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John Waelti: Emmental, Schaffhausen, Frauenfeld and farewell
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We descendants of Swiss immigrants in Green County grew up listening to stories of how the Swiss came here because it so much resembled their home country. I wondered about this. How could the rolling hills of Green County resemble a nation famous for its rugged mountains?

The explanation is simple enough. While the Swiss are astute enough to market the rugged, scenic Alps for their thriving tourist industry, much of Switzerland is rolling, grassy hills that resemble Green County - groomed to scenic perfection, but not mountainous.

The next adventure of our Turner Hall Swiss Heritage tour would be a trip through the Emme Valley. It would confirm resemblance to Green County, from the many familiar family names, to rolling grassy hills, to the architecture that resembles Monroe's Turner Hall. We remind visitors to Monroe that our aesthetically pleasing Turner Hall is designed in the style of an Emmental chalet. This is affirmed as our tour bus rolls through the valley of the Emme River on a sunny September morning.

The influence of the Emmental reaches far beyond our local Swiss in Green County. It's the cheese, those golden wheels of cheese with the holes, sliced into those triangular wedges. It's that cheese that made Monroe "The Swiss Cheese Capital" of the USA. And it's the cheese that was designed as those familiar foam wedges worn by Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fans, not just in Green Bay and Madison, by Packer and Badger fans in stadiums throughout the nation.

We note that those familiar head pieces are not designed after Gruyere, cheddar, Colby, blue, brie, or any other fine cheeses. The design is based on what is known in America as "Swiss cheese." Swiss cheese is the same as "Emmental" cheese. But we can't so label it because genuine Emmental cheese is the exclusive product of the Emme Valley of Switzerland. But that's OK, as long as people recognize ours as Swiss cheese, and identify it with us cheeseheads.

Our destination was Langnau, a city of about 9,000, located on a tributary of the Emme River.

In 2013, Monroe's mayor Bill Ross and his wife Marilyn visited there with Hans and Bobbie Bernet as a first step in establishing an informal partnership between our cities. The 2013 Turner Hall tour group visited Langnau and its wonderful heritage museum later that year. In 2014, Monroe Clinic CEO Mike Sanders, his wife Norah, and friends Paul and Sue Barrett met with hospital personnel in Langnau. With that, person-to-person contact already had a good start by the time our tour group arrived there in September.

On arrival at Langnau, our expectations were far exceeded. We were met by a group that had a tasty lunch planned for us, and entertained us with some folk dancing. As there were many members of the Monroe Swiss Singers with our tour group, we reciprocated in kind. It was a delightful time. A group of Langnau residents are planning to visit Monroe next September during our biennial Cheese Days celebration.

With fond memories, we left Langnau for the village of Trub. We visited a local historic farm and learned of a less noble aspect of the history of Bern, namely the 15th Century discrimination against the Anabaptists. Those who were uprooted came to America, establishing the Amish and Mennonite communities.

We spent the afternoon visiting the Kambly cookie factory in Trubschachen. The place was packed, as a convention of European motorcyclists had gathered there for a visit. The busy day was capped by a typical Emmentaler dinner in Trub before heading back to Bern to our hotel.

The next morning, our last full day on tour, we headed to Switzerland's northernmost canton, Schaffhausen. We stopped for awhile at Rhine Falls, and again at the historic municipality of Stein am Rhein. The town has preserved its ancient street plan. Around 1007 Emperor Henry II moved St. George's Abbey to Stein am Rhein because of its strategic intersection of major road and river routes.

Canton Schaffhausen became allied with Uri and Unterwalden in 1479, and became a full member of the old Swiss confederacy in 1857.

As most of Canton Schaffhausen is north of the Rhine River, it had the misfortune of being bombed by Allied planes during WWII. Actually, there were a number of violations of Swiss air space by both Allied and Axis warplanes during WWII resulting in loss of life and property damage.

As a footnote to history, actor Jimmy Stewart was a colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. He once presided over a court martial of a pilot and navigator of a raid that "wrongfully and negligently causing bombes to be dropped over friendly territory."

Our destination on this final full day in Switzerland is the city of Frauenfeld, capital of Canton Thurgau. We traveled along the south shore of Lake Constance, a lake on the Rhine River. It was a pleasant, sunny afternoon as we reached our hotel.

Prior to our evening meal, it was a perfect time for relaxing with a beer in the late afternoon sunshine. Oops, I was low on Swiss Francs. Gary Brugger came to my rescue and a bunch of us enjoyed some good Swiss beer in the waning afternoon sunshine. I owe you, Gary - see you soon at Turner Hall's Ratskeller.

Then, of course, it was another excellent Swiss dinner. The next day, it was off to Zurich and the usual hassle to get through the airport.

For being in Switzerland 12 days, we covered a lot of territory while enjoying good companionship, good beer and wine, great food, and spectacular scenery - all while learning a lot of geography and history of the land of our ancestors.

What more can there be?

Next week: Time for a trip to New Mexico prior to a summary of thoughts on Switzerland.

- John Waelti of Monroe can be reached at His column appears Fridays in The Monroe Times.