EPISODE 5 & 6 - A summer on the alp
What did you learn on the alp this year?
I definitely learned a lot this year. Basically all about sheep, because I didn't know anything and sheep are definitely very intelligent animals, in relation to cows, definitely. Cows are intelligent too, but sheep are definitely smart and that means a lot of work. And what I definitely take with from this is working with a dog, because I've never worked with a herding dog before.
Is it a big challenge?
That was definitely a very big challenge. If you have a herding dog, he's just around you 24 hours a day. Always! He's also sleeping with me here in the hut. And I always had to tell him what to do. Always. And that was definitely extremely difficult for me, especially at the beginning, because I said: "Busy yourself, I just want to be left alone now and then and just relax a bit and be with myself. And that's just not possible. That's when I definitely noticed that you just have to be sovereign.
Have you changed in any way?
What I can recommend to anyone who is interested in going up the alp, is that you get quite a lot of responsibility for a limited period of time. But you can hand it over again afterwards, and that means you can test yourself. That's different from being a farmer, if you have 500 sheep, then you have them permanently and you are responsible from start to finish. But on the alp the farmers come and bring their animals and at the end of summer they take them back with them and you are responsible for the time in between. It's quite a lot because you're ultimately alone with it, but it's not forever.
What is special about life up here on the alp?
You are definitely thrown back on yourself and on the things that are most important. Up here, for example, I have no internet, I only have little electricity, I have no running water and a lot of things that are somehow self-evident, but which are also a waste of time. I don't have a newspaper, television or radio either, and those are things that usually take up an incredible amount of time. And that doesn't exist up here, and that's why you're thrown back on yourself and on the things that are important.
Did you also have the opportunity to find a bit of yourself?
I have to say that there is not much time to find yourself. There is no time for that. The whole day is filled. You work from morning to night until you go to bed. And even if it means making a fire in the evening, chopping wood and heating up the fireplace, then cooking something and then you're so exhausted, that you go straight to bed. In this respect, it's also a step towards clearing your head somehow, but also because you simply don't have time to think about what things.
What is the harder step? Going up to the alp or going back down to the valley afterwards?
I think it's the bigger step to go back afterwards. I think the step is bigger than coming here. Going back down to the valley, coming into town, seeing all the nicely dressed people, all of whom are shaved, have nice hair and clean clothes, and smell of perfume. And everyone is crazy busy, but you don't know why.
It's rather crazy that you realize you're from somewhere else, the air is always clear and fresh, you're unbelievably physically fit and then you come down to the valley and ask yourself, "What do people actually do all day? And then getting back in there is - I think - more blatant than the other way around. Definitely for me.