Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Cow Fight!

sorry I haven't made a post in a while, I've been busy adjusting to being back home!

anyway on the 13th of April....

we started the day at Bastiens mothers house for pancakes and coffee, i also tried every single jam under the sun from hazelnut to kiwi all really great and all homemade by Bastiens mum! I even got given a jar of Quince jam home with me!

we piled into two cars (Me, Bastien, Julie, Nadia, Pablo & Bastiens Mother) and set off down the straight road through the centre of the valley to a small village near sion for an afternoon of cow fighting & raclette. Both of these I knew very little about!

the place was packed with excited specatators, proud owners and of course the cows themselves, I was suprised bulls weren't the ones fighting but the local herens breed of cow is used and apparently the cows fight naturally in the mountains to establish hierarchy
 in the herd. hence the name of the sport 'combats de reines' (combat of the queens)
the prizes are shiny new bells!

its traditional for people to drink white wine and eat the mysterious local delicacy 'raclette' 
i had heard so much about whilst watching the cows fight, so we headed straight over to the food and drink tent! If i haven't mentioned already, swiss white wine is great, really fresh lots of peach and pear notes, not too dry and a great length.
They don't have much room to grow the wine though so not much gets exported, they just drink it all! Raclette turned out to be anothe cheese based meal, basically the raclette cheese is put under a heater until the top layer starts melting, this is then scraped off with a knife onto a plate, the melted cheese is served with a gherkin, some pickles and a potato. you don't need any salt but i found black pepper went down a treat! Raclette is even more localised than fondue, being a completely Valaisian tradition (Valais, the region of switzerland i spent most of my time in!)

this is pablo eating raclette!

Then it was up to the arena where we found some wooden supports on a hill to sit on giving us a great view of the action, behind us two cow fight enthusiasts talked excitedly, Bastien found out what we had missed and which cows we should look out for! then it began! its a lot like arm wrestling really except instead of them just using their arm they use their whole humongous body to try and push their opponent to the point of giving up! its quite exciting, especially when the dust is flying and the crowd is cheering! everyone reassured me that its rare for a cow to get more than a chipped horn in combat, which made the animal activist part of me feel alot better however in the similar japanese sport 'Tōgyū' they apparently sharpen the horns!

after a few hours of watching cows tussle in the beautiful sunshine , drinking white wine I felt i had absorbed enough swiss tradition for the entire trip but the day (my last day) wasn't over yet! so we hitched a ride down to Sion, one of my favourite places in switzerlan and went to went o one of my favourite bars of the trip, La Grenette! owned by a crazy bearded dude, this tiny place is overflowing with characters, traditional swiss wood layouts and probably just about enough room to swing un petit chat! cheap beer and everybody smillng! we met up with Bastiens friends (and now mine I guess) Christian, Eilda & Frederic who had come straight from a birthday party and we spent the majority of the evening with them talking and laughing before catching a train to sion, grabbing a great pizza and chilling at the appartment.

it was my last night and I thanked Bastien for the amazing hospitality he had shown me, it was great to hang out with someone so far from home who was exactly the kind of person i would hang out with now im back here! Can't wait for him to come to manchester in a few months and i can buy him a beer!

The next day i caught a train through the longest tunnel in switzerland to the german speaking city of Basel where i caught a flight to Liverpool airport, I've been back for a week or so now and although its great to see some familiar faces, i'd love to get away again! I've got the bug!

Stay Safe
Sam x

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