This Jet Setter’s five star winter oasis is just as fetching in summer.
In Gstaad the resident cows wear crowns.
I see a herd of them, regal and proud, bedecked with flower diadems and festive bells, all in a line. They’re coming down the mountain after a summertime of feasting on high altitude grasses and wildflowers. They’re plump and pretty, with eyelashes longer than my own.
“Join the parade,” invites a farmer, who leads the cows to the middle of Gstaad from their hilltop pasture. As whimsically dressed as his bovines, the farmer and his family wear traditional Swiss garb—vests, buckles, felt knickers, embroidered shirts and hats. One beats on a drum; another balances a long alpenhorn on the ground; he toots an otherworldly sound from this centuries-old, indigenous instrument. Like a child in a fairytale, I yield to the enchantment, and join the fun. We march from the summit of the mountain, all the way down to the middle of Gstaad, a chalet-filled village, replete with cobbled streets. There, a throng of townsfolk and tourists welcome the cows with delight. The farmers strut proudly, receiving gifts of food and drink from the crowd. It’s end of summer. Soon, Gstaad will be sheathed in snow. So everyone—the farmers, the sophisticates, the visitors, the cheesemakers, the hoteliers—gather together to celebrate the change of seasons and the magic of the mountains in summer in a tradition known as alpine descent —or désalpe or alpabzug, depending on the language you speak. The day feels like a page from a storybook.
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June July 2019 Edition