Monthly Archives: June 2011

10/6/11 – What does South Korea have in common with Switzerland?

Deeply uncool, so most people think, but I love to hear someone let rip with a good yodel

Next weekend (17-19 June), a dream is going to come true for me and my sister. We are heading to Interlaken for a music festival. Not a muddy festival in a field, and not rock, pop, classical or jazz. Nein! We are off to a fantastic, joyful, colourful Jodlerfest, which is so large and complicated to organise that it only takes place every three years.

Since age zero both of us have been fans of the yodel, thanks initially to a record of Swiss mountain music belonging to my mother, and later to a succession of Austrian and Swiss tapes gathered by my parents during trips around the Alps.

Most skiers I know – outside my immediate family, that is – view mountain music with disdain. This includes many of my Swiss friends (though fewer of my Austrian ones). Out of season I do my best to inflict the stuff on passengers in my car and sometimes sneak on Swiss and Austrian CDs in company at home.

In winter, I have found it increasingly hard to track down apres-ski spots with live traditional music. A favourite of ours was Kurt von Allmen, who played, sang and yodelled in the Blumental restaurant in Muerren until a few years before he died (he also skiied in more than 40 Infernos); there is a nightly band in the Schweizerhof Stuebli in Zermatt (but not always with yodelling), and I have also stumbled upon traditional bands during Austrian apres-ski. In general, though, it seems easier to find live mountain music in summer.

Many of the Gurgl club (top) are ski instructors. I bought this CD after watching a concert in Obergurgl town hall

I’ve been researching who will be among the 10,000-plus yodellers, flag-wavers and Alphorn blowers taking part next weekend. Most, of course, are from Switzerland (including the French-speaking part). But to my surprise, the list includes participants from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. A closer look reveals that there will also be a JodlerKlub from South Korea and a Jodlerchoerli (little choir) from Tokyo. I will certainly seek them all out and I’m fascinated to find out whether they’ll be wearing dirndls and lederhosen.

When surfing various yodel sites I found a superb blog that features lots of recordings of worthwhile yodels (even I admit there is such a thing as a dud). This is the address for the info page http://mademoisellemontana.wordpress.com/about/ The writer hasn’t posted for a couple of years but check out the archive – especially the posts containing links to recordings.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make recordings of my own next weekend. Maybe, just maybe, some readers will then begin to share my enthusiasm – or am I being too optimistic?

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Filed under Austria, Canada, Music, Switzerland

3/6/2011 – This is a competition I would like to win

In this futuristic hunt - the Monte Rosa - there is Wifi, in contrast to the hut stay offered in the Swiss competition

The Swiss tourist board has come up with a plan to tear people away from their computer screens by giving away a holiday in a mountain hut. It has been launched through its Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/MySwitzerland) and is entitled ‘Holidays without Internet’. Ironically, my bandwidth out here in the (very relative) sticks of Surrey doesn’t allow me to download the film you need to watch to enter the competition. So it looks like I won’t be a contender.

But that shouldn’t stop you entering, as the prize is “a break in unspoilt nature” for the winner and – this is my favourite bit – 10 friends. OK, they have to be Facebook friends, but most people with a Facebook profile can choose between dozens of these, even if they can’t remember exactly how they know most of them.

During the break there will be no mobile signal or internet access – and I cannot even find a website for the hut itself, the Seewli in the canton of Uri, south of Lake Lucerne. A quick Google search tells me it is at around 2,000m, and I have found an intriguing website (http://www.seewli.ch.vu/e) that seems to say the hut is not open yet, and includes a link to the competition. Perhaps it is a new hut?

Most mountain huts I have stayed in have patchy mobile reception, if any, and no internet acess. Sometimes, there isn’t even an electric socket to charge a mobile or other gadget. However, on one recent ski tour (see March posts) I stayed in the Monte Rosa (Switzerland) and Guglielmina (Italy) huts, both of which have Wifi. This gave my companions free rein to fiddle with their iPhones and have their mobiles on the table at supper – and it was a relief when we moved to the less sophisticated surroundings of the Schoenbiel and the Grand Mountet huts, where you could barely get a signal and all electronics except head-torches were consigned to the bottom of people’s rucksacks.

As Switzerland Tourism says in its press release about the competition, “A stay in the hut won’t be dull . . . During the stay, [the Facebook friends] might even become real friends.” I quite agree: there will be swimming, hiking, picnics, cards, a few bottles of Fendant and lots of stories to tell. And by the way, if you heard about the competition here and you find you’re the lucky winner, I’ll be expecting an invitation…

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Filed under Ski touring, Switzerland