08 May 2011

The German - Swiss Link

For our two weeks in Switzerland, we decided to mostly focus on the German-speaking regions of the country, as opposed to the Italian or French. Having just spent 6 weeks in Italy/Vatican City/San Marino and knowing that we have a month in France/Monaco this Autumn, we figured it would be the best use of our time. Obviously, Switzerland is very Swiss, but it surprised me just how strong the Germanic influence is. Case and point: the WurstFest, which advertised itself with the tagline "All wurst or what?"
The 1st Annual Sausage Festival was taking place in Luzern during our visit. To be fair, it would have been difficult to miss the fest, as it stretches from April 15 - September 11 of this year. We discovered the news on a visit to the History Museum, which wasn't so much a history museum as a collection of odds and ends, artifacts and collectibles with barely any rhyme, reason or explanation. When I saw the above display in a glass case, I thought it was simply an arrangement of stones - until I realized that the long cylindrical ones at the center were actually sausages! Just like that, my interest in Wurst Fest was sparked.
The dedicated exhibit was definitely the highlight of our visit. A collection of wurst-inspired artwork filled a large pink room with "salami slice" rugs scattered about. At the center was a young man behind a counter cutting up samples. The enormous wiener in the photo showed videos of the link making process and the photos strung up on black paper were beautiful portraits of sausage-makers displaying their products. A mural that included Lady Gaga in her meat dress hung on a wall next to a group of heads created papier-mâché-style from sausage casings.
The work ranged from informative to whimsical to beautiful to just plain fun. These two boys spent at least ten minutes pushing these hot dogs around. Their mother seemed a little dismayed that their direction was being diverted from the permanent collection surrounding them. Though, again, I'm not sure how much knowledge about Swiss history they would have derived from the old ski boot display.
Visitors were invited to leave a piece of sausage art of their own. I thought that the wurst with swiss cheese holes was particularly inspired.
Of course, the best interactive elements of the festival were found outside the museum walls. You could sign up for a sausage making lesson at a local butcher or attend one of the themed theater events. We simply went right next door to the attached cafe for our free wurst plates. We'd already had lunch, but the woman at the museum insisted we take advantage of the complimentary sampler which came with our entrance ticket. Merlin reported that the yellow link, hidden below the others in this photo, was his favorite. Its flavor: cheese. It was served with two varieties of Thomy mustard ( a sponsor of the festival ) some salad and a beer. When informed that I didn't eat meat and didn't particularly like beer, the waitress gave me a truly pitying look and then supplemented a large salad and glass of wine completely free of charge.



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