Wrap up of the Eidgenöissche Schwing- und Älplerfest in Zug
I am still recovering from a lack of sleep, a hell of a lot of walking and a ton of fun at last weekend's Eidgenöissche Schwing- und Älplerfest in Zug. I am not usually one for crowds and late nights, but when Switzerland's largest sporting event comes to your part of the country, you make an exception.
The fun began Friday afternoon directly after the parade. We stayed on for a kid-free evening to get the party started. Over bottles of most (cider) and beer, we sang along to very Swiss music, paid our 1chf for the first Einteilungsliste (1st round draw) and debated who would win on Sunday. Smart planning had has snag one of the last tables in the Gemstock tent, where we enjoyed dinner (boy was the kitchen well organised) and waited for the main act: Heimweh. All four tents, as well as the public viewing in front of the Bossard Arena, hosted free concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings, where you had to make sure you were inside early to get a seat. Despite there being two other acts, after Heimweh's final song, my favourite "Rosemary", we headed home. After all, I had to be on the 5:45 am bus the next morning.
Saturday began early, and I wasn't the only one waiting for the 5.45am bus. Both spectators and helpers packed into buses and trains, a test for Zug's central train station which has never hosted so many people at once. 90% of the 440,000 visitors to Zug over the weekend came by public transport.
We arrived at the stadium in plenty of time to grab a coffee and gipfeli and find our seats for the opening at 7.30am. What surprised me was the lack of security — no bag searches or metal detectors, just two volunteers who checked the tickets. The Schwingest began just like at the Olympics, with each of the four Verbands (Associations) walking into the stadium. Each association chose a different theme song, with most deciding on a gladiator-style song. However, the central Swiss entered the stadium to a ländler song, Steinerchilbi, which got the atmosphere in the stadium going. Once we sang the Swiss national anthem, the first gang began.
My morning slot in the stadium, which was two rounds, went by quick. I loved joining in the Mexican wave and cheering on the locals. Wicki was impressive from the get-go, with his first match lasting no more than 30 seconds. I was astonished to see entire party plates of meats, cheeses, fruits and bread being passed around, all prepared with a knife brought into the stadium - only in Switzerland. Even at this early time of day, glass bottles of Most and Beer were drunk and then nicely recycled or returned for the 1chf deposit. We spent the rest of the day, after a quick nap at home, outside the Gemstock tent, chatting and listening to music.
Sunday saw us back in the stadium for the final two rounds, including the final of the Unspunnen stone throwing and the Schlussgang between Wicki and Stucki. This time I didn't forget the cheese and salami. The atmosphere was electric with cheering coming from different corners of the stadium each time that region's athlete won. While the final round was a little short and didn't result in what we were hoping for, it was still the highlight of the entire weekend. After us locals got over the shock of Wicki not winning, we also cheered on Stucki as he was crowned Schwingerkönig and photographed with the bull, Kolin.
Instead of joining the stream of people heading home, we stayed on a little after the Schlussgang. We grabbed a delicious pulled pork burger, an ice-cold Most and sat around analysing the days result. Did Wicki succumb to the pressure of just having to tie the final round? Or was he not "Böse" enough to be crowned King? Central Switzerland has only ever had one Schwinger crowned King, so the pressure was on.
But as 7.30pm hit and having not seen my kids much since Friday afternoon, it was time to take the bus home. We chatted about the highlights, but also how odd for it to be all over and done with.
And now it's over. In 3 weeks, the stadium will of been taken down and the Schwingfest just a distant memory. Well until the "Böse" gather again for the next Eidgenöissche Schwing- und Älplerfest: 2022 in Pratteln near Basel.