Open Air Festivals

Every year in July and August there are a number of open air festivals in Switzerland. As far as I know I attended one of the very first ones, if not the first one in Berne many years ago. It’s changed a lot since then and the open air festival in Berne on the Gurten (which is the name of some rolling hills just outside of Berne) is neither the only open air festival in Switzerland nor the largest.

The largest and oldest (since 1977) open air festival in Switzerland is the one in St. Gallen and lasts 3 days. That is 3 days of camping, grilling, live music, fun and when it rains, a lot of mud. I saw an interview taken at the festival this year and really, although I like live music and have nothing against grilling and having a good time, maybe I’m just getting too old for this. Almost none of the interviewees were coherent. Absolutely no one had anything to say. When asked what was so special about the festival one person said “It’s good that the people aren’t different, they are all drunk.” When asked which band they were going to watch next, another person said “The next band that plays”. Someone else said “I haven’t wanted to see any yet. But I’ve seen a couple, it’s not like that. Yeah, I’ve seen a couple but haven’t missed any that I wanted to see.” Right, I fully understand. There were also a lot of cool ‘hand shakes’; bumping fists and pointing at each other. Makes you wonder what exactly these people will remember about the festival.

The festival I went to years ago was completely different than the ones today with the exception that there was music. It was organized as a folk festival by nature oriented people, you know the type – peace, love, no nukes, let’s go hug a tree, nature lovers. There were no big name bands playing but a lot of people sitting on the ground and enjoying the day. The price of a ticket was affordable. At some point I was hungry and went to find a stand where I could buy a bratwurst and maybe a Coke. I couldn’t find any so I asked around. The answer I got was ‘We don’t sell junk food here.” I wasn’t aware that bratwursts were junk food, but you never stop learning, do you? I ended up eating something rather indefinable, but I’m still here so I didn’t die from whatever it was!

I guess different types of festivals attract different types of audiences. Once we went to a country festival in the mountains. This was American country music: cowboy hats, jeans and boots was what the people were wearing. Lots of beer flowing as well but thankfully not everyone was drunk. It was an interesting ambience, too; up in the mountains the last thing I would expect to hear would be American country music; yodeling and alp horns, yes, but country music? Most of the singers were from America but not all. I like country music and the music they played was good and we had fun. The guy introducing all the bands and talking between acts was Swiss. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Swiss and am amazed at all the languages they can speak and they do it so well. This guy was going between talking to the bands in English and introducing them in Swiss to the audience along with doing some translations, not an easy feat to say the least. I would, however, think that the person announcing at a country festival should be able to pronounce the word ‘country’ correctly. Or at the very least one of the American singers would have corrected him. Every time he said country he pronounced it ‘count-tree’. It sounded so strange to me. But if you think about it ‘country’ is pronounced differently than ‘county’ and there is only an ‘r’ more. … and they say German is a hard language it learn.

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