“When the alpine meadows are lush and green in Zermatt, the mountain flowers bloom in intense colors and my sheep graze peacefully in front of snow-capped mountains with their long wool washed white by the summer storms, I’m happy. This is home for me.” Paul Julen‘s eyes sparkle.
Full of enthusiasm, he speaks of his finest moments as a shepherd. And the animals to which he has devoted so much passion are really something special. The spiral horns, long white wool, black spots on the legs and not to forget the black coloring on the head.
Each year the Julen family cures 100 lambskins, some are used so that the guests have nice soft seats in their restaurants, others are sold as popular holiday souvenirs. They also process the 1,200 kg of wool which the sheep give every year. This is the first year that the wool has been made into warm blankets for guests. “Fortunately, there’s always a black sheep in the herd so we can use our own wool to embroider the ‘Tradition Julen’ logo on the blankets.” said son Paul-Marc. He has also succumbed to the charm of the black noses and enjoys when he can find the time to go visit the animals with his boys Jarno and Rajan.
The meat of the black-nosed sheep is a special treat and the taste often appeals even to those guests who otherwise do not eat lamb. “This is partly because at this altitude the animals are grazing on the best wild herbs.” says Paul Julen. About 180 lambs and 30 ewes are slaughtered annually. This however cannot meet the needs of their restaurants. The demand for lamb specialties is large and the excellent quality of the meat is famous far beyond the country’s borders. Therefore they also buy additional lambs from other shepherd colleagues.
Even though it’s always hard for Paul Julen to see his animals off on their way to the slaughterhouse – this is also a part of the cycle. And when, during “Lämmli time” every year around 200 young animals are romping around the fields, the circle closes again.
“The fact that I can combine my work as host with the passion for my sheep, is a gift. If I were only working with the animals, I would feel I was missing something. Just as if I would only work among people, I would feel the same.” Good that Paul Julen does not have to choose just one. Because it’s the same the other way around: he would be sorely missed by his sheep, as well as by his guests.