Happy Birthday, Switzerland!

Ballenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, Switzerland

In the USA, it’s the 4th of July. And in France, the fireworks go off on July 14th. It was just our turn to celebrate here in Switzerland, the national day being August 1st. Happy 719th Birthday, Switzerland!

I love birthdays. I really, really do. Birthdays, anniversaries, the planning of surprises, cake, candles, cards and presents.  What’s not to love?

Ballenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, Switzerland

It’s no surprise then that the summer is a favorite time of year for me.  Olivier and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary, as well as our anniversary with Zürich.  The festivities continued with birthdays – Olivier’s and Switzerland’s (and mine is next!).  It was as Swiss as a weekend could get.  We spent Saturday in the mountains, biking over the Gotthardpass, one of the country’s most famous alpine passes, making our way into Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland.  (That was his “birthday surprise!”)  If you want a challenge, make sure to bike from Andermatt to Airolo and enjoy the 20 km of straight uphill, passing by horse carriages and cars sitting in traffic, people staring at you in amazement and cheering you on, “hopp hopp!”  With that encouragement -and several PowerBars- we made it to the top. After a well-deserved break for a picnic to refuel and take in the spectacular views, the rest of the ride to Biasca was no less picturesque, and thankfully no more uphill.  The next day was less strenuous; we enjoyed more typically gorgeous Swiss landscapes, and even more culture, history… and food.

Ballenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, Switzerland

Another series of trains and buses this time took us to Ballenberg, near Interlaken.  Switzerland’s open-air museum is a way to discover what rural life was like for Swiss farmers and artisans centuries ago.  It’s a place where everything is artisanal, every food item made from scratch: breads are baked there with flour you can watch being ground in the mill, meats are dried or smoked and cheese aged on the premises too.  What better place to celebrate Swiss National Day than there?!  A typically Swiss breakfast, Birchermüesli included of course, accompanied by speeches by local politicians, the singing of the national hymn, music played on accordion and the fabulously long Alphorn (I love those!), and a yodel or two thrown in, all set the scene.  I’m still thinking about the pear walnut jam (above right), which was absolutely divine slathered on buttered bread, a croissant or paired with cheese.

Ballenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, Switzerland

Ballenberg is huge.  Perhaps not a coincidence that the entrance resembles an amusement park. But the similarities end there.  You walk around the grounds with a map, visiting houses and buildings grouped by Swiss region, so you can get a feel for the architectural landscape and lifestyle of each area, as well as the time period.  It’s fascinating. “Switzerland as it used to be.”  With the sound of the Alphorn in the distance, horses and buggies trotting by us and the diverse sounds of farm animals (over 250!), we were certainly convinced we were in another time. You can enter each and every building, learning more about the numerous crafts and activities: straw weaving, clock making, needlework, pottery, silk, wool… you can truly see it all – the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.

Ballenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, Switzerland

In and out and around houses we went, passing plots with impeccable rows of tall corn stalks, wheat or the bright green plants above left. Did you guess what they were? Tobacco in fact.  At one point, we walked into a farmhouse and the overwhelming aroma of smoke stopped us in our tracks. A simple tilt back of our heads and we immediately understood why. That would be where they smoke the sausages!  An impressive number of sausages were hanging, covering the entire ceiling. They are smoked according to an old, traditional practice and sold in Ballenberg’s sausage shop.  Quite a sight to see… and smell.

Ballenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, Switzerland

Another smell memory was in the garden, where you can test your skills and see how many herbs or flowers you can identify.  There was one I couldn’t quite place, yet wanted to eat right on the spot.  I laughed out loud when I uncovered its name: SchokoladenblumeBerlandiera in English or fleur au chocolat in French. Anyone ever heard of it? Something else I wanted to take home was the furniture in the old apothecary, with its multiple rows of drawers that were just calling out to me to open and close, and fill with fun, little objects at home.

Ballenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, SwitzerlandBallenberg, Switzerland

It was a great way to spend the day, and especially such an important day for Switzerland.  I’d recommend a visit on any other day too.  There are tons of hands-on exhibits and activities, and it’s certainly a great place for families with children.  The true highlight of Ballenberg for me though, was our final stop of the day.  Any guesses what is missing from this day of Swiss culture and celebration? (chocolate of course !)

Swiss Open-Air Museum
West Entrance CH-3858 Hofstetten
East Entrance CH-3856 Brienzwiler

26 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Switzerland!”

  1. valentina says:

    What a cool museum. I love interactive museums, where you as a visitor become part of the exhibition and you can touch objects, and ‘sense’ the whole place. The experience becomes mch more real and memorable. Sausages..love them. Became fascinated by the photograph. hey, and fancy you going for ‘fleur au chocolat’. no comments. I am particularly curious about the flavour of the pear walnut jam. I do admit to having traded walnuts for pecans in my stomach memory, but pears..well, they make a nice pair with walnuts. Happy celebration and happy birthday in advance to you. I like organizing celebrations for other people I like but I am very shy about my own birthday so i tend to keep it low profile.

