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This beautiful Alpine village which has been cut off from the outside world by its climate, is today visited by hundreds of hikers who yearn to discover what it is like to share a few days amongst the villagers. Specialized in breeding, these highlanders live at an altitude varying between 1,000 and 1,600 meters (3,280 and 5,250 feet). The higher the mountainous mass, the more the villages gain in altitude. The highest community in Europe rises up to 2,040 meters (6,693 feet). In these tiny hamlets, there still remain a few families of breeders, who from mid-June to mid-September leave their homes to let their flocks graze on the rich, flowered grasses of mountain pastures. Once back in their picturesque little village, these families prepare cheeses, which they sell to neighbors and passers-by. The traditional rural homes of the Alps are often grouped together on the sunny side of the mountain, near land that is suitable for cultivation, as there is a low risk of avalanches and landslides. Their architecture varies depending on the region. Built with wood in forested areas and stone in rocky areas, these houses harmonies well with their natural element as they are built with materials readily available. In these mountains, where the winters are long and harsh, the houses are often massive and have a minimum of entrances. The roofs are wide and hang over the sides of the house in order to offer protection. Some are almost flat, using the heavy blanket of snow as insulation against the cold, while others are slanted to help it slide off easily. With the coming of spring, the villagers trim the windows and balconies of their homes with magnificent geraniums. This Alpine scenery couldn't be more breathtaking! With the exception of natural disasters, fire is, without a doubt, the plague most dreaded by Alpine villages. In order to protect their homes and the enormous forage supplies stored in their barns, certain farmers adorn the doors, windows and frieze of their homes with motifs invoking divine protection against fire. The heart, the Saint-Esprit dove and the cross are among the decorations that one will find, more often than not, in the Giffre en Haut-Savoie valley.
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