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