What is your favourite activity while travelling?
Sampling local cuisine?
Sitting at a cafe & people-watching?
As fun as all of these are (and I am particularly partial to #3!), another great way to experience a place is through its local arts and crafts. And if you get a chance to actually try your hand at it, there's nothing better.
On a recent trip to Switzerland, when I was travelling through the picturesque region of Gstaad (that playground of the rich and the famous), I visited Lauenen. A quintessential Swiss village, with a sprinkling of pretty chalets, a village church, some cafes and restaurants, and miles of emerald green fields, with contented cows grazing in them - Lauenen is a visual treat!
Most houses, hotels and restaurants in Lauenen, and indeed in Gstaad, display delicate artworks made out of paper. I learnt about paper-cutting or Scherenschnitte while sitting in a cafe and chatting with Anita Raaflaub, one of the artisans in the village. But this wasn't just a theoretical lesson; soon I was snipping away at a paper design.