A Parisian brat moves to Bürchen

Juliette Barbier was a big city person. "A Parisian brat. Always on her toes, always a little busy. Then she came to Bürchen. From the French metropolis to the tranquil mountain village.

by pomona.media | Perrine Andereggen

From a colorful, multicultural district to the small hamlet of Zengerbern. The narrow road there ends abruptly at a handful of cottages and sun-beaten barns in a dead end. Exciting city life couldn't be further away. Valais postcard idyll. Beautiful. And quite quiet. That's what was missing in bustling Paris. "Time, peace and space, the seasons, nature, blue skies."


Quiet, surprisingly quiet

Juliette Barbier, urban, modern, who says of herself that she is a Parisian with heart and soul, made Bürchen her new center of life nine years ago. Swapped the hustle and bustle of the big city for the forest and meadow romance of the Moosal region. "I had neither fear nor doubt," says the mother of three about her step into a new reality of life, far away.

The start was to be anything but a relaxed country trip for the lively artist, fully clocked on city. "Maybe I was a little naive. I thought it would be easy because it was so beautiful." Confronted with the unfamiliar sound of silence, surprisingly quiet, with the mentality of a mountain village in the Valais, with a life that has little to do with the country lust in the magazines, Barbier even often wished herself away from her supposed place of longing. Back to Paris, where she was born and grew up, studied, worked, loved and had children. Back to where she had too little time for too many things.

Country escape instead of city escape. "I really felt out of place then, was suddenly a beginner again in many things. I understood neither High German nor dialect, could neither drive a car nor ski." She was looking for Paris in Bürchen, she said. "That was a mistake." Coping with loneliness was difficult, the city dweller says. "I was used to interacting with fellow human beings all the time. I knew a lot of people, met with friends often, needed daily interaction." She missed spontaneous meetings, the many contacts. If she wanted to be happy in the Shadow Mountains, Barbier understood peu a peu, she had to slow down her pace, change her rhythm, break habits. Tick differently. Of course, that required a special effort.


Curious but distant

Living where others go on vacation. The Parisienne knew the Moosalpregion well as a regular guest. "Bürchen is the vacation home of my husband's family, who have owned a chalet here for 50 years." At some point, the few days off, the short trips to the mountains were no longer enough. The guests wanted to stay, to become part of the village community. "We decided in the family to settle down in our resort."

Juliette Barbier was 37 at the time, and had worked in the French capital primarily in theater but also in publishing, exhibitions and studios. "Looking at 40, this step felt almost logical," she says. They built a house in the Zengerbern estate, which Juliette Barbier and her husband Christian Frank and their three children Leonard (18), Abel (13) and Anette (3) share with another family. "With a great view over the village, the forest, the mountains, over open fields." Periphery and panorama instead of urban density and canyons of houses.

Barbier always felt welcome in the village of 700 people. People were curious about the newcomers from Paris. Although the people of Bürchen were cordial, they were perhaps a little distant at first. "Over time, I felt accepted by the population, then adopted, and today fully supported. Everyone and anyone is willing to help me when I ask for it." Help with babysitting, help with artistic projects. "Sometimes I find lettuce, vegetables or delicious jars of jam outside the door. We get very spoiled." In the meantime, says the 46-year-old, even the shepherds, at the bottom of the hamlet, have gotten used to her "funny requests."

In this way, she debunks the prejudice of the distrustful, solitary mountain man who is not open to strangers. Au contraire. "The day after the November 2015 attacks in Paris, which hit me in my soul, I received a message to look outside because the villagers had put candles in the windows. For Paris, for me. It was incredible, great and a strong sign. Candles were burning everywhere. When I think about it, it makes me cry."


Not stranded, but rather arrived

Only gradually did Barbier find her island of rest in Bürchen. Not stranded, but rather arrived. "Bürchen gives me the time to concentrate, to work, to go into depth, to complete my projects," she enthuses in her charming French accent. "Bürchen gives me a great backdrop that is very inspiring.

Bürchen, with its distinct seasons, gives me a fixed rhythm, well-organized days and months that always repeat themselves. I do less here, but I do it better." She has matured, she says, and is now closer to herself. Less distracted. "The village has become my source of inspiration and my place of expression. Bürchen is subject, motif and theater." She wants to stay up here, she says, to one day become a Bürchnerin with heart and soul. Voilà...

"La Dragée Design" - a cardboard studio

Digitization and a modern infrastructure, which make it possible to work regardless of location, played an important role in the decision to leave big city life behind. Thanks to the Internet and the multilingualism of her husband Christian Frank, Juliette Barbier was able to continue her professional activities together with him in Bürchen. Together they run the cardboard studio "La Dragée Design". They invent and make objects out of paper for different occasions. Mainly the paper articles are sold via their own homepage to France and Italy as well as throughout Switzerland.

With the theater projects "As Cabaret" and "Frictions" as well as with the theater walk "Angsthase" - all productions penned by Juliette Barbier - the Parisian has already enriched cultural life in Bürchen several times in collaboration with local amateur actors. Further cabaret projects are to follow as soon as the Corona pandemic permits. Currently, she paints and photographs alone in her studio, pursuing two projects. On the one hand, she is creating her own past in the village with a fictitious Bürchner ancestor, and on the other, she is working on a color palette of the local landscape in the mountains.

You can find more info about La Dragée Design here

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