Out & About in Switzerland: The cows come home

The cows lead the festivities in Appenzell. Appenzellerland Tourism

The return of cows from their alpine pastures in the autumn is an event celebrated across much of Switzerland. Between mid-September and mid-October, cattle fairs, wine festivals and cheese rituals get into full swing.

This content was published on September 13, 2000 minutes

Nowhere is the return of the cows such a colourful affair as in the eastern region of Appenzell, where many towns and villages hold their annual cattle fairs.

Farmers, in traditional costume, lead their herds into the town squares where the cows are judged for their beauty. A wreath of paper flowers is tied to the horns of the winning bovine.

In the Justis Valley in the Bernese Oberland, alpine farmers take part in another age-old ritual - the distribution of cheese (September 22). Every cow owner receives a quantity of cheese commensurate with the volume of milk his herd has produced. A large festival accompanies the event.

An autumn market is held over the following two days (September 23 - 24) at the Ballenberg open-air museum for rural culture. All the products on sale at the market are made using traditional means at the museum located above Lake Brienz.

Further west, connoisseurs are spoiled for choice when it comes to grape harvest festivals. The villages on the northwest shore of Lake Biel hold their festivities over five successive Sundays starting in mid-September.

The picturesque village of Berg am Irchel in Zurich's wine region holds its festival on September 23 - 24. This year the celebrations are particularly special as they also mark the village's 900th birthday.

Most of the other grape harvest festivals take place on the last Sunday of September or the first Sunday of October. High on the list are two festivals in the heart of Switzerland's wine growing region - in Sierre in canton Valais and Morges on Lake Geneva.


Out & About in Switzerland is updated regularly to keep you informed of upcoming events, which may provide a different insight into the country and its people.

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