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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Ballenberg, Switzerland

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

Ballenberg is an open-air museum that displays traditional buildings and architecture from all over the country. Located near Brienz in the municipality of Hofstetten bei Brienz, Ballenberg has over 100 original buildings that have been transported from their original sites.

In addition to the main attraction of the buildings themselves, some of the industrial and crafting buildings still operate to give demonstrations of traditional rural crafts, techniques and cheese making. There is also a sizable number of farmyard animals on the grounds.

The museum features buildings from all over the country and has structures from almost all the 26 cantons.The buildings are set in surroundings appropriate to their type (farm buildings surrounded by small fields etc.) with pathways snaking across the 660,000 square meter (164 acre) site. Most buildings allow the visitor to walk around the rooms, each recreated from the time period of the building or brought over wholesale when the building was transplanted.

The museum is divided into the various regions of Switzerland with the structures carefully chosen to give a view of traditional architecture from those areas. The regions represented are:

  • Alpine - the higher mountain areas of the cantons of Bern, Graubünden, Nidwalden, Obwalden and Valais

  • Bernese Midlands - from the central region of the Canton of Bern.

  • Bernese Oberland - the higher areas of southern Canton of Bern.

  • Central Midlands - the central region of the Canton of Aargau.

  • Central Switzerland - cantons of Nidwalden, Obwalden and parts of Luzern, Schwyz, Uri and Zug.

  • East Midlands - the Canton of Zurich and some areas of the cantons of Schaffhausen and Thurgau.

  • Eastern Switzerland - the central valley areas of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden and St. Gallen.

  • Jura - the central regions of the cantons of Jura, Neuchâtel and the northern areas of Vaud.

  • The Valais - the valley areas of the Canton of Valais.

  • Ticino - the central areas of Ticino.

  • West Midlands - central Fribourg and Vaud.

Every year there is a theme and this year's was all about the cow.

What would Swiss postcards be without their favorite subject, the cow! It’s not only in photos that this animal is of great importance, it is almost impossible to imagine the past and the present without it. The stories about it are as multifaceted as this farm animal itself. That’s why this year at Ballenberg everything revolves around the cow. This was an informative exhibition.

Beautiful butter molds.

Of course, the other animals that inhabit Ballenberg shouldn’t be forgotten. A total of 250 domestic farm animals can be found on site and they cluck, bleat or grunt like crazy.

Can you spot the runt in the litter?

For some reason, I like this picture.

There is a large variety of activities for children to participate in.

You put a 5 CHF in and move the bowl around. It makes a unique sound. Sometimes they play this when the alpen horn is played.

There were different demonstrations you could watch.

He was smoking sausage in one of the farm houses. They then sell it in the store along with the fresh bread the baker just made, the aged cheese they made, etc.

You can walk through the herb and plant garden and find something that might be of help if you are feeling ill.

Can you guess what plant you are sniffing?

There are beautiful old buildings you may walk through.

You can make your own butter by vigorously shaking some cream in a glass container and then enjoy your butter on some fresh baked bread.

Learn about thatched roofs.

Learn how they dried fruit.

What is the importance of bees to farmers?

Do you know what this is? In the Alps, sheaves of grain were hung to dry on construction resembling gymnastic wall bars. The racks, which are seven to ten meters in height are held in place by wooden posts sunk vertically into the ground. On either side diagonal posts (struts) support the frame and keep it stable.

This simple but solid construction was well known among farmers.

Good fences make good neighbors!

They used a 100 year old press to squeeze the juice from the different varieties of pear and apples grown on the grounds.

We are in the beginning of chestnut season. You can learn how they roasted chestnuts.

There are many plants to take pictures of.

Many paths to wander on.

There were times I just wanted to take a picture of something I had seen.

There was a Fall market today. So many homemade things to looks at and to purchase. There are so many talented people.

A group of ladies were selling apple fritters or as I call them: apple tarts. The smell and taste brought back so many childhood memories. Apple tarts were a Fall favorite of mine.

Topped with cinnamon and sugar

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