J for Jura

If you’ve been following along with my A-Z, you may remember I mentioned that Berne is one of the larger cantons in Switzerland. Well, it used to be larger still! The problem was that, even in a country that has almost always been multilingual, a large area in the north-west that borders onto France and then Basle and Solothurn but also onto Neuchâtel is actually French-speaking. This being Switzerland, dissatisfied inhabitants who felt that having a vast language majority was reason enough, they petitioned to get their own separate canton – and eventually, in the late 1970s, they got it! I remember the first time I saw a car with a JU registration, it seemed quite special – and there still aren’t many, as canton Jura is rather thinly populated. Jura

The attractions of Jura are quieter, but it’s a fascinating area nonetheless. It’s one of the poorest cantons in terms of industry or wealth, but the natural attractions more than compensate the visitor, though perhaps having to rely on tourism is a little tough on the economy. The Clos du Doubs area around the Doubs river is very attractive and particularly popular with hikers, who probably also appreciate the Jura mountains with their caves full of stalagmites and stalagtites and interesting rock formations. But there are pretty towns, too, picturesque like St. Ursanne, and those with a certain Jura flair like Porrentruy or Delémont… jura höhle Jura landJuraporrentruy jt_chevaux
jura cheval

Those of us with a love for horses will find the Freiberger (or Franches Montagnes) breed of horse of interest – a medium sized horse that can adapt to be a riding horse or a driving horse, a good square, solid, versatile type over 15.2hh up to about 16hh at most. A bit of Freiberger blood is often found in Swiss show jumpers and dressage horses, many are popular leisure rides or ridden Western-style, and one inventive farmer has devised a whole show around his Freibergers and his dogs. One popular way of taking a relaxing holiday is to go by horse-drawn wagon, pioneer-style, and Freibergers, with their calm and quiet nature are ideal for this. Another thing you may not know concerns the Swiss cavalry. Well, there is no longer a cavalry, but the country remains mountainous, so Freibergers have to do military service and be prepared in case of trouble, when they will be used to carry important goods over mountain tracks or possibly even as transport animals, i.e. ridden and driven! Things may have changed in recent years, but not so long ago, you could be looking forward to spending your well-earned holiday riding your horse or going on a trek or taking part in some camp or competition and the army would turn up with little or no notice and load your horse up for its 3-week stint to keep it up-to-date and there you were, horseless for the holidays… Your horse would be returned, with luck, with no more than a few grazes and bruises and you’d be recompensed for your trouble, but only if you remembered to attend the local inspection held once a year, where the criteria were very strict and you’d be put through your paces and told in no uncertain terms to keep your horse’s weight down and give him plenty of exercise. (If you wonder how I know this, it’s because my old pal, Sturuss the Pony, being a Haflinger, was a reserve in the Swiss army 🙂 He wasn’t collected for service, but in case of war, he would have been conscripted and because of that, I had to take him to be inspected every autumn…the compensation helped with livery fees!swiss army horsefreiberger militärIMG_2892

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