  2. Tweets that mention Happy Birthday, Switzerland! | MyKugelhopf -- Topsy.com says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Travel News and Kerrin Rousset, Gogotrip. Gogotrip said: Happy Birthday, Switzerland!: In the USA, it?s the 4th of July. And in France, the fireworks go off on July 14th. … http://bit.ly/cd5jkt […]

  3. Lani says:

    I am truly fascinated by what went on so many years ago. Thank you for the trip back in time. It looks as if you went on a class trip from elementary school! I love the photography of each of the photos in time…the girl playing the instrument, the sausages hanging….love the animals…oh my, I truly love this post! Yes, I can picture you loving the shelving unit to put all your little things ….I do know what was missing from this post…the end…..CHOCOLATE. What would Switzerland be without chocolate. And what did you exactly have…I want to know!!!! Oh by way, happy birthday to Switzerland and Olivier!!!!!

  4. Rosa says:

    Beautiful shots of Ballenberg! It looks like you had a wonderful time on the 1st of August.



  5. Maria says:

    Amazing photos! The cheese and the chocolate in Switzerland would be just sooo amazing!

  6. Jenn says:

    Such awesome postcard-perfect photos of idyllic Suisse! Looks like you had a great time, and I should get out to see Ballenberg! And that pear walnut jam…..oh that sounds divine!

  7. Kerrin says:

    valentina, thanks so much ! You are too funny, yes what a coincidence that I fell for the fleur au chocolat, haha ! I don’t usually go for pear anything, but the texture and color just looked really excellent – a very subtle flavor, I’m thinking there was perhaps another fruit mixed in, I’ll have to call and find out (if they’ll reveal). And if you enjoy interactive museums, this was totally for you. You didn’t even feel like you were at a museum at all. Oh, and I agree about birthdays, I love love doing things for friends and family, but won’t actually do anything for my own. 🙂 I just get excited to get cards and calls and stuff. Oh and birthday cake too of course !

    Lani, yes you are so right – this was the perfect class trip ! 🙂 Oh the old days and field trips…. ! Thanks for the birthday wishes, I’ll pass them along to Olivier and Switzerland for sure ! And what was that you guessed… chocolate ?? Perhaps !!!

    Rosa, thank you ! Have you ever been to Ballenberg ? Hope you enjoyed the holiday festivities too over there in Suisse française !

    Maria, thank you ! Cheese and chocolate don’t get much better than here, yummm.

    Jenn, thank you so much. It was tough choosing photos for this post, I have so many !! You should definitely check out Ballenberg. I have a feeling you may be convinced after the next post…. ! Stay tuned 🙂

  8. Zita says:

    Any guesses what is missing from this day of Swiss culture and celebration?


  9. Emma says:

    Bring on the chocolate chocolate CHOCOLATE!!
    I have two thoughts here:

    1) I am so disappointed that I’d never before heard of the chocolate daisy! It seems like I’ve devoted years of my life to memorizing plant names and facts, and yet when it comes to something as important as CHOCOLATE, where was I? Nowhere near it. However, I’m a bit reassured as it’s a southern species and is not covered in my more northerly field guides. It is, however, on my current favorite online plant database which I will shamelessly plug here: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center. http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=BELY

    2) We both have our eyes on apothecary drawers. I am frequently on the lookout for them, and just YESTERDAY I was aimlessly searching through a modern scientific supply catalogue in the foolish hope of finding some. Weird coincidence. And weird in general, I guess…

    Happy birthday/anniversary to everybody!

  10. snacksgiving says:

    I did read your tweets about biking over Gottardpass. Seriously – that was quite a strenous ‘surprise’..haha. If only I was a bit fitter, I’d think of it. I tried biking about 5 kilometers uphill in St Gallen, and I know how I was part cursing, part enjoying the scenery 🙂

  11. Andrea M. says:

    What a neat post….well worth the wait! 🙂

    I remember celebrating one Swiss Birthday celebration in Wädenswil years ago….so much fun! This photographic journey of yours brought back many awesome and amazing memories….Birchermüesli! Zopf! Käse! Musikspielen, Alpenhorn, and Jödeln! Schöene Blumen!

    ….uh….where is the chocolate Kerrin?!

    Can’t wait to visit Ballenberg with my family one day! I have never heard of it before — thanks for the tip!

    Merci Vilmal!

  12. Kerrin says:

    Zita, haha, guess the question wasn’t too difficult after all !

    Emma, ok ok, and only because you asked, chocolate chocolate CHOCOLATE will come ! 🙂 Amazing how there is always something new to be learned or discovered, even in our own areas of expertise. Thanks for sharing the link above. I love going for long runs along the river here, through the forest and seeing tons of wild flowers, not that I would have a clue what’s what. Funny coincidence on the apothecary drawers, you would have tried to steal everything in sight ! If you’re weird, well then, um, that makes me a bit weird too ! haha ! Thanks for the happy wishes too 🙂

    snacksgiving, you have me laughing out loud here, half cursing half enjoying the scenery. Hey, I never said I did all 20 km without cursing a bit myself, LOL !

