Discovering the Swiss Alps Part 2: Feutersoey & Gstaad

gumm mountain swiss alps

Sunday morning, Julian and I woke up at the crack of dawn to visit our friend Linda Bach at her home in the Swiss Alps. Linda grew up in a village called Feutersoey in the mountains outside of the posh ski resort town of Gstaad. Her family owns a dairy farm there, making Linda a real-life cowgirl. We met Linda in college at the University of Virginia. Since moving to Switzerland, we had hoped our paths would cross. Last weekend, the stars finally aligned. Linda was home from Oxford for the weekend and she invited us to spend the day at her home. Though she’s currently busy writing her thesis, she generously offered to show us the wonders of life in the Swiss Alps. Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity!

Cheese please!

First on the day’s agenda was cheesemaking. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we hopped in the car and headed towards Gstaad. As we grew nearer, the scenery became more and more majestic. I especially loved the traditional Alpine chalets with sloped roofs and intricate woodwork dotting the lush, green mountains. Two hours later, we had arrived in Gstaad. We met Linda outside of town and followed her car up the steep, winding roads to the Bach’s mountain house.

gstaad alps countryside

Annual Move to the Mountain House

During the summer months, the Bach family moves from their chalet in the valley to their mountain house for the cheese-making season. Summer is considered the best season for cheese production because temperatures allow cows to graze on flowers, herbs, and clover, producing a milk of excellent quality which makes for very flavorful cheese. In keeping with Alpine tradition, this move is made with much pomp and circumstance. With the arrival of summer, the Bach’s strap elaborate ceremonial bells on their 130 cows and take them up the mountain. These big bells cost upwards of $1000 apiece and they are Linda’s father’s pride and joy. When the cows arrive at their summer home, the bells are proudly displayed under the eaves.

swiss mountain chalet cow bells

The Bach’s prized cowbells proudly hung under the eaves of their mountain house

swiss mountain chalet

Linda, her mother, and their dog Suki outside of their mountain house

Cheese Making Process

The cheese making process begins with an early wake up call to milk the cows. Afterwards, the fresh morning milk is mixed with the milk from the evening before and poured into a large stainless steel cheese vat. Next, enzymes are mixed in with the milk to cause it to curdle. After about 30 to 40 minutes, a jelly-like mass appears and the milk has curdled. The curdled milk is then broken up into small pieces using a cheese harp.  These pieces are then heated slowly and stirred constantly. Once the desired temperature has been reached, the vat is switched off and a cheesecloth is dipped in the vat to separate the curdled milk from the whey, or the watery part (Photo 1). Next, the curdled milk is lifted out of the vat (Photo 2) and pressed into molds (Photo 3). After a day, the cheese is taken out of the mold and stored during which time the cheese ferments and gets its distinctive flavor (Photo 4).

cheese making swiss alps

Photo 1

cheese making swiss alps

Photo 2

cheese making swiss alps

Photo 3

cheese making swiss alps

Photo 4

The Bach’s recommend eating their cheese after it’s been stored for a year. Their personal favorite, however, is three year old cheese. The cheese they produce is known simply as Swiss Mountain Cheese and it tastes similar to Parmesan. Each summer, the Bach’s produce about 8 tons of it. In the fall, they sell it and make a seriously good profit.

Farm-to-Table Lunch

Once the cheese was taken care of, Linda’s mother graciously invited us for lunch. The meal consisted of ham from a local pig, fresh bread baked by a neighbor, salad from their garden, and, of course, their cheese. Everything was, in the truest sense, farm to table. In Switzerland, almost all of the food you buy is certified organic and hormone-free but this was on another level. After lunch came dessert— an almond cake with Linda’s favorite treat, fresh, homemade cream. I had never tasted cream like that before. It was thick and less sweet than I’m accustomed to but absolutely delicious.

