Saturday, September 17, 2011

Forest and Mountain Dwellers - Impressions #27

The village of Brienz has a population of about 3500. The 2 hamlets next to it bring the total up to about 5000. This is no metropolis, but it has many hidden jewels.

On one of my walks from the village center back home (my bed & breakfast in the next hamlet) I decided to detour off the road and follow a footpath up into the forest. I passed this house, almost too perfect to be true, and saw a sign pointing deeper into the woods.

One of the ancient traditions of Brienz is its wood sculpting. For many hundreds of years it has produced a stream of talented artists who turn the local linden trees into all kinds of lifelike forms.

About 100 years back a sculpture school sprang up. It continues to exist today. I visited it. There were 20-30 students in a couple of big studios, working hard, surrounded by the scent of fresh wood shavings. Most of the students appeared to be Swiss. I think a couple were Italian, and there were 2 young Asian women as well.

Anyhow, soon after the school started, the founders decided that the students would benefit from being able to spend time studying the native fauna. So they created a small "zoo" in the forest. I hesitate to call it a zoo because it's more like a section of the forest with a fence around it. It's as simple as that. The animals have all they need inside the fenced area. They're living in their native habitat. It's just a smaller area. Since they've got what they need, they don't need a lot of space.

The trail through the woods skirts these fenced enclosures. There's no big entrance gate. No entrance fee. You can't drive there. The only road is a dirt track just big enough for a local utility vehicle to come in and do basic service.

While I was there I saw nobody except a mother and her 2 year old, who were talking to a stag through the fence.

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