Friday, September 5, 2008

Day Four: They have pioneer villages in Europe!

Ballenberg is an open air museum consisting of just over a hundred buildings of different architectural styles that have been moved from all parts of Switzerland. If you think of it, Swiss culture is made up of hundreds of communities living in valleys, isolated from each other by mountains. While there are a lot of similarities, there are also a lot of differences and Ballenberg is the place to come and see this firsthand. It consists of 33 hectares of land split into different geographical categories: the Jura (mountain range to the North in Switzerland), 4 different Midlands areas, 4 different alpine regions, and the Italian part. In each section there is at least one "atelier" or workshop, where you can see people in historical garb doing historical things. Of course historical in Europe takes on a whole new meaning!

My favourite was the a farmhouse from the Bernese Midlands where some man gave my small children nails and a hammer to test the relative hardness of 3 types of wood. I would never have let my sons do that on my own, but they were fully capable of discovering and exploring and banging (with proper supervision). There was also a set up for planing wood. Yes, a single, sharp blade that one uses to shave wood into various intricate designs and I allowed my precious angels to wield this blade all by themselves. I was being very brave! C's favourite was in the Ticino (Italian) part where there was a display about silk making, complete with live silk worms, moths, and silk cocoons that the kids (and parents) could pick up and investigate.

Honestly, this place is beyond huge. It is not possible to see it all in one go. I think the ideal way to see it would be on a school trip or as part of a tour, let someone else guide you through this humungous endeavor. I did find it a little difficult that everything was in German with very few descriptions being in French and Italian. If one were to come independently, it would certainly be a good idea to try to plan out a route beforehand to optimize exposure while minimizing all the walking!

This was the site of the first of 2 major L freak-outs. At the admission the customers receive a name-tag type sticker, presumably so security could do controls for people sneaking in. I would venture that over an area of 33 hectares there might be one or two places to try to avoid paying the entrance fee. Seeing our two small children the cashier wrote out their names on some spare stickers and a little drawing for them. How dare she! L LOST it! Putting a sticker on your clothes was tantamount to....well....something very bad. My guess is that he has been warned against putting stickers on fabric at home as the stickers will lose their stick, and this translated to the current situation as being a very bad idea. Anyhoo, during the yelling, screaming, and crying (the sticker was quickly banished to my purse, but the damage had been done), the Swiss air-force began flying maneuvers right over the park. Normally I would think a 4 year old boy would love to see fighter jets in action, doing flips, flying in formation, soaring loudly above. It was the loudly that put L back over the edge, or rather kept him on that other, bad side, of the edge. The tantrum, and the fighter jets eventually calmed down and by the time we found some of the farm animals, L was happy and exploring again. Afterward, he really liked all the exhibitions and climbing through all the old buildings. Perhaps he just needed to let off a little steam and stress from the first 3 days of our inaugural camping trip.

All in all though, I would like to go again sometime. Now that I know what to expect, I would make my own little commentary guide from the descriptions on the website and plan a walking route from the online map to see the many things we were unable to see the first time.

Next up....Lucerne and Mount Pilatus!


Betsy said...

What an enviable life you lead. I just popped over here from Momformation, where I do some blogging. I am curious about your experience of living abroad, I'm only assuming you are American, am I right?) with your family. We are contemplating a temporary move to France and while I'm truly excited, I am also very apprehensive.

Mama P said...

This is incredible! Love the photos. This blog... oh my god... I am loving it. I, like Betsy, write at Momformation. Thanks for your comment!