Ever wondered how Swiss people lived in the past? How life was on a farm in the nineteenth century? In Ballenberg you can experience this life personally. Ballenberg is an open-air museum with over one hundred traditional Swiss buildings on 163 acres (660'000 m2). The museum is divided into several regions, based on the different cantons and architectural styles in Switzerland. Surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, you walk along paths between century old farm houses, traditional gardens and fields. There are also a large number of farm animals such as cows, sheep and pigs on the site. I've visited this museum and wanted to share with you some of my experiences.
You can enter most of the houses and freely walk around inside. Each interior has been decorated with antique furniture. The museum spends a lot of attention to detail. For example, you can see diner tables, set with cutlery, shelves filled with jars and antique books, small wooden toys in children's rooms, all sorts of tools lying around, etc. Some of the houses are heated with a fire, which causes a couple of rooms to be quiet "smokey". This however helps to create the illusion of being in the past. I was particularly impressed by a century old pharmacy, a barber shop and a working watermill.
In some of the industrial buildings, museum workers give demonstrations of traditional rural crafts and techniques, such as cheese making, wood carving and straw weaving. Back in the days, farmers were often poor and needed some additional source of income to support their families. Therefor, many farmers were also craftsmen (and many farmers' wives were craftswomen).
Ballenberg has a couple of restaurants on site that serve Swiss specialties in a traditional environment. The restaurant I visited was open-air, set in the courtyard of a large farm. The atmosphere was that of a small village community as everybody sat around long wooden tables. There are also several indoor restaurants but I didn't visit those. If you like barbecuing, you can use a fire at one of the available picnic areas.
You can explore Ballenberg on your own, like I did, or with a guide. Tours are available in English, German, French or Italian.
The museum is closed during winter.
How to get there
You can take a local train from Interlaken-Ost to Brienz. There, you can take a bus to Ballenberg. Swiss train tickets are valid on buses so you only need to buy one ticket for this trip.
If you're by car, take the motorway A8 from Spiez to Luzern and exit in Brienz. Then, follow the signs.