Alpine Village At Ease With Seclusion

TORBEL, Switzerland – Who says the Swiss are perhaps a bit too predictable?

Let’s take a walk on the wild side, up the Alps to the remote village of Torbel, where time seems to have frozen, where cows fight like sumo wrestlers, where the residents speak a strange dialect that practically no one else understands, and where the goats are black and white – the colors split exactly down the middle.

Until the early 1970s the only way to reach this village was a grueling climb up the steep slopes. Now, narrow roads pass nearby, but the majority of the 500 or so villagers avoid coming down into „civilization.“

I got an insight recently into this unusual place from painter Helen Gudel, who was born and reared in Zurich, lived at times in Paris and California, and moved here about 18 years ago to concentrate on her painting and writing of children’s books.

Gudel picked a good setting, for Torbel and its residents look as if they jumped out of a storybook.

„I have more social contact tucked away up here than I did while living in some of the great cities of the world,“ Gudel said. „Someone knocks on my door practically every day either wanting something or offering something.

„I promised to help a farmer carry his dead goat to my car tomorrow, then I’ll drive down to another farmer who wants the head because the horns are so pretty.

„Earlier today, I helped a woman wash her cows. . . . I didn’t plan on it: It just happened.“

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