Unspunnen in Switzerland

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My wife, Mary Ellen, and I were in Switzerland for 10 days in September ’06. We stayed in Merligen, which is on Lake Thun and near Interlaken. We had been in this area before and basically were interested in hiking in the beautiful mountains of the area, which was marvelous.

The highlight of the trip was the Unspunnen Festival in Interlaken, starting on Sept. 1 and ending with a parade on Sept 3. Held every 12 years, this festival was scheduled for 2005, but the rains and floods caused it to be postponed until 2006.

This festival features national costumes, yodeling and Alpine wrestling. Throwing the Unspunnen stone is one of the competitions; a huge stone is tossed, shot put fashion, but the rock is much, much bigger than a shot put.

The parade started at 10 a.m., led by horse riders dressed in traditional costume. Next came some goats, then sheep, then cows. The cows’ horns were adorned with garlands of flowers. It was really beautiful.

One memory I have is of a farmer, his wife and small daughter leading an immense bull. The girl, maybe three years old, walked beside the bull’s head with her hand on his face. They passed us, and as they walked away she was holding his tail. Apparently, she and the bull were very good friends.

After the animals passed, a sanitary brigade came by with sweepers to clean the street.

Next came men and women from all sections of Switzerland dressed in their local costumes. Many were celebrating different things, much of which was lost on us. One group was celebrating women’s suffrage, we think.

As different groups passed, many people in the group would pass out bits of stuff to eat. I was handed candy, candy filled with liquor, apples, dried apples, cookies, dried meats, cheeses, etc.

Every so often a woman would walk by with a bottle and hand me a thimble-sized plastic cup into which would be poured some clear liquid to taste. At first, it tasted like pipe cleaner and felt like it was taking the enamel off my teeth, but after I got my breath back I would have a very pleasant taste in my mouth.

The most impressive of the liquids came to me from some little old Frau who dipped a sugar cube into a cup and handed it to me. I made the mistake of sucking on the sugar cube and inhaling at the same time. It tasted like Drano and felt as if fire were shooting out of my ears. After what seemed a long time, I was able to breath again and I had a wonderful taste in my mouth. I will never have to worry about my sinuses as I am sure they were fried with that stuff.

In the last part of the parade, which lasted two hours, were yodelers and alpenhorns. It was really impressive.

After the parade, beer was sold all along the street (this helped put out the lingering fire from the Drano) along with many types of food; raclette, fondue and fantastic sausages were just a few of the choices.

The most tasty and unusual food we had on the street was “military toast,” a mixture of Gruyère cheese, onions and spices on a slab of bread that is then deep-fried. Of course, due to its fat content, I could practically feel my arteries closing up as I ate it, but it was worth it.

BURL HULL

Greensboro, NC

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

My wife, Mary Ellen, and I were in Switzerland for 10 days in September ’06. We stayed in Merligen, which is on Lake Thun and near Interlaken. We had been in this area before and basically were interested in hiking in the beautiful mountains of the area, which was marvelous.

The highlight of the trip was the Unspunnen Festival in Interlaken, starting on Sept. 1 and ending with a parade on Sept 3. Held every 12 years, this festival was scheduled for 2005, but the rains and floods caused it to be postponed until 2006.

This festival features national costumes, yodeling and Alpine wrestling. Throwing the Unspunnen stone is one of the competitions; a huge stone is tossed, shot put fashion, but the rock is much, much bigger than a shot put.

The parade started at 10 a.m., led by horse riders dressed in traditional costume. Next came some goats, then sheep, then cows. The cows’ horns were adorned with garlands of flowers. It was really beautiful.

One memory I have is of a farmer, his wife and small daughter leading an immense bull. The girl, maybe three years old, walked beside the bull’s head with her hand on his face. They passed us, and as they walked away she was holding his tail. Apparently, she and the bull were very good friends.

After the animals passed, a sanitary brigade came by with sweepers to clean the street.

Next came men and women from all sections of Switzerland dressed in their local costumes. Many were celebrating different things, much of which was lost on us. One group was celebrating women’s suffrage, we think.

As different groups passed, many people in the group would pass out bits of stuff to eat. I was handed candy, candy filled with liquor, apples, dried apples, cookies, dried meats, cheeses, etc.

Every so often a woman would walk by with a bottle and hand me a thimble-sized plastic cup into which would be poured some clear liquid to taste. At first, it tasted like pipe cleaner and felt like it was taking the enamel off my teeth, but after I got my breath back I would have a very pleasant taste in my mouth.

The most impressive of the liquids came to me from some little old Frau who dipped a sugar cube into a cup and handed it to me. I made the mistake of sucking on the sugar cube and inhaling at the same time. It tasted like Drano and felt as if fire were shooting out of my ears. After what seemed a long time, I was able to breath again and I had a wonderful taste in my mouth. I will never have to worry about my sinuses as I am sure they were fried with that stuff.

In the last part of the parade, which lasted two hours, were yodelers and alpenhorns. It was really impressive.

After the parade, beer was sold all along the street (this helped put out the lingering fire from the Drano) along with many types of food; raclette, fondue and fantastic sausages were just a few of the choices.

The most tasty and unusual food we had on the street was “military toast,” a mixture of Gruyère cheese, onions and spices on a slab of bread that is then deep-fried. Of course, due to its fat content, I could practically feel my arteries closing up as I ate it, but it was worth it.

BURL HULL

Greensboro, NC