Unspunnen festival

The Unspunnen festival is the Swiss folklore event organized every 10 or so years in the town of Interlaken, located in kanton Bern between the Lakes of Thun and Brienz. In 2011 it was held on the 3rd and 4th of September. The festival has its origin in the Alpine Cowherds Festival organized in 1805. Its main purpose was to create more unity among the people of Bern and those living in the mountainous region of the Bernese Oberland.

Steinstossen
Steinstossen

The Unspunnen festival includes several events. One of the most popular ones is the stone-throwing contest or “Steinstossen.” Each competitor tries to throw a stone called “Unspunnenstein” (Unspunnen stone) weighing 80 kilograms as far as possible.

Schwingen or the Alpine wrestling
Schwingen or the Alpine wrestling

“Schwingen” or the Alpine wrestling is another attractive event of the festival. Wrestlers wear special shorts over their trousers. Each wrestler tries to throw his opponent on the ground. Both shoulders of the opponent must touch the ground for the victory to be declared. To throw the opponent wrestler holds the hole in the belt with one hand and the edge of shorts with the other one. The match lasts for some 10 minutes. If no wrestler is thrown on the ground within that time a draw is declared. There is a difference in the colour of t-shirts worn by wrestlers. Local herdsmen participating in the event wear blue t-shirts and everyone else white ones. For those interested let's mention that the Schwingen competition exists on the national level too. The national championship is organized every three years.

Like many other events in the Alpine region this one also includes traditional singing called “Yodeling.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word yodel is derived from a German word jodeln (originally Bavarian) meaning "to utter the syllable jo.”

The Yodeling is not the only type of local music that can be heard at the festival. There are songs performed with Alphorns. The Alphorn is a wooden musical instrument with the length of over 3 meters. Before being a musical instrument the Alphorn was used a mean of communication but also to call the cattle.

Three men playing alphorns
Three men playing alphorns

Visitors of the festival can also see something what is called the “Fahnenschwingen” or “flag throwing” where people swing, throw and catch Swiss national flags.

The last event of the festival is the big procession of people from different parts of Switzerland wearing traditional costumes, but also animals like for example goats and cows with big cowbells. The procession ends in part of Interlaken called “Höhematte”.