The Entlebuch region

The gateway to the UNESCO Biosphere

Entlebuch, also known as the “wild west of Lucerne”, has around 17,000 inhabitants and – together with Mount Napf, Mount Brienzer Rothorn and the Alpine foothills – offers the visitor a great variety of landscapes to enjoy. A short distance beyond the Bernese community of Trubschachen lies the cantonal border to the traditionally Catholic canton of Lucerne. Once across the border, the barns and farmhouses change in character, and impressive churches dominate the landscape. The route from Escholzmatt via Schüpfheim and Hasle to Lucerne leads the visitor past verdant forests and meadows – whose terrain has been shaped by the rising and falling water levels over the aeons – and through the unique UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch.

Moors Precious habitats

Upland moors, fens and transitional bogs represent some of Switzerland's rarest and most precious habitats for wildlife. Numerous species, such as carnivorous plants and the common lizard, make these moors their home. Since the end of the nineteenth century, however, these landscapes have shrunk by up to 90 per cent. A quarter of all endangered species need intact moorland landscapes to survive, and many of them are still to be found in Entlebuch.

Four moors of national significance are situated partly or entirely within the UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch. They encompass around a quarter of the entire area of Entlebuch, and around a tenth of all upland moors in Switzerland.

Tip: Visit the largest moorland adventure park in the Alps.

Entlebucher mountain dog Threatened with extinction 100 years ago

The Entlebucher mountain dog is the smallest of the four Swiss mountain-dog breeds. It originated in the Entlebuch district and nearby Emmental. The first official mention of an “Entlibucher dog” dates from 1889. Professor Albert Heim presented the dog (which was to become an endangered breed in the 1910s) at the National Fair in Langenthal. The unanimously positive judges’ reports led to it being adopted in the Swiss Dog Stud Book.

The Swiss Entlebucher Mountain Dog Club was founded in 1926, and the breed has been purposefully bred ever since. Today, this attractive, tricoloured dog is also growing in popularity as a guard dog and family pet. It is regarded as skilled, incorruptible and energetic. It requires stimulation and needs a task to perform within its environment.

Charcoal-burning A deeply-rooted tradition

Burning wood in a charcoal kiln to create charcoal is known as charcoal-burning. In the community of Romoos, charcoal-burning has been a deeply-rooted tradition for centuries. Here, the last of the Swiss charcoal-burners practise this craft as a sideline. The most laborious part of the work is creating and preparing a charcoal kiln outdoors. First, waste timber is layered into a great heap. Then the kiln is left to slowly burn under constant supervision for around two weeks. Finally, there is the sweat-inducing task of extracting the charcoal. In this manner, the charcoal-burners of Romoos produce around 100 tons of charcoal a year. Their product was purchased by the steel industry until the 1980s. Today, the charcoal-burners specialise in barbecue charcoal. It is sold exclusively at branches of “Otto’s”.

Tip: Watch the charcoal-burners at their work. More information is available from the Romoos Tourist Office

Palaeontology The discovery of bone remains

Traces of vanished lifeforms: in the UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch, palaeontologists discovered the bone remains of 49 different animal species in the area surrounding the Schrattenfluh. Among the most spectacular mammal remains found were bears and elk. Elk feed off leaves – yet their remains were found in the vegetation-free uplands. Specialists therefore suspect that the region was considerably warmer around 4,000 years ago.

The Entlebuch Alpine descent of the cattle A big street party

The Entlebuch Alpine descent of the cattle takes place at the end of September each year: over 200 flower-adorned cows come down from their Alpine summer meadows to Schüpfheim, accompanied by Alpine herdsmen in traditional garb. The blend of traditional Alpine animal husbandry and modern public event offers unforgettable insights into this local custom.

In recent years, more than 10,000 visitors have attended this street party in Schüpfheim. These Alpine fairs have their origins in the spontaneous celebrations which used to be held when the Alpine herdsmen came down into the valleys in the autumn and brought butter and cheese with them.

