- Snail Report – down from the summit and into the top row of cups.
Now for the real Blog
When a population of nearly nine million lives in a land as small as Switzerland – and a lot of that land is too mountainous to populate – an awful lot of people have to live piled up on each other.
So, getting out of town takes on a real priority on weekends and holidays, and every other day for retirees. Everywhere, the bike tracks are pumping, the walking tracks pounding.
Fortunately there are kilometres and kilometres of both, so you can get away from most of the crowds all seeking the same solitude.
Somebody the other day calculated (can’t have counted!) that there are 72,000 walking track direction signs around the country.
That also means a tradition of restaurants on the top of hills, in places where you couldn’t believe they could make a living – and some where you can’t believe they ever managed to build in the days before helicopters could drop in materials.
Often a large old farm house will have a wirtschaft (pub-café) attached – sometimes it’s the cowbarn converted.
We were at two such places in Canton Appenzell over the last couple of weeks – one was a farm with the farm-house converted into an old folks home.
They put on an all-day-brunch for the 1st of August.
That’s Swiss National Day – which is always well and truly celebrated, finishing with enough fireworks to pay off a small country’s deficit!
The souvenir from that trip: Inge & I were visiting the cows, in their barn.
It was a gorgeous day, and I was wondering why they were being kept inside .. but perhaps it was that visitors’ cars were on their paddocks. I noticed a cow lifting her tail. I’m a farm-girl. I know what that means. What I’d forgotten was how far fresh cowshit will splat when it hits concrete, and there are white linen pants to aim for.
The other visit was to a long-time favourite – a farm-wirtschaft where many walking
tracks converge up above the town of Appenzell. “Eggli” it’s called – “little corner”.
Some of the gang played cards, and held fly-swatting contests. We’d remembered the flies (a natural concomitant of a pub surrounded by animals) from last time, and Mani had taken his own swat. He won.
Others of us went walking, not on a real cross-mountain walking track, but up a gentler drive that serves farms further up. Some WAY higher up. In the past, the higher places had little houses for the summer cowherd. They’d milk the cows up there, and make cheese, which they’d cart down in back-frames. Then in September, still, a grand procession brings the cows, goats and farmers down into the winter farms and barns. Now they bring the milk down – but see how!
Farming is a strange mix of the primitive and modern up here in the hill country.
Some land is too steep even for the specialised hill farm machinery, and best managed by hand.
The mountain farmers get subsidies.
Of course my pure NZ farmer’s daughter mind goes “what!” at the thought…. but look at it this way. If all your own city folk (and many many paying tourists) want to walk through post-card-perfect mountain landscapes – then perhaps it’s smart to subsidise hill-farmers to stay on the land and keep it in trim.
And if long grass causes snow-slides, and those could become avalanches threatening roads and villages – then perhaps you want farmers up there making hay and cutting grass into the autumn.
I’ve managed to rationalise it for myself … these are not subsidies that tip the balance in global trade, they’re just a wealthy nation spending something on health and beauty, feeding their populace’s pride, and (by the by) keeping the tourist dollars flowing.
Down the track again, back to the pub – where the farm income is subsidised by a constant stream of visitors eating and drinking, and enjoying the farm ambience.