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The Zug Schwing and Älplerfest

The country’s largest Schwing and Älplerfest starts today in Zug. If you want to get a feel for real Swiss culture then you should go along as this is a one of a kind party. Here is all you need to know.

What is Schwingen?

Schwingen is the Swiss form of folk wrestling, dating back to the middle ages. Wrestlers wear Schwingerhosen (“wrestling breeches”) with belts that are used for taking holds. Throws and trips are common because the first person to pin his or her opponent’s shoulders to the ground wins the bout.

The match takes place in a ring, a circular area with a diameter of 12 meters that is covered with sawdust. The two opponents wear short pants made of jute over their clothes. The wrestlers hold each other by these pants, at the back where the belt meets, and try to throw the opponent onto his back. A match is won when the winner holds the opponent’s pants with at least one hand and both the opponent’s shoulders touch the ground. By tradition the winner brushes the sawdust off the loser’s back after the match.

The match is judged by three referees, one of whom stands in the ring. The referees give points, with a maximum of ten points for a winning throw. If the match ends without a clear win, the more active Schwinger is awarded the higher number of points.

At a Schwing festival, every Schwinger wrestles six opponents, or eight at the Eidgenössische. The two Schwingers with the highest number of points after five (seven at the Eidgenössische) matches get to the Schlussgang (last round). The matching of the Schwingers is done by the fight court according to arcane rules. Often there are suspicions that the matchings have not been fair, and favor one contestant over the others.

There are no weight classes nor any other categories. Usually, though, Schwingers are big men, over 180 cm tall and weighing in excess of 100 kg, and are mostly craftsmen from traditional professions that require some physical force, like carpenters, butchers, lumberjacks or cheesemakers. *

What to expect this weekend?

Expect a large cheering crowd; besides the Schwingen competition, there will be rock throwing, yodelling and a lot of beer and bratwurst and chicken to enjoy. Here is the full programme.

The event in numbers

  • Budget: 38 million francs
  • Expected crowd 300 000 people over the 3 days
  • 56 500 arena seats
  • 276 Schwinger sportsmen
  • 74 Rock Throwers
  • 7 wrestling rings
  • 4 party tents
  • 20 000 litres of drinks
  • 2500 Schwingerschubliger sausages
  • 3200 chickens
  • Loads of side activities

Besides the festival, the town of Zug is putting on loads of activities including concerts at the V-Zug Arena starting tonight with Nickless, Saturday with Manillio and Lo&Leduc and Sunday with DJs.

You can find out more by going to their website.

*source wikipedia

Charlie Hartmann is the managing director of the Livingin organisation which focuses on helping international residents connect, grow and thrive in Switzerland.