Untours Cafe

There are only a few days in a lifetime you can describe as perfect. We had one those days on our Heartland trip this year. We were fortunate to attend the Swiss National Yodeling competition held this year in Luzern, over four picture-perfect days. 300,000 people enjoyed the competition, held every three years, and not to be taken lightly. 14,000 competitors compete in yodeling, flag throwing and alphorn-blowing.

We hopped on the local 8:14am to Luzern, along with some competitors in costume. The competition was held in venues all around town—churches, town halls, etc.; the locations identified by tall columns of flowers at the entrances. Around town hundreds of competitors in their traditional regional costumes would break into spontaneous “song” to the delight of the attendees.

A wooden bar (1,200 meters) was built across the bridge between the lake and the river. That made for a lot of beer and schnapps! This busy roadway was actually closed on Sunday for a three-hour parade, rich in Swiss folklore (nationally televised).

Tents were erected along the lake for food—traditional Swiss food, not to mention Thai, Mexican, Japanese, etc. There was music and entertainment in every tent, and everywhere you turned. There were bands on boats on the lake. Have you ever heard a dance band that included an alpenhorn? We chose not to go inside the competition venues, but to enjoy the sights and sounds outside.

Later in the day, I wanted to hear alpenhorn groups. We walked over to new town, by the Pilatusstrasse where a group of men and women were playing outdoors. I followed a group of men with alpenhorns into a closed courtyard where they assembled their horns. We followed as they left the courtyard and walked across to a park near the police station where they would compete. There were 16 in this group. They did their warm-ups, and finally the leader had each player tune his/her alpenhorn individually—a black box with a needle indicator displayed the desired pitch. I had not seen this done before. If the alpenhorn was not in tune, a small turn on the lower section of the alpenhorn changed the pitch.

We ended the day at Niedermeyer’s Konditerei with a celebratory double waffle cone. It doesn’t get better than Movenpick pistachio and apricot---mmmmmmmm!

As we headed home, we saw throngs of people at each station along the way headed to join the happy crowds in Luzern to enjoy the music and view the dazzling fireworks show over the Vierwaldstattersee.

It should be noted that our very own Sachseln jodeler, alphorn expert, alphorn coach to untold numbers of Untourist alphorn “wannabe’s”, who has entertained us over many years at the Sachseln Bahnhof parties received the highest marks for his performance at the competition.

For those that plan ahead, don’t miss the next National Yodeling competition to be held in Interlaken in 2011!

It seems there is always a new adventure around the corner in Switzerland, even after many trips. But the constant is the tradition and joy of music found in every town and enjoyed by young and old.

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Comment by Marlene Hench on August 3, 2008 at 12:53am
What fun! I have always enjoyed the yodeling. My Dad used to yodel when I was a kid and we always got a kick out of it. When we were in Switzerland, Frank and I got to try playing the Alpenhorn at the Untours dinner. I got a couple of sounds out ot it and Frank who used to play the trumpet many years ago was able to play a little tune.
My favorite was in Bavaria in our family mountain town of Wiesen during an Oktoberfest, the band included an alpenhorn player who although he played in about every song, also was featured in several solos. Wonderful!!!! The sounds they can get out of that instrument are fabulous.


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