I was feeling delightfully alpen, as we roamed and wandered (and wondered about) our route home during our last few days in Switzerland. Most of the airports in Europe were closed due to volcano smoke.
The early people of the Alps led nomadic lives, roaming, with their animals, to the grassiest parts of their seasonal mountain pastures.
The herdsmen would begin following their herds up the mountains in the spring, after the snows had melted and the grasses were starting to grow. The animals were of high importance to the people of pastural societies, because their dairy products (milk, butter, yogurt and cheese) were a major part of their diets.
In the fall, when the weather cooled, they would move back down to the valley. All of the grasses which had grown in the lowlands over the summer were cut and stored for the livestock to eat through the winter months.
We loved the pastural scenery as we drove up winding, narrow roads to get to the hamlet of Reidji in the Swiss canton of Valais. The green slopes were accented with dark wooden structures, huts where the people and their animals stay during the summer months.
The structures are made of wood harvested from the hills, and beautifully weathered over the ages.
Stones were used to enforce the foundations,
and flat pieces of slate cover the roofs.
Today, the high hamlets are used more as summer homes, and oftentimes have modern conveniences.
On our visit, the soil was well tended and prepared for seed.
A scattering of wild crocus were pushing up through the grasses.
and the first nubs of rhubarb were unfurling and reaching for the sun.
A good supply of perfectly cut wood was on hand for heat and cooking.
In the spring and summer, the trails between these hamlets are popular for hiking.
Green and rolling, the trails do beckon,
signs lead the way.
On neighboring hills, pastures were being prepared. The terrain is extremely steep, but the soil is well watered from the snow pack and there is plenty of sun through the summer months.
What a treat it was to have an extra day to explore the lifestyle of the people of the Alps.