It’s ironic the Emmental Valley is one of Switzerland’s least visited regions. Not only does it possess some of the country’s most iconic landscape, it is the homeland of the famous and oft-imitated “Swiss cheese” as Emmental is called by so many of us. The region, and its famous cheese, are named after the Emme River and you can arrive here in less than half an hour from the nation’s capital of Bern. If you set your pace to “slow” you’ll find enough to do and see here to keep you busy for several days. The landscape is about as quintessentially Swiss as it gets, bucolic hills rising from valley floors covered in rich pasture and dotted with cows against a backdrop of the spectacular snow-capped peaks of the Bernese Oberland. The lovely Emmentaler farmhouses, with their long slanting roofs and rows of large windows and balconies laden with flowers, are often several centuries old. But it is not uncommon to see newly built versions, constructed with the same craftsmanship and attention to detail as their predecessors, something seldom seen today. The care that has gone into the woodworking on the simplest granary is often mind-boggling.

This region is also littered with impeccably kept woodlands where it is easy to spot deer or hunt for wild mushrooms and berries. Hiking trails abound making the Emmental a walkers’ paradise and when you get tired or famished you’re never more than a stone’s throw from an elegant country guest house or a quaint local restaurant in a small farming hamlet. Lots of the farms offer accommodation and in some you can even sleep in a hayloft. Steeped in tradition it comes as no surprise that Switzerland’s oldest Mennonite community is located here nor is surprising to easily find delicious and authentic food. Michael and I have visited the Emmental Valley many times. Each time we return we find it more fascinating. Recently we spent a day there looking for the prized cave-aged Emmentaler Switzerland Premier Cru cheese and visiting the Emmental Showcase dairy. But mainly, we went to drive the back roads and lose ourselves in the region’s stunning hinterland.

To our delight our visit happened to coincide with the region’s annual spring cow show. We arrived in Affoltern-Im-Emmental where the show dairy has taken over much of the small village in a series of restored buildings. The place was hopping with farmers and their cows tethered in a line, patiently waiting to be judged. After visiting the dairy and watching the competition we spent the day aimlessly touring the countryside admiring the beautiful farms and the traditional architecture of the region. We found ourselves getting further and further off the beaten track as we followed the small winding lanes that snake through the region. Many of these were unpaved and often down to just a single lane. At times we found ourselves on not much more than a mule track used by farmers and loggers. But, in typical Swiss fashion even these were impeccably maintained and posed no challenge to our travels, even though it was a muddy, damp spring day. On these smaller back roads we discovered the real hidden treasures of the Emmental, its magnificent farm houses, small villages, country inns and beautiful scenery. The Emmental region is well worth a journey. It is a place that will tug at your heartstrings and make you wish you had a lifetime to spend in its storybook landscape. Here’s a look.  

If you click on the first image of each gallery you can scroll through a slide show with captions…



 Here’s a sneak preview of my next post, an easy and delicious recipe for a bread gratin with kale and leeks using Emmental cheese…Stay tuned!

 Finally, I am now also posting photos on instagram. You can follow me here…






Posted By: Jo-Anne McInroy April 3rd, 2016 @ 9:10 pm

That bread gratin looks scrumptious!

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