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Sniffing Around Back In The Home Country

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Where am I?
It’s extremely crowded, music roars out of loudspeakers, people sniff a powdery substance up their noses and they drink until they can’t stand straight anymore. No, I’m not tripping with the youth at the Street Parade in Zürich, but rather hanging out with 6300 mostly middle aged country folk at the 117th annual Brünig Schwinget. Sure, there are alphorns and flag throwers, but your typical Edelweiss stereotypes don’t do this event justice: First of all, who would have thought that this Swiss Wrestling competition is the hardest ticket to get? Apparently the tix for seats in this Hollywood Bowl style amphitheater with a mountain view are handed down within the family, only a few standing place tickets are available at the box office on the day. Luckily, someone’s father-in-law couldn’t make it and I inherited a seat temporarily.

Just like me, everybody seems to smoke the Original Villiger Krumme cigars here, so I felt right at home. But I never had a sniff of the Swiss snuff which strangely is called McChrystal’s. (Where do you even buy that stuff? At the kiosk? Does the cigarette section at Coop carry it?). According to the box it’s addictive and according to my new friends Xaver and Roli it gives you a buzz. I tried it several times while wondering why this is legal and pot isn’t. I still can’t confirm a major buzz, but I’m sure it makes you woozy if you drink enough beer or wine with it.

Lunchtime is “Spatz” (sparrow) time. No, it does not taste like chicken; because it’s meat in a vegetable soup. Since the days I accompanied my Dad to Shooting Competitions (Schützenfest) as a child, they also added a sausage. Or I forgot about the sausage. I couldn’t stand “Spatz” then. Now, I think it’s yummy. I also think Swiss Wrestling and Yodeling events are cool now. Maybe because I always enjoyed learning about other cultures’ heritage and traditions and finally realized that that’s what Swiss Wrestling is.

Next eye-opener:  If you dress like a cowgirl and wear a long folksy skirt to blend in, you draw attention instead. Flirting Schwinger-style is not for the faint of heart. Tough guys require tough girls who can handle sexist jokes and domestic violence encouraging snuff poetry like this one:

In der Augenbläue,
liegt die Frauentreue.
Willst du eine treue Frau,
schlag ihr beide Augen blau!

They dare to recite this stuff before a pinch of snuff because there are not that many women around here to complain. I try not to think about what all those rhymes say about the Volksseele, the soul of our heartland, but rather focus on the big bad guys (they’re called “die Bösen”) in the sawdust. Somehow it looks like all they really want is a hug, hanging on so desperately to each others shorts. Swiss Rapper Bligg devoted his latest single “Legändä & Heldä” to them. One of those “Legends & Heroes” will be crowned King on August 22 in Frauenfeld. I can’t wait. In the meantime, I treasure my very first McChrystal’s snuff box and a bunch of new friends – one of which turned out to be a distant relative! If that’s not a worthwhile homecoming, I don’t know what is…

by Marlene von Arx,
proud daughter of two Niederämter (Kanton Solothurn) who grew up as a Freiämter (Aargau). Freelance journalist for Swiss media (Mittelland Zeitung, Schweizer Illustrierte, SI Style, NZZ am Sonntag, etc.). In LA since Desert Storm, Golden Globe voting member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Written by marleneva

August 3, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Posted in Little Switzerland

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