29 April 2007

Experience the Past at Ballenberg

Yesterday GLH and I journeyed into the past. And it was only about an hour away!

We went to the Ballenberg Freilicht Museum (Ballenberg Open Air Museum), a collection of rural Swiss architecture spread across 200 acres in a beautiful, wooded setting. Near Brienz in the Aare River Valley, Ballenberg is truly a worthwhile experience. It is easily accessible by car or public transportation (trains from Luzern and Interlaken several times a day). Situated near Interlaken and completely surrounded by the Alps, the views are stunning.

Heck, even the view from parking lot is amazing!

The Ballenberg's collection is comprised of traditional Swiss rural architecture from the different regions of Switzerland. The approximately 100 buildings exhibited here were in danger of being demolished. Instead, they were painstakingly taken apart and the pieces carefully numbered before being transported to the museum grounds, put together again and restored after extensive research on their historical significance.

The buildings are grouped by region into one of thirteen "villages" with paths leading through the woods to connect the areas. I highly recommend you bring your walking shoes as the museum's grounds stretch more than 3 kilometers from the east to the west entrances. And this being Switzerland, there are always hills to climb!

Although a number of the paths are wheelchair accessible and a map is provided to lead visitors with disabilities through the more accessible areas.

Any preceived notions about all traditional Swiss architecture looking like a Swiss Chalet are dispelled. After all, Switzerland was influenced by multiple cultures and what we think of as a Swiss Chalet is typical only in Central Switzerland (in the alps around Interlaken). And architecture from the French and Italian areas is extremely different from what is found in the German areas.

Farmhouse from Ostermundigen, Canton Bern

In addition, Ballenberg is not just about the buildings. Inside the buildings you will not only examples of traditional crafts, but individuals who still create those items hard at work. Most of those we saw were multi-lingual and more than happy to explain what they are doing. Visitors can even sign up for classes on everything from pottery to lace making to woodwork with classes taught in multiple languages and intended for all age groups.

And as this showcases Rural Switzerland, there are more than 250 animals living on the grounds...

And a few that are no longer living, such as this Bernese Mountain dog...
Although the dogs are still extremely popular throughout Switzerland and the museum regularly has events showcasing their talents.
We were at the museum for nearly three hours and we only saw a segment of it.

We fully intend to go again and enter the museum from the other entrance. In addition, we have found a fascinating and engaging museum which we can take visitors. It is even relatively inexpensive. Inexpensive compared to other Swiss attractions, of course!

Here are a few more photos:

Close Up of New Shingles

Dining area of large farmhouse from Villars-Bremard, Canton Vaud

Courtyard of Farmstead from Novazzano, Canton Ticino

Collection of Cow Bells:


Un-Swiss Miss said...

This place has been on my to-visit list for a while. Thanks for reminding me of it! I don't particularly care for Interlaken, which feels completely artificial to me, but nearby Thun has lovely charming parks (not to mention a castle). And there are some ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR views if you drive (or bike) on the north shore of Lake Thun, between the two towns.

Expat Traveler said...

yes this place is amazing! I almost took P in 2005 while we were in the area but it was just too much for 3 days to do stuff...

Awesome pics! We truly love this area a lot.

Kirk said...

Unfortunately we never made it to Ballenberg, but maybe that's for the best because I probably would have tried to abscond with one of those cowbells and don't imagine the Polizei would have been too happy about that...