First blog post!
To cap off my first week in Geneva, I attended the 30th Désalpe celebration in nearby St-Cergue. Désalpes is a rather Swiss festival, celebrated every year at the end of September or in early October. Throughout the summer, Swiss herds graze in high mountain pastures, and at the end of summer the herds are paraded down the mountains (hence Désalpe) to spend the winter months in low-lying valleys. For the festival, the cows are bedecked in flowers, with enormous bells hung around their necks, and locals and visitors alike cheer on the herds. These Alpine festivals also feature costumed Saint Bernards, music, Swiss crafts, and food. Many areas of Switzerland have Désalpe celebrations, called Alpabzug in German-speaking areas.
The passage des troupeaux was scheduled to occur from 8:30am to 12:30pm, but seeing as St-Cergue was at least an hour away by transit (and it would be my first time riding train here in Switzerland), I knew I wouldn’t get there to see the first cows. Public transit (TPG) was also a bit more complicated than usual due to La Saga des Géants, a public art exhibition occurring throughout Geneva this weekend (which everyone is talking about!). The route of the giant marionettes impacted my usual bus station, so I headed out from Athénée to the main train station, Gare Cornavin. From the train station, I would take a train to Nyon, and then a smaller train from Nyon to St-Cergue. (In total, my public transporation costs were 42.40 CHF for this outing.)
The fifteen-minute train ride around Lac Leman to St-Cergue was beautiful, with views of the lake, the Alps, farmland, and fall colors. The forty-minute train to St-Cergue was absolutely packed, mostly with families (many English-speaking) headed to Désalpes.
At St-Cergue I was able to see the last flock, belonging to the Morax brothers, parade around the town center, and enjoy the other festival activities: Swiss yodelers, a man carving wooden sculptures with a chainsaw, display of cowbells from years past, Saint Bernards tugging small wagons, and the many craft and food displays. As a vegan, the stalls featuring local cheeses didn’t tempt me, but I’m sure omnivores would enjoy partaking in the fresh grilled cheese sandwiches and other Swiss fare!
I bought a beautiful postcard and bookmark featuring cowherds by Swiss artist Catherine Schmidt, and a miniature cowbell for a Christmas present for my nephew.
A few transportation tips: the TPG machines (for busses within Geneva) are known for not giving change, so make sure to have the exact coins for your fare (you’ll need 3CHF for each way, or 10CHF for a day card). The ‘Maps’ app that comes standard with iOS will not aid you in finding busses in Geneva, nor will it help you find your way to bus stops. Instead, use Google Maps for both these things. But I also suggest downloading the TPG app, which will help you to plan bus routes and, unlike Google Maps, will let you know if there are interruptions, and reroute you away from your regular stop if it isn’t currently in use (as was the case for me). For more information on using public transportation in Geneva, see these blog posts: on busses in Geneva, and on riding Swiss trains.
For more on Désalpes at St-Cergue: go to St-Cergue’s website here.
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