Last Updated on 26/02/2023
Ballenberg open-air museum is an exemplary museum of this type in Europe. German pedantry in the collection and preparation of material here met with Swiss identity and diversity. And if you are even curious how people used to live, how they worked, got food, what they carried, then you are right here for the whole day.
But watching it is not very easy. And without proper prearrangement it can seem monotonous or boring.
The museum is very large. More than a hundred original houses, each with a different content! In some there are very few exhibits. Others it is extremely interesting. In the third they demonstrate crafts. The problem is that you don’t know in advance how interesting it is inside. And there is no map like in the Louvre, for example, with marked masterpieces – the most interesting houses. In addition, there are festivals that are especially worth going to (mainly on weekends).
How to get to Ballenberg
A few words about how to orientate. When you take a boat to Brienz or arrive from Interlaken by train, you see a wide and rather flat valley of the Aare river, at the end of which Meiringen. This flat valley features a rocky forested hill near the confluence of the Aare with the lake. This is Ballenberg.
There are two entrances to the museum – western (closer to Brienz) and eastern. The bus stops at the western one and very rarely at the eastern one. In addition, there is another exit (but not an entrance) – to the Brienzwiler railway station – through the houses of the canton of Ticino (walk about 10 minutes).
The timetable for the train from Brienzwiler (runs once an hour) and bus 151 to Brienz / Brunig (also once an hour) is better to have with you. So as not to wait at the bus stop.
Not to enter without a ticket, the ticket is stuck on the clothes. There are maps for each group of buildings. You can take a map at the entrance (2 Fr.).
Ballenberg open-air museum
Before the trip, I was surprised by the different reviews about the museum. But after visiting they became clear. Reviews depend on the time of the visit and what the people looked. The better prepared you are, the more fun you will have.
I was especially impressed by:
- how sausage is made (after all, they lived in the same building – probably, they themselves were like smoked sausages),
- sawmill, which is driven by a water,
- cheese dairy and an exhibition of cow “bells”. they weigh so much that I can hardly lift it.
It is recommended to visit the museum website before traveling. Go to the “Crafts” section and carefully study what is shown on which days. And especially in which houses (write down the time and house number).
Some crafts are shown every day (or almost every day) from 10 am to 12 pm. For example, bakery, food preparation, cheese making, chocolate making, weaving, wood carving, sawmill. Others once or twice a week or even a couple of times a month. For example, making baskets, lace of various types, yarn, embroidery, hats, forging, threshing, pottery, making harness, etc.
Therefore, we study the schedule, choose the most interesting and go to the museum early. It is also worth noting on the plan of the house where the exhibitions are held (on the website the section “Everyday events”). Sometimes it looks like an exhibition, and often it is done like a real room.
The optimal circular route for 1 day for those who arrived by bus to the western entrance will be subordinated to the bakery, cheese factory and sawmill (houses 333, 1361 and 691). They work until 12, 13 and from 13 to 16, respectively. If they are, of course, interesting to you. We look at the bakery, nearby houses. Then we quickly go to the cheese dairy. And from there, we take our time to inspect everything else so that between 13 and 16 we get to the sawmill.
The houses and crafts are grouped by region in Switzerland.
Each group has some kind of pets (there are about 250 animals in the museum). In the center of the grounds there is a petting paddock and a playground.
Houses are also very different. Not only because they built in different regions in different ways, but also because there are farms with different structures, and houses of wealthy Swiss, and poorer houses.
Don’t miss Ticino – there are very original buildings (see my topic on the Verzasca Valley).
About Verzasca Valley.
Of course, you get tired of climbing into the house every time. Often there is also a second floor or cellar, and an interesting exposition suddenly appears at the top. Therefore, if there is such an opportunity, buy a ticket for two days and see the museum for half a day, so that you don’t get bored and you have enough strength for everything.
To be honest, we only managed half of it. And I wish we had prepared properly and arrived early.
Military airfield in Brienzwiler
Near Ballenberg, below, relatively close to Brienzwiler station, there is a military airfield. Switzerland has an impressive army. Its presence is always felt. It can be regularly encountered military vehicles, columns or aircraft. And the military themselves make a completely different impression. Military aircraft train constantly, and their roar frightened us at first in the museum. In the gorge they make a particularly loud noise during takeoff. You can take a look at aircraft training (see the website www.airshow-reviews.com/meiringen.html for possible options for making photos), and several times a year there are open doors and air shows.