Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Sleepless Nights

Meiringen has a number of interesting facts about it or reasons for being famous. Firstly, for being where Conan Doyle stayed while writing some of his Sherlock Holmes tales, and of course where Professor Moriarty pushed Sherlock Holmes off the Reichenbach Falls to his apparent death. It is also where meiringues were said to be invented by an Italian pastry chef. It also has a bizarre tradition called Trychelwoche which is basically people banging drums and ringing cow bells from midnight on Christmas Day / Boxing Day through to 30th December, all through the night. They march up and down the main street in the town coming past where we live about once an hour, all night every night!

The ringing starts with boys in the morning, and then towards the afternoon and evening, the men join in, having come home from work. They ring larger bells which make it a rolling noise, which re-echos loudly off the mountains and only dies down towards dawn, when the men have to go to work. The drums beat to bring the bells into rhythm. The processions get bigger and bigger every day, so that they reach their maximum strength on the night before New Year’s Eve, called Uebersitz.

On this evening the processions from the surrounding villages of Willigen, Hausen, Balm, Unterbach and Hasliberg come to Meiringen to join this one. Each village has ist own procession and Trychel-master. The bells are measured and are ranked according to size and sound. The faces of those carrying them are hidden behind masks or soot, and most of them are dressed up in the weirdest of costumes.

The custom is very old. Its roots probably lie in those times when, around the solstice, the people tried to drive out the spirits of the old year.

Tonight after dinner we watched the procession go by, four rows of drums, and eleven of bells, of differing sizes, and therefore pitch and volume! It is quite a sight. The men have been up on the mountain with their bells during the day and don't seem to rest! As much as it is a fantastic tradition, and a great spectacle, it is less welcome as it passes on the hour all night, even with triple glazing!

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