I once briefly fell in love with a girl while traveling because she had stolen a cow bell right off a cow in Switzerland. She showed it to me one night in a youth hostel and told me how she had to carefully approach a cow grazing in an Alpine meadow, win it over with affection, and then gently remove its bell and run off before some farmer came after her with a pitchfork.
For whatever reason, I just never met girls like this back home in Los Angeles.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that these bells can cost up to $1000. Thanks to a recent article by Rick Steves, ‘Cow Culture’ in Switzerland’s Berner Oberland, I now know a little bit more about Swiss cows and have lost some respect for the mystery bell thief I once fell for.
Having grown up in a big city, I’ve always been one of those fools who gawks at heifers and takes photographs with them in the background as though they were Michael Jordon or some other celebrity (see photo above, taken with a friend in Ireland).
Steves takes his Cow Tourism a step further. The travel writer recently embedded himself amongst local Swiss farmers high atop the Alps in Berner Oberland where, despite the financial hardships involved, the farmers continue to practice this age-old craft. Visiting them and their cows is like taking a step back in time; I highly recommend it.