Thursday, June 19, 2008

The cows of Switzerland

On one of my first hikes at Bienenberg, I was walking through the woods when I heard what sounded to me like drums. I imagined Africans dancing in a circle with others beating the drums. But since I was in Switzerland, and the German speaking parts hardly have any Africans, I considered what Swiss might look like beating drums in the woods. But as I walked further and came to a pasture, I realized that the sound I heard were cow bells!
Some evenings when I have my window open the cowbells are less rhythmic and more like a soft singsong. If I believed in fairies, then I would suspect that fairies were making tinkering their bells. It really has become a beautiful sound to me.
Because Switzerland is so mountainous there are not a lot of places where you can grow crops like we do so abundantly in Indiana. And so the Swiss have worked with cows in their pastures for all these centuries. In the first picture you can barely see the cows, and so you realize how high up they are, but also I am pretty high that day. That picture is in the Jura Moutains and I was just hiking down from some Mennonite farms above 3000 feet.
The other photo is of the local herd. I am grateful to them for providing me with at least my ice cream. They may also provide some of the milk and cheese, I am not sure.
At first I was concerned about missing out on Chief ice cream this summer. I don't know what I was thinking. There is plenty of good ice cream in Switzerland. And so many flavors. I have had grape, lots of caramel, someting called Stracciata, and even rhubarb. That wasn't my favorite but when you have the option of eating rhubarb you have to take it.
The cheeses of course have been great and every morning I have been drinking hot chocolate. I must confess that I have gone with ice cream as my indulgence rather than chocolate. Here at Bienenberg they combine the ice cream with cream and other delectables for excellent taste experiences.
The Swiss also have a national drink called Rivella. I have been drinking it. It is made from whey, a cheesemaking byproduct. It's not that it is the best tasting drink. It is too fizzy for me, as is all soft drinks. It's just that this is my chance to drink it so I might as well.
So I am sure that I am eating entirely too much dairy right now. But I am grateful to the cows of Switzerland, and to the Swiss for their ingenuity in adapting agriculture to their environment and then giving the world such great cheeses and chocolates.

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