GenevaLunch photo albums: Grimentz désalpe (cows come down from the high alps), with 40 images of this picture-book town in September and Geo Chavez centenary celebrations of first flight over the Alps
(Update) Brig and Grimentz, canton Valais, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Tourists flocked to Valais over the weekend for a series of events that had one thing in common, motion.
Cold weather, rain and snow at higher altitudes closed the Furka, Grimsel and Nufennan passes, but the valleys thrummed with activity.
The centenary of the first airplane flight over the Alps took place near Brig and the skies were speckled with antique planes to commemorate French-Peruvian adventurer Geo Chavez’s feat.
The cows came down from the high alps to Grimentz, the traditional désalpe, decked out in flower headdresses. And hundreds of people flocked to watch the last fighting cows match of the season at the arena in Raron.
Cows come home for the winter: in Valais, a local fete rather than tourist event
The Grimentz désalpe is a fete for the locals, rather than tourists, when the short black Val d’Herens breed of cows come down the steep mountainside to the village where they winter.
The old village, one of the most charming in central canton Valais because of the number and good condition of its tightly-packed wooden houses, attracts tourists year-round. The autumn return of the cows remains primarily a local affair, however, with a parade of cows bedecked in ribbons and flower hats that have been carefully prepared by the smallholders who own the animals.
Traditional clothes are pulled out of the closet with equal care and Alpine horns, yodeling and traditional singing accompany the cows to the bottom of the village, where cheese and sausage and local wines are served.
Fighting cows meet for the final match of the season
Another Valais tradition is in no danger of dying out: matches between fighting cows, the Val d’Herens breed, take place in arenas from April to late September. The cows, left to themselves, fight in fields every Spring to determine the leader of the herd, the toughest but also the smartest, as a rule—the cow that will lead the others to the best grazing areas, who knows the mountain. This breed gives smaller quantities of milk than many, but the cows are treasured as excellent animals for handling the mountains. And betting on the animals when they fight in an arena is a popular tradition.
Rarogne’s outdoor arena Sunday 26 September was packed with hundreds of spectators to watch what turned out to be a fine show: Bambino fought several adversaries for nearly three-quarters of an hour, an unusually long session, even flipping one of the other cows, before she gave in to Santano.
The two have now qualified for the 2011 finals, which means they won’t be worn out by early Spring qualifying matches, which they can skip to build up their strength.
Geo Chavez left an Alpine flying legacy: “Higher. Always higher”
Jorge Chavez Dartnell, also known as Geo Chavez, was a 23-year-old French-Peruvian pilot and adventurer when he stepped into his Blériot XI plane in Brig 27 September 1910 to fly over the Alps to Domodossola, Italy.
An Italian flying club was offering $20,000 to the first person to fly over the Alps, at a time when gaining altitude in planes was one of the key challenges.
Chavez made it over, but crashed on landing in the Italian town. He was conscious, but died four days later from major loss of blood.
His last words were reportedly “Higher. Always higher.” He has since become an icon in the world of flying.
Flying clubs from several countries gathered in force 23-26 September in the Brig-Simplon area to commemorate that first Alpine flight.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t fly over the Alps because wintry weather, with high winds, rain and snow made it too dangerous for the small craft.
Chavez would have commiserated: he tried to fly over several times in the days preceding his historic flight, but was turned back by bad weather.