This situation led the Mayor of Bern, Niklaus Friedrich von Mülinen and Interlaken’s chief magistrate, Franz Ludwig Thormann, together with art lover Sigmund Wagner from Bern and artist Franz Niklaus König from Unterseen to organize the first Unspunnen Festival. As well as presenting rustic traditions, the aim was to reconcile city and provinces. However this wish remained unfulfilled and the relationship between town and country continued to be marked by distrust.
In contrast, the first two Unspunnen Festivals were a great cultural and financial success. Many famous guests such as portrait painter Madame Vigée-Lebrun and authoress Madame Germaine de Staël enjoyed the traditional festivities. Poets bestowed words of praise and artists captured the events for posterity with paintbrush and pencil, becoming ambassadors of rustic tradition by displaying the stunning beauty of the Alpine landscape in the cultural capitals of Europe.The folk festival established the global reputation of Interlaken as a tourist resort. The major national Alpine wrestlers’, yodellers’ and alphorn blowers’ associations, the Swiss Heritage Society and the Swiss Traditional Costume Association owe their origins to the Unspunnen Festival.
Unspunnen - 200 years of history
And of course there will be the traditional festivities on the Unspunnen meadow and the grand festival procession through Interlaken, with its famous green Höhematte. Spectators will get an impressive insight into the history, culture and wealth of tradition of all the Swiss cantons.
The traditional games and festivals are still carried on in their original spirit.In 2006, muscular men will try to throw the 167lb Unspunnen stone over record distances, even if this is no longer the original stone from 1805. Burly wrestlers will enter the sawdust circle to battle for the crown. Groups in colourful traditional costumes will twirl to the toe-tapping music of the Swiss folk music bands. Alphorn blowers will play in breathtaking competition.
The next Unspunnenfestival will be held in 2017.