Swiss Day – Interlaken, Switzerland

[ 3 ] September 10, 2011 |

Interlaken is an adrenaline junkie’s dreamland.  Set in the beautiful Swiss alps this little slice of mountain man heaven is a form of backpackers Shangri-La.  Interlaken is a relatively small town with only around 5,000 residents, 25% of which are foreign nationals supporting the adventure tourism trade.

The train ride into Interlaken was filled with enough jaw dropping scenery to get us thoroughly excited by the time we stepped onto the train platform in Interlaken Oost station.  With only three full days to poke around this little slice of paradise, lucky for us the day after we arrived just so happened to be the biggest annual holiday on the Swiss calendar – Swiss National Day, or “Swiss Day” to the locals.

Swiss Day is a Swiss style 4th of July celebration complete with parades, lots of “revelry”, and a massive fireworks display into the night.  Given that the Swiss have apparently earned the reputation as being fairly overly behaved somber folk, we were factitiously told that it is the only time of year that the Swiss stay up past 10pm.


The annual parade kicked off around noon and was filled with a mix of historical and nationalistic incantations.  From ancient woodsman, friars, and milkmaids to herds of cattle yielding obnoxiously loud bells around their necks to leotard clad young girls doing gymnastic routines on the backs of galloping horses, it was a trip through time as they venerated every possible symbol of what it means to be Swiss.  It was pretty awesome.

The Swissiest of All

Parade Mountain People

You Rang

Horseback Gymnastics

The Mountain Horn Blowers

My favorite part of the parade had to be the people dressed up as the “Old Man of the Mountain”.  It comes from an old generational fable told in Interlaken about a grizzly looking face that can be (sort of) seen on one of the mountain faces surrounding Interlaken.  Basically people dress up in gunnysacks with gnarly looking masks and run around sneaking up behind parade goers and scare them – especially children.  Pretty fun.

Mountain Man Mask

Face in the Mountain

From floats handing out apples and vegetable soup to the pungent aroma of roasted melted Swiss cheese, it was certainly one of the most memorable parades of my life – not necessarily for its production value but more so for its sheer bizarreness.  We are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

The "Scary" Swiss Army

Mountain Man Masking Around

Swiss Day Fireworks


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Category: Blog, Destinations, Featured Posts, Pat's Blog, Switzerland

Comments (3)

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  1. Jessica Brockway says:

    What an unique, interesting, and fun experience! Unforgettable in every way

  2. Kate McCusker says:

    Now I’m really getting nostalgic. I don’t suppose you have time to go back to Luzern. Lake Luzern is the best. I worked in Weggis, a little town on the lake one summer. Was in a madcap hotel run by a crazy chef. No one spoke English! My friend and I had to sneak out through a window every night. The hotel – Alpenblick – was condemned the year after we left. What memories. Switzerland holds a special place in my heart – and memories. Thanks for sharing. Love, Kate

  3. Russ Porter says:

    Hey Pat, Great pics. That looks like tons of fun. I think I saw some of my relatives from Arkansas in that parade. I’ll let you guess which group they were in! ha ha

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