Blueberries, Blueberries Everywhere

Saturday, 07. September 2013

by Daniel Davis Wood

Of all the longstanding traditions here at the Ecole d’Humanité, arguably the most delicious is our annual Blueberry Hike. Every September, at the start of the new school year, students gather in their Ecole families to head into the hills in search of fresh blueberries. It’s a great way for family members to get to know each other better, and it’s an especially great way for new students to enjoy their first taste of what the Ecole offers outside of the classrooms on campus. Every family hikes up to a different part of the Hasliberg where blueberries, freshly plucked, are either devoured on the spot or taken back to family houses to be transformed into some sort of mouthwatering treat. No two hike routes are the same, nor are the products of any two blueberry intakes. This year’s Blueberry Hike took place yesterday, and what follows are the impressions it made on a handful of students from different families...

Students in the Osthaus Unten family hike past Alpine cows on Mägisalp.
Photograph by Jody Lam.

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Osthaus Unten

Louisa, a new student in Osthaus Unten, shows off
her hands stained with delicious blueberry juice.

Jody Lam: In beautiful weather, ten of us set out from the Ecole and walked to Reuti to catch the gondola up to Mägisalp. From there, we walked across to Käserstatt and then downhill to Balisalp. On the way to where we picked our blueberries, we followed the ‘Zwergenweg zum Bannwald’ alongside a few places related to the stories of the local dwarves. We saw a dwarf treehouse, a tiny cabin, and kind of train track in the trees to help the dwarves move from branch to branch. Finally, further downhill, we found a nice blueberry patch. Our family heads came up with the idea to get us to compete with each other, to break up into groups of two and see which group could pick the most blueberries. The winners would get to choose how they wanted the blueberries to be used. At first we didn’t see a lot of blueberries, but as we walked along a tiny path we discovered that the blueberries around us were huge. After an hour of picking blueberries, we found a place to have lunch. We made a fire and grilled cervelats followed by marshmallows. It was a peaceful part of the day. At last we walked back to school, and when we got back to Osthaus we weighed our blueberries. We had 2.4kg in total and made blueberry sauce for ice cream, a blueberry tart, and blueberry pancakes. They were all delicious.

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Haus am Bach

Murod fills his hands with tasty treats.

Sebastian Alvarado: We went out at about 9.30 in the direction of Gummenalp. It was a bit cloudy but we could feel the sun behind the clouds. At first our family heads led us uphill following other Ecolianers, but our group hiked so fast that we were soon in the lead and overtook the entire Haus Sandra family -- they were very, very slow. After a quick chat with Alain, a family head from Haus Sandra, we kept going on our way. After ten minutes of hiking through forest, we came to a little barn full of cows and we stopped and stroked them. Then we made a fire next to a small stream to cook our lunch, and that was where we picked blueberries.
Laïs Bürki: In the end we hiked four hours to Gummenalp. The way up was very beautiful and we had lunch at the top. Soon after lunch, we went out to collect blueberries... although I didn’t really collect any because I chilled out and ate them on the spot :-)

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Haus am Hang

Mats plucks blueberries from the bushes at Balisalp.

Hallie Scarbrough: My family’s Blueberry Hike began with snacks -- Mars bars, apples, Farmer crunchies -- and then we walked up to the gondola at Wasserwendi which took us to the top of the Hasliberg and gave us an amazing view. It was all downhill from there. Literally. We walked downhill for the rest of the day and stopped many times to look at our natural surroundings and watch the cute little marmots that play in the mountains. We picked a whole tub full of blueberries, then we went back home and put our aprons on to bake delicious blueberry muffins and a blueberry cake. Yum! Even after the cooking, we still had a bunch of blueberries left over. This was our first family hike and I’d mark it down as a big success!

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No more blueberries until this time next year, of course, although there's plenty more hiking still to come. In just two or three weeks from now, students will be heading out into the mountains on their first big hike of the 2013-2014 academic year -- four days from start to finish.

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