The Entlebuch dialect

“Glungge, frääge, göi” – the unmistakable Entlebuch dialect

To some, the Entlebuch dialect sounds Bernese, to others clearly Lucernian. But what is it that makes the “Äntlibuechere” dialect so unique? An excerpt from the Entlebucher Anzeiger newspaper’s research into the dialect provides some answers. Nearly 100 years ago now, the Swiss Germanist and literary scholar Karl Schmid examined the Entlebuch dialect and discovered that although the people of Entlebuch do not open their mouths very wide when speaking, they make all the more active use of their lips. He also noted that Entlebuchers speak very fast, which Schmid ascribed to their temperament.

Between Bern and Lucerne

Dialect boundaries do not correspond to geographical or political boundaries. The “Ja/Jo” line runs from East to West at the level of Mount Napf. And people speak very differently even within Entlebuch itself. It is said that the wind “geit” (“blows”) to Wolhusen, after which it “goot” (also “blows”).

One region – several expressions

The way that “sie gehen” (“they go”) is said also seems to be typical of the Entlebuch dialect: “Si gai”. This innate form has merged with “si göi”. Then there are also words which unite all of Entlebuch. Thus, here a puddle is called a “Glungge”, rather than a “Glumpe”, as it is known in the rest of the canton of Lucerne.

Of old “Löffili” and new “Löffeli” (both meaning “spoon”)

Another feature typical of the Entlebuch dialect is the diminutive form “ili” at the end of words. Yet “eli” has also established itself in Entlebuch. Thus, like every language and dialect, the Entlebuch dialect is subject to constant change – and yet remains unmistakable. That’s because “Äntlibuechere” describes not only words innate to the dialect, but also the pronunciation, sentence rhythm and physical way of expressing oneself.

Source: Entlebucher Anzeiger, Aug. 2011

How squirrels spend the winter

Although squirrels do not hibernate, in harsh winters they will often spend long periods in their nests to conserve energy. In summer, they already begin accumulating a layer of body fat for the autumn. This allows them to go days without food in winter if necessary.

Squirrels build their nests so densely that water is barely able to penetrate, leaving the animals well-protected. In cold, rainy weather they don’t have to venture outside, and can live off their own body fat reserves for long periods, as they don’t use up much energy in this way. In autumn, they additionally lay in a store of seeds, nuts and fruits. However, they often forget where they buried their supplies – and thus ensure that the seeds spread through nature.

“Karnöffelzunft” carnival association

Wilisau’s “Karnöffelzunft” Fasnacht (or carnival) association was established in 1891, and works to preserve old folk customs. For many years now, it has played a fundamental role in organising Willisau’s Fasnacht events. The Fasnacht tradition is still held in great esteem in Willisau. The so-called “fifth season” (i.e. Fasnacht season) always begins with a grand procession of the Karnöffelzunft members and the Willisauer Guggenmusigen, or carnival musicians, through the town's historic centre.

Medieval origins

Willisau has a proud Fasnacht tradition dating back over 500 years. As early as the fifteenth century, the people of Willisau appointed a “fool” to entertain folk during the festivities.

What does “Karnöffel” mean?

Among other things, “Karnöffel” means a loutish mercenary or thug. The “Karnöffel game” was probably named thus because it was originally played predominantly by mercenaries. A derivation from the Latin “carnifax” (executioner) – a curse word in late Latin – is also plausible.

The “Karnöffel game”

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the “Karnöffel game” was one of the most popular card games in Germany and some of its neighbouring countries. As a card game, it was above all popularised by mercenary pikemen and soldiers. That is also why the mercenary Karnöffel is the strongest card. The game is today once more being played by a few “Karnöffler”.

