Surviving Switzerland

an expat's experiences navigating the land of mountains, cheese and chocolate

Ballenberg—Ode to an Open Air Museum

on September 16, 2014

Herbal Medicine Garden and Historical House


The weather has been just about perfect the four times I have visited the Ballenberg Museum. Luck? Or fate? Perhaps Ballenberg loves me as much as I love it. It delights in my visits as much as I do. I can always dream; the patient houses from days long past that populate the museum certainly do.


DSC00732    DSC00758


Where once wooden and the occasional stone floors were warmed with bare feet of running children and answered loudly to the hard soles of women’s boots and farmers’ shoes, now echo timidly to the tourists creeping over them.  We tiptoe while we explore the odd nooks and crannies of rooms crowned with ceilings that threaten to attack our heads if lifted too high. Watch out in particular low hanging doorways.DSC00743


Ah, Ballenberg – the table is already set for lunch, but no one is coming in from the fields to eat there. The laundry has been washed and hung to dry, but no one rocks in the chair by the window to enjoy the peace and quiet. The ghosts are busy, but not intrusive. I’ve never heard a baby fuss in her tight bed or any mothers humming a lullaby while working at loom or wheel.


Even though the houses have been uprooted from their place of birth and painstakingly pieced together again; there is no sense of the monster brought back to life. They have found new homes in the deep valley near the Aare river, sprouted new roots from their cellars and original foundations that moved with them, and now enjoy the hills and mountains as well as the flowers that grow all about. Some of the granaries, however still stand on their stone stilts for fear of mice.




For anyone hoping for more practical information and not just my affection for the place, I invite you to visit the official web site, which is in English, French, German and Italian. I can highly recommend staying a night in the area of Interlaken (we stayed in the town of Interlaken) for the scenery going to and from the museum. Also, we were able to arrive early and stay longer which was greatly appreciated by all.


There are stories in every room, every corner, every whisper of air blowing through the gardens. Even the rocks have stories in Ballenberg. Plan on walking quite a bit; there are 100 historical buildings, after all, as well as fields, gardens, vineyards, ponds and paths through the forest. Enjoy the food that is prepared on site and enjoy the weather if you are as lucky as I have been.




Birthing chair and bucket

2 responses to “Ballenberg—Ode to an Open Air Museum

  1. Guy R Vestal says:

    Trying to describe Switzerland as “Beautiful”, doesn’t even do it justice. I was there once, it was during Christmas, a memory I will not soon forget.

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