Hike up Gumm Mountain

After lunch, it was time for a hike. The forecast was (once again) calling for thunderstorms in the afternoon and so we decided on a relatively short hike. Linda led the way with her beloved, and extremely photogenic, dog Suki by her side. We hiked through her family’s property, ascending Gumm mountain until we reached the top. At the top, there is a low rock wall marking the entrance into French-speaking Switzerland. I found it fascinating that on the same mountain there are two different communities, languages, and customs with little interaction between the two.

gumm mountain swiss alps dog

gumm mountain swiss alps dog

Suki is always ready for her close-up

gumm mountain swiss alps

gumm mountain swiss alps sign wall

Wall between French speaking and German speaking Switzerland

The view from the top was stunning and we stopped for a few minutes just to take it all in. As we stood there, the sun came out and illuminated the valley below. Once again, the weather gods had looked kindly upon us and we thanked our lucky stars!!

gumm mountain swiss alps

gumm mountain swiss alps panorama

Getting Cozy with the Cows

On the way down, we took a different route to visit the cows grazing in a nearby field. As we approached, the cows eyed us warily. But gradually, curiosity overcame them and they edged nearer. The feeling was mutual as I was a little apprehensive of their horns, not to mention the sheer size of them (I swear they’re bigger than American cows), but Linda assured me they wouldn’t hurt a fly. With her encouragement, I reached out and let them sniff and lick my hand.

gumm mountain swiss alps cows

gumm mountain swiss alps cows

gumm mountain swiss alps cows dog

gumm mountain swiss alps wildflowers

Back at the mountain house, we peeked in the barn to see the pregnant cows. They were absolutely mammoth! I would not want to mess with one of them.

swiss alps cows pregnant

The Bach’s give every cow a name reflecting their distinctive personalities

Mountains Goats and Marmots

Hearing that there were Steinbock mountain goats on the adjacent mountain, we grabbed the binoculars for a closer look. With the binoculars, we could make out about a half dozen of them and their imposing horns on the apex of the mountain. We also saw some marmots, a small animal similar to a groundhog, and their pups running to and from their dens. Julian decided to fly his drone for an even closer look. While he couldn’t get close enough to take a good picture of the wildlife, he did get some great shots of the lush green mountains and valleys.

gumm mountain swiss alps aerial drone

gumm mountain swiss alps aerial drone chalet

The Bach’s mountain house from above

gumm mountain swiss alps aerial drone

Gstaad — Ski Resort of the Rich & Famous 

After saying goodbye to Linda’s parents, we headed down the mountain to the town of Gstaad. Since the 60s, Gstaad has been a popular destination for the rich and famous to ski and vacation away from the spotlight. Madonna, Kofi Annan, Valentino, Prince Charles and Princess Diana are just a few who have frequented Gstaad over the years. Today, Gstaad is more popular than ever among international jetsetters and it’s easy to see why. In Gstaad, we walked through the charming streets and I couldn’t get over the fact that the banks, restaurants, and stores are all housed in the most adorable chalets.

gstaad palace hotel

Famous Gstaad Palace hotel in the background

gstaad bank chalet

gstaad louis vuitton chalet

gstaad church

I would’ve loved to have spent more time in this town. Unfortunately, Julian and I needed to get on the road. Our weekend in the Swiss Alps had come to an end all too soon. However, our short time there opened my eyes to just how stunning Switzerland is. I can’t believe it took me until the end of my stay to discover the natural wonders of Switzerland! But I leave eager to return one day to see more of this beautiful country.

If you missed Part 1 of the Discovering the Swiss Alps Series about our day trip to beautiful Interlaken and Adelboden, you can read it here!

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5 Comments

  1. Jaime Ash
    October 23, 2017 / 10:16 pm

    On a trip to France in 2013 my wife and I met and befriended someone named Julian Bach who ran and managed a cheese store in Paris named “Au Petit Frommager” and who seemed to have roots or connections to the Swiss Alps and to Palo Alto, CA. We lost contact with him, as he no longer was at that store in 2014, when we visited Paris again. I am wondering if he is the same Julian you mention in your blog – do you know or can find out?

  2. August 28, 2017 / 1:08 pm

    The Swiss Alps is truly majestic. My ski adventure in Swiss is one of the best experiences of my life.

    • Sarah Daisey
      Author
      April 29, 2018 / 11:43 pm

      Skiing in the Alps must be incredible, I’d love to do that one day but first I’d better improve my skiing!

  3. Betsy clark
    July 19, 2017 / 8:38 pm

    Adorable cow with bell! Is the dog licking the cow or the cow licking the dog, I wonder?

    • sarahdaisey
      Author
      July 26, 2017 / 4:06 pm

      Haha I’d say the dog is licking the cow!

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