My Emmental Exhibition

Photos & Stories on the Banks of the River Emme

Aug 18, 2017 · 4 min read

Come visit my exhibition along the banks of the river Emme. It will stand through summers and winters, rain and snow, waiting for you.

The exhibition on the banks of the river Emme. Click to zoom

Start at Hotel Kemmeriboden-Bad, famous for its meringue made by my friend Stein Chrigu. The photos and stories are on a new hiking path that runs between the hotel and the river. You will find photos in the restaurant too, and throughout the hotel. And many more here on this site, and on Facebook and Twitter. Follow me as I tell the stories of people and the land, all bound by a river that has its source somewhere between these mountains just behind the exhibit.

Alphorn players open the exhibition at Hotel Kemmeriboden-Bad

Where exactly it begins is a mystery: a no-man’s land of many sources and mountains that few people have heard of. And from these obscure origins, the Emme flows down the valley, or Tal, lending it its name: Emmental.

And yet, turn away from all this and you’re in another world: deep in the mountains where the Emme is only a cold stream so thin you could stop it with a few stones, a land of rock and snow and farmers so rugged it is referred to by other Swiss as the Wild West of the country. Earringed men whose children wrestle for sport; farmers who gather monthly to dance, stone-faced, to alp music; prefer their coffee with apple schnapps and their deserts with meringue.

Locals at the opening: Lehmeli Chrigu, the man of clay; the alphorn player; Hans Klötzli, who loves his cow Arve; Mösti, who dreams of France

On the slopes of the alps are the farmhouses called Älplis: massive, centuries-old structures made of wood turned gray in the sun. The Älplis were, for thousands of years, lived in during the summer, when the mountain slopes were green, and abandoned in the winter, when the farmers would take their cows down to the villages on the valley floor, while the Älplis were cut off by snow.

And while many have settled permanently in villages, there are still those who make this annual migration that is at the heart of Swiss life, economy and culture.

Rösi, who left the mountain peak for a husband on the valley floor, looks at my photo of her grandson

This is how they survived. For long before the Swiss became rich, they were poor, on scraps of barely-accessible land, unusable under snow for half the year. This is where they made their cheese each summer: simple, hard and dry. And this is where they had time. Time and reason to develop specialized skills that would one day be sold to the world. Because without that there was nothing, just the Älplis on the alps.

And this is that story, on the alps, today.

Somewhere between the peaks of the Hohgant and the Augstmatthorn, somewhere over the sources of the Emme that start somewhere under the Emmental.

Dänu, the oldest man in Schangnau and one of my favorite subjects; Reto Invernizzi, the seventh-generation owner of the hotel; me.
Reto with Berti
Charlotte with Wernu at his hut at the source of the Emme, where he shares apple schnapps with me
Veronika with her daughters at the opening
Veronika with her favorite buffalo. And me
With Schwand Fridu of Baumgarten
Veronika, Mosti and Marianne
With Münchi Hansu
With Lehmeli Chrigu and Järmann Sämu
With Klötz Hansu
With Erika & Chrigu, with the photo of her Bretzelis
With Hans Schenk the Wedele maker, and his wife
With Bernu, who prefers Rita
Bernu and his grandfather Dänu

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