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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Sigriswil, Switzerland - Chästeilet Justistal Parting of the Cheese in the Justistal

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

The Chästeilet, parting of the cheese, event in the Justis Valley is famous well beyond the borders of the Canton. It has been held since 1739.

For almost 300 years, the traditional Chästeilet has been held on the Spycherberg in the Justis Valley. Over the summer the alpine farmers make cheese from the milk of more than 250 cows. The cows themselves belong to the farmers from the municipality of Sigriswil. At the end of the summer, the cheese is divided up among the farmers, hence the name “Chästeilet”, according to a century-old ritual. After the ceremony the alpine dairy farmers dressed in traditional costume lead the procession back down to the valley, with the cattle equally adorned.

I caught the #21 bus at 8:01 AM from the Interlaken West Train Station, in the direction of Thun. The bus took me along the winding road which was close to the water. After 20 stops, I reached Gunten Dorf where I caught the #25 bus in the direction of Sigriswil. Up the hill we went. At Sigriswil Dorf, I waited in a long line to board a chartered bus to take me high, high, high up to the Justistal. The road is extremely narrow and they don't want people whom have been drinking to drive on the road.

Some views out the bus window while we drove up to the Justistal.

Once we reached the place where the bus dropped us off, we still had to climb to reach where the cheese parting was to take place.

The farmers, whose cows were up in the Justistal all summer, drove up in their decorated tractors, trucks, etc.

A very large crowd had gathered to watch the different cheese houses part their cheese.

There was entertainment: yodelers, alpen horn playing, etc.

This was the first of the cheese houses to part their cheese.

Planks are laid out. They use a bucket brigade to move the cheese out. They stack the larger and heavier wheels on the bottom and work up.

The black numbers are the weight of the wheel and the bluish numbers are the date the wheel was made. Younger cheese is lighter in color. The darker the outside rind color, the older the cheese.

Always time for a little refreshment.

They stack all the cheese wheels. They were stacked 7 high.

All the farmers names are placed in a bag. They randomly pick out a name. Read it aloud and place the marker on the stack.

The older gentleman made a speech. The two younger men were given a round of applause as they were the ones whom stayed up with the cows over the summer and made the cheese. Since they were the cheese makers, they were given the honor of placing the names on the stacks.

Then, each farmer found his stacks and took his cheese.

This farmer was adding up the weight of all his wheels.

This husband and wife parted the cheese from another cheese house.

These were stacked 8 high. This couple kept chickens up at the Justistal during the summer. They wanted to sell the chickens before the parting. One man made an offer as he thought they were kidding. Actually, they weren't.

This man made the speech for the house with the couple.

This man bought the wheel from her.

Men carry their wheels to their wagons.

This cheese house drew the largest crowd to watch the parting. I think this is the oldest of the cheese houses.

Some families had lunch.

Some of the farmers sold their cheese.

There were posters with next year's Chästeilet Justistal date.

Walking down to the bus was easier. A large percentage of people only chose to ride up to the event. They decided to walk back to Sigriswil or to hike one of the other paths.

I stopped at the little festival back in Sigriswil. It is where most of the people whom were up at the Justistal ended up.

I had to try their apple tarts. Quite different than what I had at Ballenberg.

I sat next to some people and had a wonderful time talking with them and listening to the music. They told me there was going to be an Alpabzug, the cows coming from high in the Justistal to the farms at the bottom of the hill. With nothing better to do, I waited. I saw the cows from one of the houses quickly parade through. The cow's headdresses aren't as ornate as those from Interlaken.

Unfortunately, it started raining so I decided to call it a day before seeing the rest of the cows come down.

View from the bus stop in Sigriswil looking up at the Justistal.

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