When people think about Switzerland, they often picture the lovely sound of cowbells. These bells are linked to peaceful scenes in the countryside with stunning snowy mountains. But what if those bells ring loudly outside your window all day and night because of 20 or 30 cows?
The Village of Aarwangen
Aarwangen is a delightful Swiss village with around 4,700 folks. It sits by the Aare River, with the Bernese Alps visible in the distance. The village boasts a medieval castle, a charming town center with a church, and old-style farmhouses. Aarwangen also enjoys a great location, just an hour away from major Swiss cities like Bern, Zurich, and Basel. This makes it a perfect spot for people who work in the cities and seek some peace and quiet.
The Bell Dispute
However, if you’re searching for complete silence, Aarwangen, like other rural areas in Switzerland, might not fit the bill. Those old farmhouses are still active, and the green fields around the village are home to dairy cows with bells around their necks.
Ring of Controversy
Some newcomers to Aarwangen weren’t too pleased with the noise from the cowbells. At least two families officially complained to the village council, asking for the bells to be removed from the cows at night. This stirred up quite a commotion. The long-time villagers and the few remaining local farmers felt like their traditional way of life was under attack.
The Importance of Cowbells
Andreas Baumann strongly believes that cowbells are a crucial part of Swiss culture. He pointed out that at Zurich airport, passengers are greeted by scenes of the Swiss Alps and the sound of cowbells. When he hears those bells, he immediately knows he’s back home. Baumann thinks that people who are bothered by the cowbells have an overly romantic idea of rural life and should consider living somewhere else.
The petition quickly gathered over 1,000 signatures in just a few days. It was presented to the village authorities at a formal event, and it was accompanied by traditional sausages given by local farmers.
Changing Role of Cowbells
In the past, cowbells were extremely important in Swiss rural life. They helped herders keep track of their cows, especially when the cows grazed in the Alps during the summer. Older farmers can still tell each cow apart by the sound of its bell. Nowadays, cows have electronic chips, and they spend most of their time in enclosed pastures.
In a country where about 25% of the population isn’t Swiss, due to high immigration, any changes to traditions can be seen as a threat to Swiss culture and identity. That’s the real issue in the Aarwangen cowbell debate. In recent parliamentary elections, the right-wing Swiss People’s Party campaigned to “keep Switzerland Swiss” and won a lot of support.
The Upcoming Vote
Next month, the people of Aarwangen will gather for a public vote to decide whether to keep the cowbells or not. Meanwhile, one person who complained about the noise changed their mind, and the other person moved away.