Now I can say we’ve really been in Switzerland! Well, the trip two weeks ago to the Lauterbrunnen Valley was also a very Swiss experience, but yesterday was a cultural highlight. An Alpabfahrt (or Alpabzug) is an event celebrating the descent (in the fall) or ascent (in the spring) of the cows from or to their summer munching grounds in the Alps. Abfahrt means departure (departing the Alps) and Abzug means departure or withdrawing from. I saw both words used. We arrived in Kerns (in the Canton Obwalden) after several hectic train rides and a Post Auto Bus. (This could be another blog post, but I’ll spare you and just say that when the weather is supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees on a Saturday, everyone and their dog and especially their hiking poles in the rucksack, is on the early train to get out into the glorious outdoors. Standing room only, folks! Pushing and shoving the norm.) Town of Kerns. Cheese booth in the village. The flyer said that the festival would be from 10:00-14:00, and we wanted to be there in good time, so we arrived in the small town by 9:40 and wandered around a bit, planning where to stand so we wouldn’t be looking into the sun. Here is the map of the parade route. We planted ourselves at the church (upper left corner of the route) and watched as people came and lined the route. We met a family from Minnesota who have moved to Baden with their three kids (who after 10 months here can speak High German and Baden Swiss German) and we chatted with them for awhile. The man on the loudspeaker said some things that I couldn’t understand, and the girl said, “He says thank you for your patience.” The parade finally started around 11:00 (I’m guessing that Swiss cows do not wear Swiss watches, nor can they hear the church bells over the bells they have around their necks.) Here is the start of the parade. Adorable children in adorable costumes. Lots of sunflowers. The men’s yodeling group singing as they walked. They stopped later for a little concert. More adorableness. Then the Alphorns (or Alpenhorns) came. They stopped at the curve and played for us. Then a guy on a tractor with a little trailer with chickens and wooden sandals among other things. Following him were a herd of sheep. From what I could tell about what happened next, one family would parade their cows around the square once or twice. After a break, another group of cows, decorated slightly differently came along. And so on. You could definitely hear them coming. This little flag is the flag of Kerns. A boy who took his role in the parade very seriously. Then there were goats. I asked my new friend from Minnesota how you say goat in German. A lovely lady next to me answered me and said Geißen. She proceeded to chat with me in German, telling me that these were special goats with long hair, then asked me if this was my first Alpabzug. Ja, I told her, und es ist ganz schön. (And it is very beautiful.) After about 5 families of cows came around, we thought it would be good to see what the food vendors had, so we looked at the various booths and came up with some bratwurst (which we now know is finger food) and then some Raclette. We had been waiting to try this very Swiss of dishes, and this was probably the right atmosphere. Think gobs of gooey cheese over potatoes, and there you have it. Since the cheese may have been made right there, it was pretty delicious. We shared this plate (and the bratwurst) and decided that was the best way to go. Too much Raclette might disagree with your stomach. We weren’t sure we were up for any more cows, so we took the Post Auto Bus back to the train station and went on our merry way. Here is my little youtube video of the day.