Once a year, the people of Bern go a little bit bonkers and by a bizarre coincidence, we were there to witness it. We’ve visited Switzerland many times and have always found the country and its people to be ordered and very civil, with no hint of silliness whatsoever.
For the last day of our long weekend, where we’d escaped the bone-chilling cold in Biel/Bienne by paying a small fortune to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in English, French and German, we decided to head for the country’s capital Bern, a noble city full of serious statues, stately buildings and great cake shops.
When we stepped off the train, we thought Sony was filming its new colour-burst commercial – the floor and most of the people were covered in multi-coloured confetti. Outside, the streets were full of market stalls and the air was thick with the aroma of – er – onions. It seems the fourth Monday in November is the Zibelmärit – Onion Market. To celebrate all things oniony the farmers hoik about 50 tons of the vegetable to Bern and set up stall, selling garlands, wreaths and novelty animals, all made from onions. It brings a tear to the eye.
In itself, that’s not silly, bonkers or barmy, that’s where the confetti and the hammers come in. Every man, woman and child – and believe me there were thousands of them – had a packet of confetti, which they threw at anyone without picking it up – how un-Swiss is that? But that’s not all, many carried plastic hammers, hitting random passers-by for no real reason. Had they gone mad?
It is Bern’s most popular event, people come from all over Switzerland, which explains why we couldn’t get a seat in any cafe, not even McDonald’s, not that we were THAT desperate! Sadly, we had to leave before the main highlight the Konfettischlacht, where even more confetti is thrown at even more people. One thing is for certain, though, all the litter and confetti will be gone by tomorrow and Bern will return to its state of supreme tidiness for another year.