I’m lucky to be in Switzerland at a time when summer is just ending and autumn beginning. When I arrived in Weggis in the last week of August, I couldn’t stop admiring  the beauty of the country side. All I could see were different shades off green, clear blue skies and lakes. Of course, there were those pesky gloomy days, when I couldn’t see beyond my stretched out arm. Even so, when the skies cleared, I saw the most breath-taking view of the mountains tops, covered in snow. The locals call this Zuckerhaube (which translates to sugar hood). Now that autumn is coming in, the trees are being replaced by deep shades of red, orange and yellow.

Picture perfect
I have a west facing room, with a massive window. My view is of rolling hills, fruit trees and on the far end, a forest. On most days, I wake up to a sight of horses galloping on the fields, cats chasing mice and crows cracking chestnuts on the tar road.
On my arrival, I soaked in this scenery and savored every moment, unaware that in exactly two weeks, I would watch autumn manifest right before my eyes.

I also watched with great curiosity as the locals started to prepare for the long and miserable Swiss winter. I was oblivious to the fact that I would witness an ancient tradition that comes with the change of the season — the cow descent (more on that later).

For the past two days, I’ve been observing farmers, alternating between harvesting fruit and mowing the grass, which is then rolled up with plastic to preserve it for winter.

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The view from the kitchen window.

Bring the cows home
The last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October, are a special time in Switzerland, pastoral farmers bring their cows home after three months of being confined in the alpine pastures. During summer, the cows are taken up to the alps, this gives the grass on the meadows a chance to grow.

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Totally love the shirt.

The big descent
If you think cows descending from the mountain is just an ordinary occasion, you better think again. It’s probably one of the last things the Swiss enjoy, before the snow turns the country into a deep freezer.
This event is so special that people from near and far, drive to where the descent (Alpabfahrt) is taking place. Christine, Otto and I, were some of the people who drove for an hour to get to Einseldeln, in canton Schwyz. This particular cow descent is said to be the biggest one in the whole of Switzerland, it only happens once every five years.

We didn’t have to wait long before the first herd appeared, bells clanging and perhaps a little reluctant to walk among the people that had formed a passage. Shortly after that the sheep followed, adorned with smaller bells than that of the cows. My favourite part was watching the goats waltz between the people, sniffing their shoes, licking their hands (cheeky creatures these). The kids went ballistic, they ran to the goats patting them, hugging them, it was all so cute to watch. One goat even went up to a camera man and licked his lens it was quite hilarious, pity I was too slow in capturing the moment.

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These cows look too small to have given any significant amount of milk. But what do I know, the farmers know best.
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That is a face of a man smitten with his sheep.
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Bah, bah, black sheep…

Things that blow my mind
One thing I find fascinating about Switzerland is how pastoral farming is seamlessly woven into city life, so much that you find it difficult to tell where the country side ends, and suburbia begins. It is only when you are in the belly of  Lucern, that you know for sure that you are in the city. Even so, you will occasionally see a muddy tractor among the slick German sports cars. I love this though, there is no reason the two can’t co-exist.