The “Karnöffelzunft”

Why the Zunft, or guild, chose this name is a mystery. The guild’s founders adopted the description “Karnöffel” with full awareness of its folkloric origins. Thus, the design of the guild’s costumes is also based on the preserved original Willisau “Karnöffel card deck”. Every member of the guild wears a card from this game. Of course the game of “Karnöffel” is also still regularly played within the guild. The guild’s members have repopularised the game in recent years, playing it according to traditional rules.

More information can be found at karnoeffelzunft.ch

Be astonished

“Heimatland!” (“The home country!”) …

… Authentic Entlebuch!

Regionality, speciality and quality are seen as an opportunity to combat mass production. The combination of agriculture, tourism, commerce and education is leading to new, cross-sectoral pathways to the future. “Authentic Entlebuch – the best of the region” is a quality seal given to products produced to strict guidelines. The regional brand “Echt Entlebuch” offers consumers the assurance that they are purchasing a high-quality regional product. The products range from culinary specialities and artistic objects through to down-to-earth wooden furniture (echtentlebuch.ch).

... A quarter of Entlebuch is moorland

Four moors of national significance are situated partly or entirely within the UNESCO Biosphere Entlebuch – the moors of Habkern/Sörenberg, Hilferenpass, Glaubenberg and Klein Entlen. They encompass around a quarter of the entire area of Entlebuch, and around a tenth of all upland moors in Switzerland. These major moorlands are home to numerous moorland biotopes of national and regional significance.

Legends The tales told in Entlebuch

A beastly-good Christmas story to make you smile – and reflect

The animals were once again arguing about what the most important part of Christmas is. “It’s obvious,” said the fox: “Roast goose. What would Christmas be without roast goose?” The polar bear contradicted him: “There’s got to be snow, and plenty of it! A white Christmas is what it’s about!” But the deer said: “It’s the Christmas tree. No decent Christmas without a Christmas tree!” And the magpie added with a croak: “Yes, and jewellery: rings, bracelets, necklaces, ideally all with diamonds. That’s a proper Christmas!” “And what about Christmas cake? And Christmas cookies?,” grumbled the bear. “Those are the most important things – and the other delicious treats made with honey.” “And what about family?,” quacked the duck. “Christmas is only Christmas once I have all my loved ones gathered round me!” “No,” interrupted the badger. “Do what I do: sleep, sleep and sleep some more! That’s the best thing about Christmas – having a proper lie-in for once!” And then the ox suddenly bellowed: “Ouch!” The donkey had given him a hefty kick, and now said: “What about you, ox, don’t you also think about the Christ child, like all the others?” The ox shamefacedly lowered his head and said: “The child, of course the child, that’s the main thing!” And then, after a while, the ox asked the donkey: “But donkey, do you think the humans know it as well?” (Source: Tages-Anzeiger)

The legend of the strength-giving carrot

In “Entlibuch”, a herdsman had an Alpine meadow on which his son tended the goats, and on which an itinerant student once came to stay for a few days. As the herdsman would not accept any payment for his hospitality, the itinerant student decided to give the herdsman’s son a gift. And so he spoke to him: “You shall either be a better musician than anyone else in the country, or win any game of chance, or have strength aplenty. Now choose!” The boy chose strength. Now the itinerant student gave the boy a carrot, and told him: “Any time you bite into the carrot three times before sunrise, you will have strength aplenty for the coming day.”

When the boy then tried the carrot, he was able to lift the threshold of the farm hut. Soon he tried his hand at wrestling. He beat every wrestler in all of Entlibuch, and even won against the best wrestlers of the Bernese Oberland. From that time on, the herdsman’s boy was known as the strongest in the land. He helped his father to pull heavy tree trunks which not even two horses could budge. When his father saw all these wondrous acts, his mind could not fathom them. He took the boy to see the pastor, as he worried that his son might be bewitched. The pastor got the boy to tell him the secret, and told him that he had to either give back the carrot of strength or throw it away, as he could otherwise not hear the boy’s confession. But once back at home, the boy hid the carrot of strength. Yet when, after a while, he came to retrieve it from its hiding place, it had vanished.

