learned so much.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Day 4 Ilanz museum & sausage making

As Shaun would put it, How many pictures of cows with bell do you need? So here is another picture of a cow with a bell, because it is just a part of Switzerland.
Well today we moved on to a new hostel. We went from Rapperswil to Fiesch on the train. It took a couple of hours.
Shaun got a little cat nap in.

We took the same route the tourist train "Glacier Express" takes, It was breath taking. It goes right through the midst of the Alps. A native Swiss woman was talking with some of our group and pointed out the mountain area that inspired the Heidi story. We had our window opened and when we were in the higher parts of the mountains they were cutting hay, the smell was so sweet I couldn't get enough of it.
In this picture if you look close you can see people, they were all cutting hay by hand, up the steep hillside. That was a common sight throughout our travels. This is what the farmers did in the summer when their cows were up in the mountains being cared for by the cheesemakers.

Some of the beautiful scenery along the way.

Can you see the little house on the ledge?

This was the day we decided we could live here.

We made a little stop in Ilanz where we walked up a cobble stone street, through what looked like an alley or two, like puzzle pieces, winding this way and that until we came to this museum. It was built in the 1400's and has been through 2 fires.

Since I love museums I took tons of pictures, I tried to pick ones that are unique to switzerland so as not to bore.
This is a fireplace/ heater which is fed from the other side of the wall, they would usually have their bed near it or as in this picture a seat and an elaborate clothes line.

Some traditional clothing with some interesting mannequins. I am not sure what the little girl in the front is doing, but if she is anything like my girls she is getting ready to wipe her mouth on her sleeve.

This is a one legged milking stool. At the last Hostel we could go to the dairy next door and get milk, the man there used a stool like this but when we saw him he was standing up and it looked a little funny.

This was interesting, it was a little cup like thing that held some cream, the farmer would put a little on his hands before he milked the cow, like a lubricant.
We actually saw some of these in use. it was used to put the cut hay on to dry.

These are bread drying racks that were kept in the attic or barn for their bread to dry out. The bred would get so dry and hard that they would use a hammer or ax to break it.

This is Peter (Kyle) calling home the goats.

And Heidi (Savanna) calling in the cows with an Alpine horn.

Since we are on musical instuments, this is an all wooden pump organ, with wooden keys and everything. Judith our guide played quite well.
Later a local butcher came and talked to us about how they made their dried meats and sausages. After they would mix and encase their sausages then they would hang them to dry, usually in the chimney (which was quite big) to get smoked from the fire and also dry.

We then got to sample some of the different kinds Shaun liked the bacon, I liked the beef. The dark one is liver, blood, potatoes, & beef. It was actually quite good. Shaun didn't like it but I think it was only because he knew what was in it.

This towns bragging rights is that it is the first town on the Rhein. The Rhein is a river that starts in Switzerland and goes through France to the ocean. So here we are at the famous Rhein.