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Travel

Rare Swiss festival celebrates Alpine traditions

Switzerland's biggest Alpine festival opened with a day of yodeling, alphorn-blowing and rock-throwing on Saturday at Interlaken. Some 150,000 visitors are expected at the event held about once every 12 years.

The nine-day Unspunnen festival is only held at intervals of about 12 years to celebrate ancient mountain traditions. One of the highlights is a Swiss-style wrestling competition, where broad-shouldered men wearing long pants and shirts go to battle in an open-air arena filled with sawdust.

The winners of the wrestling championship are crowned as "kings." Other events include Hornussen, an ancient Swiss team sport that can be described as a mix between golf and cricket.

A shooting match, flag-swinging and dancing are also part of the Unspunnen event that has political origins. In 1805, the ruling classes in Bern tried to close the rift between Swiss city dwellers and the rural population by organizing a large festival.

However, the organizers were not able to appease country folk with this form of entertainment, and the festival was revived only in 1905, this time to promote tourism rather than political aims.

ak/at (dpae)