Noisy neighbours

Here in Brunnen, the hills are alive with the sound of sheep bells. The tinkle and cling of their bells is much prettier and more musical to my ears than the clang of cow bells. These freshly shorn sheep are our nearest neighbours right now to the west of our apartment building. They are a curious and sometimes noisy lot who seem to enjoy staring at me when I go by with the dogs.

We are gradually discovering the burgeoning spring season here in Central Switzerland. It’s a lovely time of year as the grasslands get greener each day while the mountains still have quite a lot of snow. The temperatures are up and down — hot in the sun while still near zero in the early mornings and evenings. Wild flowers are out in force yet snow is called for early next week.

On the downside, some of the more surprising and far less pleasant noises than these nosey neighbours include the constant roar of motorcycles going by on the road below. It seems that the Swiss are big bikers, and all it takes is a holiday and a bit of sun to bring them out in force around the lake.

There are also church bells — not too near, thankfully, but still within hearing range of us every hour and on 15-minute intervals, 24 hours a day. The jury is still out as to whether I will get used to them enough to be able to sleep with the windows open. Air conditioning may yet be my saviour.

And in the meantime, I decided if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Meet our newest resident, the Koo Koo clock. I’ve almost got used to his hourly chirping (a sensor ensures he is quiet when the lights go out).

The noisiest of all our neighbours are the helicopters that are often put to work clearing dead trees off the mountains above. They also serve to transport patients to hospital in case of medical emergencies. One happened just this week and I found myself glued to the balcony watching the mesmerizing spectacle of the chopper landing, waiting for the ambulance, loading the stretcher and flying off again. I don’t know what the unfortunate neighbour had, or why he couldn’t have gone to the local hospital in Schwyz. It may be that Covid cases were out of control or that a more complicated medical speciality was needed in Zurich, which is an hour away.

I hope I never need them, but I’m sure glad they’re around just in case! (Also glad I picked up the dog’s poop right there in that field an hour earlier!)

Easter seems to be a big thing where we live now. Much to my delight, the tradition here is the Easter bunny, not those silly ‘cloches’ they have in France. This post from the early days of my blog tells the story of the French Easter bells if you’re interested:

Wherever you are, may the Easter bells ring for you in the kindest of ways. Here’s to rebirth, renewal and the joy of a new season!


  1. Becky Ross Michael · April 4, 2021

    Always so interesting to see and learn more about the places you live. Have a lovely Easter day!

    • MELewis · April 4, 2021

      Thank you, Becky, glad you enjoyed my little update. A joyful Easter to you!

  2. midihideaways · April 4, 2021

    Happy Easter to you too, Mel!! I love cuckoo clocks, bought one when I was about 12 years old. I still have it and it works, but it’s weight driven and the weights only last a day, so it’s usually silent these days! Spring is such a wonderful time of year, it sounds as though you’re making the most of it!

    • MELewis · April 5, 2021

      A real cuckoo clock! Now that’s a cool thing to have. You must be enjoying the spring in full bloom down south. Happy Easter Monday!

  3. acflory · April 4, 2021

    Gah…at night I need the sounds of silence [apologies to S&G]. I hope you get used to the bells. Good luck!

    • MELewis · April 5, 2021

      Yes, indeed. Moi aussi (and I do love that song…). I suppose there are worse fates than the odd bell but I will have to cultivate my deaf ear. Wishing you nights of peace and quiet!

      • acflory · April 5, 2021

        -grin- thank you. We’re just close enough to the country to get great lattes teamed with fresh air and quiet nights. 🙂

  4. Colin Bisset · April 4, 2021

    Ah, the memory of a splurge in a luxury Swiss hotel, only to not sleep a wink thanks to the constant-but-not-constant-enough-to-ignore cowbells outside… So wonderful to have such an eyrie to take in all the activity around you, including the seasons!

    • MELewis · April 5, 2021

      It does feel indeed like a bit of an eyrie (one of my favourite words!) and the birds too are magnificent to watch. We get lots of kites swooping around, as well as paragliders. Almost makes up for the bells.

  5. margaret21 · April 5, 2021

    How funny! I wonder if it’s a regional thing? In all our years in France we never came across Easter Bells – plenty of bunnies though. And now we live fairly near an RAF base, so I feel your pain about those pesky helicopters. Our sheep are more welcome Noisy Neighbours. Hope you had a good, if quiet (maybe?) Easter!

    • MELewis · April 6, 2021

      Perhaps having kids go through the French school system exposed me to a lot of these traditions, that are otherwise not so obvious. Easter was quiet, thanks, except for the bikers, but I fear they will be here for the season!

