This past September, for the third consecutive year, the tiny Alpine skiing village of Gstaad, Switzerland forced cars to MOOve over as its streets became swallowed by a sea of cows. In one of the world’s most unique festivals, farmers shared the special moment of bringing their cows down for their alpine descent with the entire town.
One step off the train platform to Gstaad and you are instantly hit with the fresh mountain air of a town seated at an elevation of 1050m ASL. The picturesque ride to this city provides cross-country views of green grasses and rolling hills that stretch as far as the eyes can see. Typically known as a winter destination, given its location nestled neatly between the Swiss Alps, the fall season offers festivities just as surreal as the surrounding slopes—one prime example being the Gstaad Züglete.
The Cow Parade
Standing alongside the promenade during this festival, the ringing that can be heard in the distance is not that of wind chimes. Cows adorned in floral arrangements and multi-sized bells process proudly down the streets while occasionally stopping to pose for passersby. Witnessing this bovine waltz whilst dining on Swiss wine and cheese is a true combination of both culinary and cultural delight.
What to Do
For those interested in venturing beyond the town’s main square, the surrounding area offers activities galore. When the snow has yet to fall, hiking trails abound the region and numerous spas offer the opportunity to, quite literally, soak in a well-being mountain escape. The culinary minded individuals can combine their love for the outdoors by strapping on their ‘Fondue Backpack’ and heading to Fondueland.
Though it sounds like a theme park, the only ride to be taken there will be done by the taste buds of visitors. An open-air eating experience that combines the typography of the immediate landscape with the delight of dining on delicious local fondue. To round out a fall stay in this panoramic paradise, the Menuhin Festival provides first-rate musical performances nightly throughout the summer and fall seasons.
Where to Stay
In a region where there are just as many cows as people, don’t let the population of less than 10,000 inhabitants mislead you—you definitely won’t be staying in a barn (unless you choose to) during a trip to Gstaad. With luxury properties such as Park Gstaad, The Alpina, and my personal favorite, Le Grand Bellevue; world class accommodation can be found throughout the area.
It’s fitting that the city motto of Gstaad is, “come up, slow down” because with so much to do and so little time, why not escape to a place that seemingly causes clocks to momentarily stop.