5 tell-tale signs that autumn has arrived in Switzerland
Alongside the typical signs that summer has come to an end, like the weather getting colder and the leaves getting browner, there are many more subtle things that tell you that the golden season has arrived. While the season officially runs between September 21 and December 20, once these five things have arrived in Switzerland, you know that autumn has truly begun.
1. Swiss supermarkets start selling game (Wildsaison )
With autumnal temperatures arriving in Swiss cities and cantons, there is nothing better than having some warm, hearty food. From September 1 or October 1 - depending on the weather - Swiss supermarkets will begin the famous “Wild season” (Wildsaison).
From that point, delicacies like Reh, venison and rabbit are readily available on the shelves. People in Switzerland typically serve game meat with Spätzle (a pasta-like dumpling), red cabbage and glazed chestnuts, all doused in copious amounts of pepper sauce. For vegetarians, the season also brings many delights like pumpkin soup, wild mushrooms and Vermicelles - piped chestnut puree with cream and cherries.
As Swiss food is highly seasonal, once supplies run out, they run out, so be sure to get it while it lasts!
2. Heisse Maroni stands return to Swiss cities and train stations
While waiting for the train in Switzerland, you may notice small huts on the platform or station forecourt equipped with large smoking drums. This means that the season for selling hot chestnuts (Heisse Maroni) has begun.
As chestnuts cannot be harvested - farmers have to wait for the nuts to fall by themselves before collecting them - hot chestnut stands will start to emerge whenever the nuts are ready, which is typically around September and October. Once roasted, the chestnuts have a strong nutty flavour with a creamy texture - really worth a try if you haven’t had one! The warm bag of chestnuts also serves as an excellent hand warmer during cold winter nights.
Hot chestnut stands can be found at stations, city centres and Christmas markets across the country. The chestnut season usually ends around springtime.
3. Swiss cows travel down from alpine pastures
If you are hiking in the mountains and hear the rumbling of feet and a cacophony of bells, you may be about to see a typically Swiss tradition: the moving of cows from high alpine pastures down valleys to be housed in barns for the winter.
Starting in late September and early October, cows are paraded through the streets of hundreds of smaller Swiss towns as part of the fabled tradition. In total, around 350.000 cows make the journey every year.
In some areas, like Appenzell and the Bernese Oberland, cows are dressed up in special clothing or are painted colours as part of the event. Heiden, Canton Appenzell Ausserrhoden, even hosts a cow beauty contest.
Video: Planet First / YouTube
4. The Jucker Farm Pumpkin Festival begins
While Halloween might not be celebrated as much in Switzerland, that doesn’t stop people in the alpine nation from creating magnificent sculptures and designs with pumpkins.
The most famous pumpkin sculpture exhibition in Switzerland can be found at the Jucker Farm in Canton Zurich between September and December. What started as an “impromptu” pumpkin festival in 1997 has now become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the canton during the autumn months.
5. The first snow starts to fall on Swiss towns
While it is often argued that you can see snowfall in Switzerland during the summer - provided you hike to the highest peaks in the country - the first snowflakes are likely to fall on the first Swiss towns in September or October. The ski resorts that are at the highest altitude like St. Moritz, Zermatt and Davos are likely to see snowfall first, although it will be a few months longer before they will open their doors to the first skiers and snowboarders.
What marks the first sign of a Swiss autumn for you? Let us know if the comments below!
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