The Legend of the Schrattenfluh

The barren stone desert on the south side of Mount Schrattenfluh was once the most beautiful and juicy Alpine meadow in Entlebuch. The brothers Hannes and Jost had inherited the meadow. Yet Hannes was greedy, and every year he stole another piece of his blind brother’s inheritance. Hannes’ beautiful daughter Rösi had inherited her father’s evil character, and ruined her suitors with her impossible demands. Father and daughter were therefore the subject of outrage and bitterness among the local folk.

One day a loyal serf could no longer bear to watch Hannes’ misdeeds, and told blind Jost of them. “May the devil turn the meadow to desert if I have acquired any part of my land unlawfully!,” cursed Hannes when his brother confronted him. As his words rang out, thunder and lightning raged over the meadow and an ominous wall of clouds arose. With his mighty claws, the devil tore the flourishing meadow from the cliff, seized Hannes and Rösi, and flung them into the cave below Mount Schibengütsch. Since that day, the south side of Mount Schrattenfluh has been a barren stone desert. And one can still see the talon marks left by the Lord of Hell. Hannes and Rösi are still trapped in the cave. According to legend, one can see them at the cave’s entrance during Holy Week.

The legend of the Änziloch basin

When the weather turns bad and rain threatens, one can hear crashing and thundering, like that of cannons being fired, arising from the Änziloch basin. The sound, which echoes for hours throughout the Napf Region, is not caused by the bad weather but by the ghosts that live in the Änziloch basin. The ghosts are those of local valley lords who abused their power and wealth during their lifetime and oppressed the defenceless and the poor.

At the start of the eighteenth century, particularly large numbers of people were banished to the Änziloch basin. This was during the period when war raged between Catholics and Protestants. After the Lucernians lost the war against the Bernese, their officers and the Lucernian aristocrats were held responsible for the defeat. None of these officers died a natural death, and their restless spirits wandered the earth.

A pious man lured the ghosts into a chest and carried it to the Änzi plateau. From there he pushed it into the Änziloch basin, where it broke into a thousand pieces and banished the spirits to the basin. As punishment for their deeds, the local valley lords still have to push mighty rocks up from the bottom of the Änziloch basin and over the rim of the Stächeleggflue rock face. Yet the spirits cannot manage to push the stones to the rim, and so they roll back down into the deep with a terrible racket, and the spirits must begin their task anew. They can only rest when bad weather reaches the Änziloch basin.

Source: Sagenhaftes Emmental (Legendary Emmental), Fritz von Gunten, fritzvongunten.ch

The desolation of Mount Schrattenfluh

The southern side of Mount Schrattenfluh was once covered in shady forests and meadows of flowers. The large farmsteads that stood here belonged to two brothers. One of them was blind. He had to place all his trust in his sighted brother, and leave him to divide the Alpine meadows fairly. Yet the latter abused his brother’s infirmity to draw the boundaries to his own advantage. The sighted brother placed the boundary stones so that he received all the juicy pastures, leaving his blind brother with only the barren slopes. The blind brother suspected nothing, and lived a peaceful and contented existence. Only later did a serf reveal to him his brother’s betrayal. Upon hearing this, the blind brother was gripped with unspeakable anger; he cursed his cheating brother and wished that the devil would wreak desolation on the Alpine meadows. The words had barely left his mouth when the mountain shook. The Evil One approached, tore the verdant meadows from the rocks with his mighty claws, grasped the faithless brother and cast him into a deep hole beneath Mount Schibegütsch. Whenever anyone passes the place, they scornfully cast a stone into the abyss. The marks of the devil’s talons can still be seen clearly on the rocks.

Source: Sagenhaftes Emmental (Legendary Emmental), Fritz von Gunten, fritzvongunten.ch

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