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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Hofstetten bei Brienz, Switzerland Ballenberg Open Air Museum

Ballenberg's purpose it is to preserve historical rural edifices from all parts of Switzerland by taking them apart piece by piece and reassembling them on the grounds for everyone to visit and as a basis for scientific inquiry.

You can visit and admire over 100 rural houses and farm buildings from all over Switzerland. Magnificent farmhouses, humble workers’ quarters, alpine huts and stalls, barns, store-houses, wash-houses and drying ovens provide architectural testimony to the everyday life and rural culture of the past.

These historical buildings could not be maintained at their original location and were, therefore, carefully dismantled and transported to the museum’s 66 hectares of land to be reconstructed. Kitchens, parlors, and other quarters provide insight into the daily life of rural Switzerland.

Representative houses of the different farmhouse styles of Switzerland make up only a part of the Ballenberg. Gardens, fields, pastures and meadows, set up according to historical models, surround the farmsteads and houses. In the buildings, there are craftspeople who work with traditional tools, while various theme exhibits give you an insight into scenes of rural former days. About 250 farm animals, representing the whole gamut of native domestic animals, provide lively and interesting scenes at Ballenberg.

At the end of the 19th century, folklore museums made everyday objects and living conditions of the rural population accessible to a wider public. The systematic collection and exhibition of traditional cultural objects combined with educational goals and the emphasis on reaching a wide audience still characterizes open-air museums today.

Neither the plans for a “medieval Swiss town” at the Historical Museum of Bern nor the discussions as to whether or not the n Zurich should add rural buildings to its collection led to anything. It was not until 1963 that the Swiss Federal Council set up an expert commission to consider the possibility of creating a national open-air museum. As opposed to other locations, the site of Ballenberg managed to convince the commission members of its suitability.

In 1978, the Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum finally opened its doors and was presented to the public during a three-day celebration. After opening with 16 buildings, there were already 25 two years later and a total of 61 in 1985. Today, there are over 100 houses and other secondary buildings at Ballenberg. The basis for the academic concept of the Ballenberg Open Air Museum was the work done by farmhouse researchers in Switzerland. It was fundamental in ensuring that there was a wide choice of the most important, typically characteristic forms of houses, farmsteads and settlements in Switzerland.

The Ballenberg Swiss Open Air Museum is not only an important cultural, research and tourist institution (although it does attract about 250,000 visitors from around the world every year), but with almost 200 workers at the museum during the season, from the middle of April until the end of October, the museum ranks as one of the most important employers in the area.

Homes and interiors

In this building, you can purchase some of the herbs, seeds, medicines, herbal teas, etc. that are grown at Ballenberg.

It is quite interesting to walk through this garden. There are signs that list a medical condition and the plants and herbs that help.

It is late in the season and some of the plants look as if a frost might have gotten to them.

Love this example of a thatch roof. Half of the structure is a barn and the other half is the living quarters.

A house with a thatched roof

Wine press

Buckets to gather grapes and another example of a wine press.

These are small pressed grape residue (rape) which was later used as fuel.

Flax drying.

Smoking sausage in the combination house and barn. The barn is toward the road and the living space is in the back close to the kitchen garden.

Beautiful large house

Everything you need to do laundry.

Ready to make charcoal

Enjoyed walking through the forest to get from one section to another.

There are picnicking places. Many people bring sausages, brats, etc. from home to cook. Ballenberg provides firewood.

Demonstration of sawing wood.

Nut press to get out oil from nuts and seeds

Bone meal press. Bone meal fertilizer is essentially what it says it is. It is a meal or powder made from ground up animal bones, normally beef bones, but they can be the bones of any animal commonly slaughtered. Bone meal fertilizer is used to increase phosphorus in the garden.

Hay barn

Making rope from hemp or flax. You may purchase a jump rope or a restraint for children.

The potter's house.

The blacksmith's

Enjoyed watching Mom pig and the piglets!!!!! They loved wallowing in the mud and stepping into the whey to eat.

In this building, there is a weaving demonstration.

One of the rooms is used for the weaving demonstration.

A cheese making pot.

Grist mills grinding dinkel. Spelt, also known as dinkel wheat or hulled wheat is a species of wheat cultivated since approximately 5,000 BC.

Fast flowing water helps turn the wheel.

In 1999, Otto Zumoberhaus purchased the chapel in front of his family home in hopes of demolishing it. At the suggestion of a visiting holidaymaker, Otto contacted Ballenberg, which was looking for a religious building. The Turtig chapel was dismantled in the summer of 2000 and inaugurated on the museum grounds in the autumn of 2001.

The baroque altar comes from the private chapel of the Bishop of Sion.

The Apostle Peter and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel

Mary and the Baby Jesus in the center flanked by two bishops. The one on the left is an image of Theodul, the patron saint of the canton of Valais.

Fall is settling onto the hillsides surrounding Brienz. The yellows against the green are beautiful!

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