10 March 2019
The first people from Upper Valais (German-speaking Wallis) crossed the mountain passes to settle in the neighbouring mountain valleys in the second half of the twelfth century. The emigration reached its peak in the thirteenth and ended in the middle of the fourteenth century.
They are called the Walser nowadays, although they did not call themselves that way. It is not sure why these farmers and herdsmen left the Upper Valais region, but overpopulation and the drought and dry climate of 700 years ago are the most likely reasons.
Some groups settled in Italian valleys, where they also founded Boso-Gurin, the only German-speaking community in the Italian speaking canton Ticino, others moved to Savoy (eastern France). Two settlements are stilled called Les Allamends.
Up north they reached the Bernese Oberland, the Lauterbrunnen valley, Brienz Rothorn, and the region west of Thun.
The most significant expansion was to the east, however, over the Oberalppass, into Grisons, Voralberg, Tyrol (Austria) and Triesenberg (Liechtenstein).
Walser culture and tradition survived, and two museums present this culture and history: the Walser museum in Riezlern (Voralberg, Austria) and the Walser Heimat museum in Triesenberg (Liechtenstein). (Source and further information: www.walser-alps.eu).
The International Association of Walser (Internationale Vereinigung für Walsertum) organizes research, publications, and events about Walser history and culture (www.wir-walser.ch).