By Sandy Zimmerman
The charming little village of Grindelwald offers a close-up view of life in the Alps. I have traveled for 29 years but had not thought of spending time with cows!
We were invited on a tour to visit a dairy farm to experience how cheese was made. I am a city gal and have never visited a farm before. Most everyone has seen pictures of the dairy farms in the United States, but this was very different. Grindelwald Mountain Cheese is prepared the traditional way, a ritual as the farmers did centuries ago. Recipes for this simple method were passed down from family to family.
The guide, Hans, drove along the one- lane road watching for oncoming cars until we passed the last local bus stop and reached the top of the mountain. After just 45 minutes and a climb of around 5,100 feet, we were surrounded by nature. He finally stopped at a wooden farm house with several exceptionally large cow bells hanging from the wall near the window flower box. We walked into the farmhouse to stand in a small room where the farmer’s wife was cooking cow’s milk in a huge iron pot. Hans explained, “Every day after the cows were milked, she was ready to make cheese. As the milk thickened, the woman used a harp-like utensil to cut through the cheese because thick milk becomes difficult to cut.” We tasted the thick and milky cheese before it became cheese, it was almost cheese! The only step of the process of making cheese that was not “Woman Powered,” was using a small mechanical mixer for 10 minutes. The lady placed a metal hoop inside cloth to make a primitive bowl/ bag as she reached down and scooped 20 pounds of cheese into the bag repeating this over and over again. Next she had to place the cheese in molds stacked on top of each other and she pressed them down into shape. We could hear the cow bells ringing while watching her. The cheese hut held all their stock of cheese each numbered with the date to identify the new and aged cheese.
Farmers brought their cows up into the higher Alps during the spring and autumn seasons following the weather to lead them down to what they called,
“Going downtown to the village during the winter.” In spite of all of the modern comforts and inventions today, the farmers keep to this way of life. The farmhouse was designed with a small stable to house 11 cows, the dairy cheese making room, a dining room/ kitchen, with another small building next door for their bedroom. This was a tour to remember!
Visitors can only take this dairy farm tour on Thursdays during the summer. Make arrangements with Grindelwald Tourism. Tourists are invited to the January Festival of ice sculptures and snow designs, January 19-24, and other events throughout the year. Jungfrau Tourism: www.myjungfrau.ch www.grindelwald.ch