Descending into a picture-postcard Rougemont, Switzerland, Margaret McGuire comes face to face with the bucolic beauty and growling cows who reportedly produce the best quality milk in the world.
So there I was, standing in the middle of a Swiss dairy farm, surrounded by mountains and admiring the lush pastures and the freshest, cleanest air imaginable when I was monstered by a herd of cows.
Huge cows. Eye-rolling cows. And I swear, one of them growled at me.
My hosts said it was just a tummy rumble, but I doubt that – those cows wanted me out of their way so they could go back to grazing on the summer alpine flowers and grasses which make Swiss cheese so utterly delectable, and I wasn’t about to stand in their way.
Cows here know their place and it’s at the top of the animal ladder, so much so that when the Swiss government wanted to honour Roger Federer, they gave him a cow.
I found myself in Rougemont, in the Pays-D’Enhaut area, almost by accident. I decided that a hot-air balloon flight over this very rural region of Switzerland would be just the thing for a woman with a fear of heights. The farm visit was an entertaining detour.
There are loads of farms across the country that are open to the public, where you can get up close and personal with the animals that produce what some say is the best quality milk in the world.
Many offer up the opportunity to feed the cows, watch them being milked, and even sample their wares, fresh from the source.
The village of Rougemont itself is captivating.
Traditional chalet architecture has been lovingly preserved. The façades of the buildings are protected by local law, so the result is picture perfect.
Window boxes overflow with flowers, and decorative detailing on the chalets includes the dates they were built, while all around the mountains seem to hover protectively.
The end of summer is celebrated in this region with a procession and festival as the cows leave their alpine pastures to spend the winter in the valley.
Decorated with garlands of flowers, they make their stately way through the streets while leaving plenty of evidence of their passing – watch your step.
This end-of-summer event includes entertainment and the chance to taste the local cheese, which is delicious!
At the restaurant Le Chalet in Chateau-d’Oex, you can see the cheese being made over an open fire while sampling other local products.
But my favourite spot in Rougemont is the church of Saint Nicolas. Built in the 11th century, around the time the village was established, it breathes peace and serenity.
Light through the stained-glass windows burnishes the arched stone pillars with jewel colours that glow in the dim interior.
Of course, there are plenty of outdoor activities on offer here too, but if you just love a sojourn in the country and a glimpse of rural life lived at a slower pace, complete with growling cows, then this little corner of the world is well worth a visit.