I recently learned of a unique way to vacation in the gorgeous - but expensive - country of Switzerland. Farms all over Switzerland offer a very budget-friendly way to stay in Switzerland - by sleeping in a barn in straw. I adore animals and farms and nature so I thought this sounded like the best idea ever. Then, a wonderful friend decided that her family and their friends would join us for a few days of Schlaf-ing im Stroh! Here's what happened....
The Schlaf im Stroh Website
All of the farms that participate in this program display their information on a central website, which is really comprehensive and really helpful. You can find it in German, French or English here: http://www.schlaf-im-stroh.ch/en/. The farms are all organized according to amenities, and are regularly inspected by the Schlaf im Stroh organization. You can literally sleep in the straw, in a dormitory, camp, or sleep in apartments, depending on what the farm has to offer.
One tip if you go - you should ask if the farm is hosting any school groups or camp groups during your stay. Our second night at the farm there was a large school group, it did not pose a problem for us, but may for some.
Where we stayed....
We were three families traveling, with 5 adults and 8 kids among us. We decided we wanted a farm that had animals, and was not too far of a drive from Frankfurt. This led us to Bolderhof Farm, you can check out their website here: http://www.bolderhof.ch. We stayed for two nights, one night in the straw and one night in a dormitory.
What we did....
It was REALLY FUN. The farm is gorgeous, in a very picturesque area in the tiny town of Hemishofen, near Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland near the German border. We followed signs through the countryside to find the farm, and got a lovely tour upon arrival. This particular farm sells many organic vegetables, has many cows and also water buffalo (to make buffalo mozzarella). There was a dog and at least one cat, and a few extremely tame chickens wandering about.
We were shown to our sleeping area, in the loft of the barn. Of course the kids wanted to all get situated and pick their sleeping spots. The loft was full of soft straw, and had a place to keep our bags and two bathrooms with showers. The barn is equipped with light blocking shades, which was a plus as the days here are quite long in the summer. We were each given a wool blanket and a sheet which we spread over the straw, and we put our pillows and sleeping bags over the sheet. The farm had sleeping bags available for rent as well.
The barn houses the feeding and milking area for the cows and water buffalo, and also has a sweet area for kids to play in the straw, with shovels and rakes to arrange the straw. This was a big hit.
Close to the farm is a lovely section of the Rhine River for swimming with a small beach. We walked there and took a dip, it was so picturesque and delightful. The next day we drove up-stream a bit to a larger park area along the Rhine and swam there as well.
At dinnertime we were served a delicious farm supper, outside, and then the children played with the various riding toys and games. It was an absolute blast.
And how did we sleep??
The straw was surprisingly comfortable, and due to the light blocking shades, it was dark and the birds nesting in the rafters did not wake us up at dawn, they slept until we all awoke, around 6:30, and raised the blinds. My son is a restless sleeper and wound up off of his sheet and in the actual straw, so he got some bug bites, but the rest of us were pretty much unscathed.
Our second night we were in the dormitory, and that was very comfortable, although a bit warm!
Farm Chores and Cheese Making and Cow Riding!
The farm offers a lot to keep it's guests occupied! We did farm chores (bring rain boots!) - we had to bring in the cows and water buffalo from pasture, which was hysterical. The cows kept getting distracted and eating grass along the way. The water buffalo are much smarter and followed directions nicely. We also helped with milking, which was really fun.
We participated in a cheese making class, which was a highlight, and very child-friendly. We were able to customize our cheese with a variety of fresh ingredients and package it in wooden containers which the farm personalized for us - a nice touch! As the cheese was setting, we got a tour of the vegetable fields with some eye-opening information about the differences between organic and non-organic produce, and genetically modified produce. On the tour we found that the farm has a delivery service, and guests can "shop" here to find lunch items - delicious!
Bolderhof has tamed some of it's cows and trained them for cow riding! They have a variety of options for cow riding, some of which are several hours long and probably very beautiful, but we just let the kids do a quick loop around the farm.
And it's in a beautiful part of Switzerland!
This section of Switzerland is countryside, not the Alps. It is farmland, small quaint towns, and castles. Absolutely spectacular! About 20 minutes from the farm is the Rhine Falls, check out it's website here: http://www.rheinfall.ch. We stopped there on the way home and ate lunch at a cafe, but I would really like to go back and ride one of the boat tours that go close to the falls.
Our Schlaf im Stroh experience was great. I really enjoy farms, and loved sharing this unique experience with friends. I would recommend it!