    Andrea, love when I can bring back Swiss memories for you. Sounds like you sure have a big database of those !! Where’s the chocolate, you asked ? What chocolate ? Mmmwah-ha-ha !! Stay tuned…. and I won’t make you wait that long this time around. 😉

  13. Juls @ Juls' Kitchen says:

    UH! How I love celebrating birthdays! Mine or my friends’ birthdays, or, just as in this case, a country birthday, it’s the same, I do love birthdays!
    and yours is near, have I understood well? so my package will be there in the right time, won’t it? 😀

    Loved this post, even if I live in Italy and therefore quite near the Switzerland, I’ve never managed to cross the borders, shame on me!

  14. Julia @Mélanger says:

    Happy anniversaries. Love the look of this place. I really enjoy learning about how things used to be. Reminds me of Old Sturbridge Village in Mass. Did you ever go there???

  15. Meeta says:

    OMG! Where the hec is the chocolate in this post? I mean please we are talking Switzerland and we are on YOUR blog! CHOCOLATE!!!

    This is such a sweet post – a great tribute to the country you love K!

  16. Kerrin says:

    Juls, you too ! Yay for birthdays ! You certainly are right, mine’s in less than a week now, August 10th ! Ooooh a package ?!? The only thing I love more than birthdays — are care packages, ha ha ! So glad you love this post, and you’re only a border away, you must head north !! 🙂

    Julia, thanks ! Old Sturbridge Village – I totally went there as a kid, I think it was a trip from summer camp or something. My mom read this post and it immediately made her think of my school field trips too !

    Meeta, haha ! Well that answers the question – pretty obvious I guess 🙂 Switzerland + Kerrin = chocolate. And you are so right, you know how much I love them both. Thanks M !!

  17. catty says:

    I can’t believe that for Olivier’s birthday surprise you made him cycle 20km uphill LOL… so funny 🙂 hehehehe but i know i know, you guys love it and look at the scenery – how serene!!! Happy birthday Olivier and Switzerland and you next! x

  18. Yeye says:

    What a cool birthday gift you gave Olivier! I love sporty adventures but this one seemed quite challenging. You seem to be yourself very sporty too. What sort of sports does MyKugelhopf like and practice? Besos,

  19. Liana @ femme fraiche says:

    Happy Birthday Switzerland! Thanks to this beautiful post I have now added a new travel destination to my list. That apothecary is exactly the type of thing I’d love to have in my house one day (ever since that Friends episode, I always think of Pottery Barn…hmmm maybe they’ll have one I can use until I get an authentic!) All the artisinal foods sound delicious, I think thats what appealed to me most! Great trip:)

  20. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    What a clever and fantastic anniversary celebration. The photos are just gorgeous, it looks so utterly charmed Kerrin! 😀

  21. Duncini says:

    Is that meat I see in your lovely birthday blog? Lots and lots of meat, good girl.

  22. Kerrin says:

    catty, thanks for the birthday wishes. I know, that was pretty insane of me. Luckily he did in fact love it (so did I), instead of declaring me totally insane, ha ha !

    Yeye, glad you like the birthday gift idea ! We love sporty adventures like you – but you’re right, this was a serious challenge !! So satisfying to make it to the top. And very enjoyable going dooooown hill thereafter. 🙂 Personally, I’m a runner – love to run along the lake or river here, play tennis and swim too. I used to do capoeira (Brazilian martial art), but no longer.

    Liana, thanks so much ! Glad I could get Switzerland on that travel list of yours. I am totally missing both Friends and Pottery Barn right now though, ha ha !!

    Lorraine, thank you thank you ! 🙂

    Duncini, why indeed you do, that was a platter of dried and smoked meats you would have been in heaven with. Lots of meat… followed by sweets, of course.

  23. Steve says:

    Wow, great trip! Thanks so much for taking us along. Gorgeous pictures for sure. I’m just glad you didn’t take me on the biking trip. Forget chocolate, i’d be looking for oxygen 🙂

  24. Jeanne @ CookSister! says:

    Happy birthday Switzerland! And happy Zurich anniversary to you two 😉 Why does it not surprise me even slightly that you wantd to take the chocolate plant home with you?? Looks like a wonderful museum (but can i please skip the uphill bike ride? :o)

  25. Kelleyn says:

    a day of celelbration is not complete without chocolate even if it is just a little square. Yummy!

  26. Jamie says:

    Beautiful and you just proved to me (after the chocolate) why I and JP need to visit Switzerland! Everything is so pretty and this open air museum is just how we love to spend our vacation days. Happy Birthday, Switzerland (and now I hope that Simon snags that internship in Zurich!)!

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