A lust for life and tradition

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‘Suufsunntig’: The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ with a difference

Where tradition is part of everyday life – it’s true. Nothing is artificial,  everything is genuine and comes from the heart. Whether ‘Suufsunntig’,  ‘Züglete’ or ‘Scherischnitt’: in Gstaad a piece of the past is still alive in great  company, here and now.

It’s true the title sounds a little strange: ‘Suufsunntig’.  What does one actually drink at this Sunday celebration? Are the good people of Gstaad really so thirsty? One could say they have an  appetite for adventure. More than ten ‘Suufsunntige’, take place on various alps in Saanenland between July and August. It is mainly the cows presented at the award ceremony who do the drinking. The highlight of every Alpine festival is namely when the loveliest cow is crowned during the afternoon. The proud ‘Miss’ shows off her Alpine flowers, fir tree branches and other decoration and is ceremoniously sung to by the yodellers present. Finally, the owner of the winning cow has to order the next round: white wine for everyone.

A large “Schlugg”

The day starts cheerfully: traditionally “Suufsunntig” starts with a “Schlugg” – a drink similar to yoghurt, which is actually a by-product of cheese. The refreshment stands are open from 11 a.m. In between times, yodelling choirs perform typical songs. Towards midday the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ or mountain prayers, takes place. The priest holding the service praises not only the ‘Good Lord’, but also ‘Nature’ and its beauty. Young children are often baptised here; and sometimes a few tears of joy are shed by the parents and god-parents in front of the assembled community. Meanwhile the other children romp around or pet the cows, goats and chickens. The adults celebrate with lively folk music until late into the night. The passing of time is forgotten for a while.

A happy ending to summer

They come and go when they please. End of May, start of June, the farmers leave for the alps, once the meadows on the Alpine pastures have grown. In September, when the delicate herbs have been eaten, then they return home – there isn’t a fixed timetable. And the ceremonial cattle drive in Saanenland is underway. The cows wear colourful decorations, trudge or trot back down the valley without a care in the world wearing large cowbells round their neck, so they can be heard from afar. The “Züglete” is underway. With a bit of luck, you may come across this traditional spectacle, which is not a marketed as a tourist attraction, either from the wayside or while hiking in the valley. A fixed date – the only one of this type – is the “Gstaad Züglete” on 1st September.  The third edition is going ahead. The Alpine cattle drive ends in this way - with an impressive formation of marching cows in 30 to 60 minute intervals, right through the middle of the sophisticated village.


Miss Beautiful Udder

At the cattle shows that take place in the Destination up on the alps and throughout the summer, it’s all about udder size, texture of the hide and backbone. The judges are strict, they look the cow over from head to toe and award points. There are a lot of discussions and shop talk direct from the horse’s mouth. These animals are valuable for the farmers who earn their daily bread with them. If your cow pockets an award, it can be sold at the next auction for a better price or used for breeding. Visitors can also watch the voting live, while enjoying cheese, sausage and bread.

Perfect cut

A steady hand, a good eye and a lot of imagination is needed for a ‘Scherischnitt’ (the art of paper cutting). Black on white – seldom coloured – idyllic scenes from the farmyard are played out before the eyes of the beholder. Ueli Hauswirth from Zweisimmen is one of the paper cutting artists, who has honed the art of cutting. His works hang in Restaurant and Papercutting Museum Hüsy in Blankenburg by Zweisimmen, alongside those of countless others. Since the 19th century, when the Saanen resident Johann Jakob Hauswirth carried out pioneering work, the craft with the ideal world on paper has become an export hit. Ueli Hauswirth and his colleagues are happy to let you peer over their shoulder as they carry out their precise work.