Friday, August 9, 2013

Visiting the Heart of Switzerland and Celebrating Swiss National Day

In advance of Swiss National Day (August 1), Tom and I took a trip to what we are calling the Heart of Switzerland, or where it all began back in 1291! Out in a field where three cantons come together, men (of course since women got the vote here very recently) met and formed the Helvetia Confederation. Had to go with a Latin name rather than show preference for any of the official languages. We drove from Horgen to Brunnen, took a boat on Lake Luzern over to Rütli and then hiked up. We decided to avoid whatever crowd may show up on August 1st.

So much beauty on the drive...I can't stop myself from taking pictures!

so much construction - there is always a crane close by

our starting point - here we board the boat

lots of organ grinders happened to be on the shore!
Lake Luzern

Brunnen is in Canton Schwyz - shown by top flag

green meadow is our first destination

we made it!

our boat leaving

This is where it all began.

meadow from above

You may notice that the lake seems further away - we're hiking uphill. Thankfully, much of it was in the shade. We definitely got a workout and our reward was these views.

quite a view from this house at the top of our hike

guess who?


This yellow flag indicates the canton of Uri. Notice the cable car going up. We stayed on foot - we were headed down at this point. 

We are both in awe of how the mountains grow right out of the lake. 


We won't be on the approaching ferry, but we're headed down to the dock near the church below.

on the ferry back to Brunnen

of course, more beauty on the ride home!
Everything is closed on August 1 for Swiss National Day. Trains and buses run on a holiday schedule, but they do run. We discovered too late that a traditional activity is to go to a brunch on a farm. We have plenty of lead time now to make a reservation for next year. For 2013, we celebrated by attending a local Schwingen (Swiss wrestling) tournament in a neighboring town. 

We walked to the event in the "cool" (not) air of the morning and returned via bus. (Yes, it does get hot here.) Some sights along the way:

farm area, yes, but never seen this before

two days later this was all cut down

name in English!

I like the mix of modern and antique

cut your own flowers

everything needed is here and payment is on the honor system

so many sunflowers!


 Swiss Day decorations

We're headed to the field with the flags.

A description of Schwingen from a non-Swiss point of view:
Young men and grown men put special shorts that look like diapers over their long pants. They are also often wearing button-down shirts out of edelweiss fabric.Very few wore ear protectors. In typical Swiss fashion, they begin by shaking hands. The referee waits until the competitors get set in their bear hug stance with their hands in the proper starting position: one on the belt and one on the bottom of the shorts. The referee then calls "guet" (the Swiss German interpretation of gut = good) and the wrestling begins. In order to win, one competitor's back and shoulders much touch the sawdust (no mat) for a second or so. Afterwards, there is another shaking of hands and the winner brushes sawdust off the loser's back. The shorts are thrown on the ground and someone else picks them up - shared shorts! It was not an elimination tournament. I don't know exactly how it worked, but we saw the same people compete multiples times. They were having so much fun, they didn't want to stop?! We left before anyone was crowned the champion. One more thing, they are taking this very seriously!

the "arena" with Lake Zurich behind

 There were two "rings" so two matches were underway simultaneously.  

demonstrating the starting grip

red bucket is for rinsing off sawdust

I'm amused by how synchronized their turn is at the end. Had to show the back for the brush off, but then go return the shorts on the other side of the ring.

we are not children

The next day's newspaper showed this disappointed losing wrestler. Anybody have a hose?

Does this look fun to you? It was very amusing to be a spectator, but hard to believe grown men do this. I've been told by a  local Swiss that it is only farmers that do it and not city folks. I'll take her word for it.

All entertainment venues sell food. Typical Swiss choices: bratwurst, bread and beer!
champion's prize!
 Cute kids in attendance.

same shirt fabric as many wrestlers

the future of Schwingen!

To add to the festivities, a local yodeling club came and performed.

The wrestling, however, did not stop. 

Another way Swiss celebrate their National Day is with bonfires. They're ready for one later. We will be long gone when that is burning.

After dinner at home, it was time to walk towards the center of Horgen to find a good vantage point for the local firework display. It was a beautiful day from the beginning and now we get to enjoy this sunset. Nice!

I love the way the fireworks reflect on the water. We were sitting right on the wall around the lake. Perfect.

the rare green firework - most were red or white
We eventually made it back to our balcony to watch the fireworks set off by neighbors. Of course, we had a few Swiss Day decorations of our own. It was definitely a fun day pretending to be Swiss.