The Willisau and Oberaargau region
Home of the famous Willisauer Ringli biscuit and more
The Willisau and Oberaargau regions could hardly be more diverse. Willisau’s historic centre, the Huttwil Flyer e-bikes, the artists and designers working in and around Langenthal – every place is unique. The Willisau region is in the Mount Napf catchment area, with its high hills and deep valleys; in the Oberaargau region, the landscape becomes gradually flatter. The rail line from Wolhusen to Langenthal runs via Willisau, whose impressive historic centre is lined with venerable fountains and gateways. The journey continues on across the cantonal border into Bernese Huttwil. Here the Biketec company, producers of the famous Flyer e-bikes, is always well worth a visit. In Huttwil, you can travel onwards to Burgdorf by bus, or continue on to Langenthal by train. By the way: each year, the towns of Willisau, Huttwil and Langenthal host traditional Christmas markets, which attract thousands of visitors.
Jazz Festival An international forum for contemporary jazz
Since its inception in 1975, the Willisau Jazz Festival has been one of the key international events of the contemporary jazz scene. Over 20 concerts on four different stages are held across five festival days at the end of August. The concerts offer a varied, diverse and high-quality music programme. As ever, the festival presents current trends in improvised music, and invites established as well as up-and-coming artists from Switzerland and abroad.
Kirsch 100 years of brandy distilling
The distilling of brandy is a family tradition in Willisau that dates back almost 100 years. It began in 1918 with the young Hans Affentranger: at the age of 20, he began to produce spirits, liqueurs and syrups, laying the foundations of what is today the DIWISA company, one of Europe’s most state-of-the-art distilleries. The company’s brandies were soon proving popular beyond the region’s borders. The Willisau distillery combines traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology. Thanks to its drive and innovation, the company is Switzerland's market leader in the production and distribution of alcoholic beverages.
Tip: Willisau kirsch can be purchased from most retailers or directly from the brandy distillery’s shop.
slowUp Vehicle-free fun for outdoor types and gourmands
slowUp Emmental-Oberaargau leads through the unique hill landscape of Emmental and the Oberaargau region. It takes place on a Sunday in mid-September, with 2017 marking its eleventh year.
During slowUp, the roads between Huttwil and Sumiswald are closed to motorised vehicles, and kept free for the use of cyclists, inline skaters and pedestrians. The route from Huttwil to Sumiswald measures around 38 kilometres in length, with the circular route from Huttwil measuring approximately 25 kilometres.
Along the route, you will find food stalls, refreshment marquees and various market stands. Young and old, families and singles, outdoor types and gourmands – they all enjoy the cheery, car-free atmosphere.
Legend trail The discovery tour starting in Huttwil
There are plenty of exciting things to explore in and around Huttwil. The Huttwil history and legend trail was created based on the concept of local historian Beat Lanz, in collaboration with the Huttwil Citizens Parliament. Every plaque location has its own character in terms of locale and scenery. Visitors of this entertaining circular trail are offered insights into bygone eras and unique vistas of the beautiful, unspoilt mountain landscape surrounding Huttwil. The trail starts and ends in Huttwil.
Tip: Additional information can be found at Pro Regio Huttwil.
Willisau Guided tour of the town
Flyer e-bikes The success story of Biketec AG
The Flyer was created over several stages: in 1993, the prototype of an electric bicycle, the “Red Buffalo”, took to the roads. From 1995 to 1999, the company BKTech AG produced its first serial product as a limited edition. The innovative idea soon proved popular, and the company won several entrepreneurial awards.
Supported by various investors, the company was then able to tackle an ambitious project: the development of a new two-wheeled mobility product. It was intended to set global benchmarks. In close collaboration with universities, subcontractors and public authorities, the NEW FLYER was developed and produced. The Flyer has been on the market since 2000 and has set numerous benchmarks.
Tip: Find out more about the Flyer. On a Biketec factory tour in Huttwil, you can learn about the development, history and manufacture of the original Swiss Flyer e-bike. You can gain a first-hand impression of the Flyer on a test ride on the factory grounds, or on a tour. These can be organised for groups of up to 100 people.
Langenthal The centre of Bernese Oberaargau
Water meadows An ingenious ditch system
Water meadows (‘Wässermatten’ in Swiss German) are cultural landscapes that have grown rare in number and which are of national significance. The fertile, verdant water meadows form a unique and beautiful landscape. They also provide a habitat to rare plant and animal species.
The last of Switzerland's intact water meadows are situated in Oberaargau. They lie in the valley bottoms of the rivers Oenz, Langete, Pfaffneren and Rot, and are the last remnants of a form of land use involving pure grass cultivation and a highly developed irrigation system that used to be common throughout the Swiss Plateau. In the thirteenth century, the Cistercian monks of St. Urban laid the foundations of water-meadow-based agriculture in Langenthal.
Thanks to the ingenious ditch system, the ancient irrigation times and rights are preserved to this day, and around 110 hectares of meadowland is flooded three times a year.
“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.
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”.
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
“Heimatland!” (“The home country!”) …
Willisau’s three town fountains have seven corners each!
The three town fountains of Willisau were built in the rare shape of a heptagon in around 1600. Unlike the fountains of most other towns, their water sources lie inside the town walls, rather than outside. The three dilapidated fountains were demolished in the 1950s and rebuilt according to the original plans and dimensions.
... In Langenthal, carnival is already celebrated in October!
With around 160 stands, Langenthal’s Fasnacht (carnival) market is the largest of its kind in Switzerland, and is regarded – far beyond Switzerland’s borders – as THE meeting point of the Fasnacht scene. Every year, it draws in over 10,000 visitors.
Langenthal Fasnacht market: 21 October 2017, 09.00–15.30 hours
... Flying along with the Flyer!
Did you know that with their new “Flyer Intelligent Technology”, Flyer has developed the first e-bike motor with a two-gear motor unit? A global innovation which, with a stroke of genius, massively expands the total gear ratio.
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?”
The legend of the Galgelöli beast
In the Galgelöli forest near Madiswil lives the Galgelöli beast. Many scary tales are ascribed to the beast: it bothers the locals when it carries freshly mown grass and grain stacked as tall as a church spire through the air, and makes farmers’ lives difficult. A farmer once made the mistake of building his barn in the ghost’s path. Woe betide him if his barn doors were not wide open when the apparition came zooming by. The demonic creature looks similar to the badger caught by two Madiswil residents on a Good Friday in the Galgelöli forest. They placed it in a sack, and on their way home they clearly heard a voice say: “Galgelöli, where are you?” “Inside this sack,” replied the captured badger – at which point the Good Friday hunters took to their heels.
Source: Rudolf Baumann, “Sagen aus dem Oberaargau” (“Legends of Oberaargau”)