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Tradition and History

Tradition since the 13th century...

Festivals to celebrate reconciliation and friendship were being held on the meadow near Unspunnen Castle as early as the beginning of the 13th century. The purpose was to defuse tension and conflict – mainly between the city and the provinces and the government and people.

A similar atmosphere of conflict existed shortly before the first traditional Unspunnen Festival in 1805: the people of the Bernese Oberland had been in constant rebellion against the supremacy of the City of Bern. They wanted independence and thus between 1798 und 1803 formed a separate canton in the Helvetic Republic. As a consequence, provinces and country were on an equal footing. However as early as 1803, 125 of the 195 members of the  Bern Cantonal Parliament were from the City of Bern. This renewed the tension between the two cantons.


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.

07.07.2011 01:46