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Stepping into Switzerland's rural past

The Ostermundigen House was built in 1797 (picture: swiss-image)

(Ballenberg/M. Gyger)

The Swiss open-air museum for rural culture in Ballenberg is opening its barn doors on April 14 for another season with a few sweet surprises in store.

The museum, above Lake Brienz in the Bernese Oberland, is setting up its own chocolate production line to demonstrate the chocolate-making process beginning with the cocoa bean, and ending with the bar.

And for the first time, exotic cattle will graze in the Ballenberg fields alongside indigenous breeds; brown and black Scottish Highland, Salers, Piedmontese, water buffalo and Piebald yaks.

The museum is home to around 100 rural buildings which were endangered in their original location and rebuilt at the 66-hectare Ballenberg site. They represent rural architecture from all regions of Switzerland as it was in past centuries.

Forgotten skills

In many of the buildings, visitors can observe artisans and crafts people demonstrating forgotten skills once important for the survival of the rural Swiss folk.

There are cheese and bread makers and herbal chemists, who tend their own medicinal herb garden. Not to forget the weavers, shingle makers and saddlers.

Much of what is made at Ballenberg is sold to the public.

Visitors should allow at least half a day to stroll through the grounds. They can also see the exhibits from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage.

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