      • margaret21 · April 6, 2021

        We live on a biker route too … 😦

  6. Taste of France · April 5, 2021

    I cannot wait for all the vehicles on roads to be electric–the world will be so much quieter. Blissfully. Usually the decibels of the motor are inversely correlated with the manliness of the driver. Compensation. (This has been documented, not by me.)
    Having ridden in an ambulance with my dislocated elbow, it was pretty excruciating, even for a 20-minute ride. Roundabouts were agony. So I can only imagine the challenge on winding mountain roads. And not just for the patient–passing is problematic with all those curves. If you’ve had a heart attack, you don’t want to be stuck behind a camping car struggling to climb a mountainside.

    • MELewis · April 6, 2021

      I cannot agree more with your evaluation of the inversely proportional relationship between engine size and mental capacity! And I dream of a world with silent vehicles only on the road, hopefully in our lifetime? 🤫 As for the ambulance experience, you raise a very good point and one that I would never have thought of (having not as yet, touch wood, taken that trip). I had just assumed that the person on the stretcher was somehow immobilized in the vehicle, but now that you mention it I can see how it would be awful, even without the traffic problems. I can only imagine what you went through! Hopefully it is all history now, and you are back to a fully operational elbow?

      • Taste of France · April 6, 2021

        Yes, it’s fine. But if an elbow was agonizing, imagine a really bad injury! Centrifugal force is not one’s friend when lying in an ambulance.

  7. Dale · April 5, 2021

    Oh my… tinkling bells are sweet… clocks every 15 minutes? Might drive me nuts! And you add a cuckoo clock? LOL! That was impressive to watch. Right in your backyard, so to speak! Whoa.
    Can’t believe the beauty of the mountains.

    • MELewis · April 6, 2021

      Life is full of surprises, eh he? The 15-minute intervals are crazy-making if you’re too close. Thankfully for us they are mostly in the distance, although it does depend on how the wind is blowing. But don’t try and change the Swiss on that point — they are militant about their church bells! But the mountains make up for it!

      • Dale · April 6, 2021

        I’m sure it will be just a part of the sounds of “nature” eventually! Breathtaking view. That you can never tire of!

  8. Ally Bean · April 5, 2021

    I would not like hearing bells are day long every day. I could get used to the motorcycles though. Your photos are lovely. Those mountains are gorgeous. You live a fascinating life entirely different from my own.

    • MELewis · April 6, 2021

      They say you get used to the bells, but I’m not convinced. Interesting to know that our lives are so different, although it is hard for me to imagine how that could be. Aside from the scenery, which I agree is splendiforous! (oops, just coined a word).

  9. nessafrance · April 8, 2021

    The French countryside – and clearly the Swiss equivalent – is far from quiet! You’ll no doubt be aware of the situations here when newcomers have asked for church bells to be silenced. Some villages, including the one nearest us (not actually our commune) sport tongue-in-cheek signs warning people of the noises they might encounter. I like hearing cow bells in the distance. Up close, they are a bit intrusive. But I can’t say I’ve ever heard sheep bells. As for cuckoo clocks, I think I can live without one!

    • MELewis · April 12, 2021

      I have seen those signs, which are sometimes proudly shared on social media by overly chauvinistic French friends. I do understand the frustration of people who have lived in places for years only to have outsiders arrive and complain! I do think there are solutions that make sense, like in Geneva where the church bells stop between 11:00 pm and 6:00 a.m, for example. But you will never take away all the sounds of the countryside, like the cow bells and crazy roosters that sometimes sing at odd hours. All things considered, I prefer them to the roar of traffic on the road below us!

      • nessafrance · April 12, 2021

        One can always find a compromise if the will is there. Sometimes both sides are entrenched, which is pointless. Yes, give me bells and roosters over traffic noise anytime!

  10. Garfield Hug · April 10, 2021

    Happy Easter and so nice to hear from you. Sorry I am playing catch up on account of cray work scheduling and only have time now to read this. Interesting sounds…I would have thought peace and quiet in the rolling hills!

    • MELewis · April 12, 2021

      Nice to hear you are well, Garfield, and catching up on work! The countryside is far from quiet, but it is peaceful nonetheless. I am grateful for it despite the odd complaint! 🙏🏻

  11. J.D. · April 12, 2021

    You live in such a gorgeous place. The bells seem so atmospheric. So much nicer than hearing sirens. But I imagine the novelty wears off. I never understood the Easter cloche, either.

    • MELewis · April 13, 2021

      The bells never cease to thrill me when they ring at appropriate times, especially late in the afternoon, their tintinnabulation (always wanted to use that word) echoing through the valley. At night, I’m less than thrilled…

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