Many months ago, I heard that there was a Country Music Festival in Gstaad – a town one hour from Vevey. I became a country music fan in college (much to the dismay of my family), and I was SHOCKED to learn that the Swiss would host this kind of event! Of all the things I thought I might find in Switzerland, country music was not one of them.
I found another American willing to check out this concert, so we headed off to Gstaad for a day of fun! Of course, we just HAD to stop at Glacier 3000 on the way to ride the Alpine Coaster! A couple of weeks ago, it was snowing when we wanted to go, so this was finally the chance to do it! I saw the video of the coaster on the website, but I still didn’t really know what to expect.
We parked our car at the base of the mountain and found that we had to ride a gondola (or maybe it was a cable car; I still don’t know the difference) to the top. When I was downsizing my purse for this outing, I purposefully chose not to bring my 1/2 price transportation card, because I was driving us to Gstaad. Why would I need it? Silly me forgot that in order to get to an Alpine Coaster, one has to ascend a mountain. Sadly, this meant forking over 77 CHF ($84 USD) instead of 39 CHF ($42 USD) for the lift. Ugh. I’m glad my friend was better prepared. That’s the last time that I leave my 1/2 price card at home!
We climbed through the clouds to the get to the top of the mountain where we had some great views of the mountain peaks and the glacier!
[They are building a cool (and terrifying!) suspension bridge! Hopefully, it will be open next time!]
We didn’t come all the way up here just to see the views! We wanted to ride the Alpine Coaster!
We paid for one ride. We each had our own car, and it’s up to the driver to determine how fast you go. There are levers on either side that you lower to increase the speed. It’s not quite as exciting to be going down the coaster in a cart by yourself. You lose the energy that comes with a typical roller coaster full of people screaming. I attempted to go full speed almost all the way down. There were a few curves where I thought for sure my cart was going to fly off the track. At the bottom, the cart attaches to something that pulls you all the way up to the top. Another thing you can probably only do in Switzerland.
It was cold at the top, and while I had a jacket (an improvement from shorts and sandals), we didn’t linger too long. We took the cable car / gondola back down the mountain and kept driving to Gstaad.
When we arrived, we found parking designated for Country Night. We decided to walk through the little town before checking out the Country scene. Gstaad is super posh, and the shops reflected that…Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Cartier. Not the same scene as Zermatt or Gruyeres where all you find are souvenir shops. Like every other Swiss Alpine village I’ve visited, it is beautiful!
We decided to head into the area marked with a huge WELCOME sign to see what food and fun we could find.
We were shocked to find so many ridiculous things representing all things country, and apparently, America.
It seems the US is known for cowboys, country music artists, and cheeseburgers. I saw SO MUCH American flag apparel and accessories. We were disappointed that we weren’t better prepared! There was also a solid representation of cowboy hats, large belt buckles, boots, jeans, and Western-style shirts. And a lot of German accents. Quite honestly, we aren’t sure we picked out one other American (even though I have to believe there were some). We also laughed at one completely ridiculous group that were sporting Indian headdresses. Miami isn’t allowed to be the Redskins any more, but in Switzerland, it’s fair game to come to a Country Music Festival in a headdress. Go figure.
We ate dinner from the concession stands. Thankfully, I found Mexican again. (I think I just need to hang out at these music festivals all the time to get my fix!) We wanted to hear what the Swiss Highwaymen were all about, so when it was 6:00pm sharp, we went into the tent to find our seats. (The Swiss are even punctual when it comes to concerts!)
Imagine our surprise when we entered a HUGE room full of tables, food stalls, and even MORE American Country decor.
Unbelievable! I just kept thinking, “where are we?!”
Even more shocking was what happened when we went past all of this to find our seats in the auditorium. We entered to find EVERYONE seated. The band was playing and not a single person was standing or dancing. Weird. We chuckled at a huge bin of earplugs, because the music wasn’t remotely loud. Safety first, I guess.
We sat to watch the Swiss Highwaymen speculating that maybe we weren’t allowed to stand. The Swiss guys could’ve passed for American country music stars. They had the look spot on, but they were definitely speaking German between songs. They did bust out an accordion during a couple of songs. I’m not sure that’s something I’ve ever seen from a country band before!
Next, the “special guest,” Kirsty Bertarelli, performed a couple of songs. Her voice wasn’t too bad, but her outfit was all wrong. She performed a really poor rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” which shouldn’t be allowed. Yikes!
When she was finished, a man, who I would describe as an MC, came out speaking a combination of German, English, and French to tell us there would be a short break. He told everyone to go enjoy a drink and an apertif. He reminded us to only stand during the first song to take pictures then be seated, so that everyone could see. WHAT?!? I’ve never been to a Country concert with a rule to remain seated. Oh my! We went out and looked at all of the country wear for sale. I contemplated buying a cowboy hat, since mine is in storage in the States along with all of my costumes, but I thought better of it when I saw the price points.
We went back in for round 2 – Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder! This was true Bluegrass! My friend grew up on this type of music, so she was excited! I was “chair dancing” throughout, because it’s impossible to sit still with a fiddle, a banjo, some guitars, and a “bass fiddle” (as Ricky called it) playing at really fast tempos! They were really good!
[The lone fan who braved standing up to clap & dance for approximately 1/4 of a song! Brave soul.]
It wasn’t until we were several minutes into the next break that we realized it was going to last ONE HOUR! We couldn’t figure out why until we saw the REALLY long lines for food and realized this was a break for dinner! (Which must be why the MC said “Bon Appetit!” before the break! It’s all coming together!) Our decision to eat our late lunch / early dinner at 5:30pm was all wrong. We walked around people watching and laughing A LOT at the outfits we saw! At 9:30, it was time for Kellie Pickler! The MC claims it is her European debut. It was definitely her first time in Switzerland, but I don’t know how to confirm if it’s her first European performance. She told us about how she went paragliding the day before and claimed that this was the most beautiful place they’ve ever performed! This is actually the third time I’ve seen Kellie in concert. (Not on purpose, I must say.) But, I think she actually made me a fan this time. She has a gorgeous voice and a really sweet demeanor. She almost brought me to tears twice (which is hard to do!).
By the end of the night, we were much wiser. During the final 20-minute break, we went up front and claimed a space right on the stage, so we could see Josh Turner up close! Apparently, it was his first European concert, but again, I can’t confirm. We snapped some pictures during the first song before security sent us to our seats.
We hung out in the back of the auditorium for a couple of songs where we could dance around. His voice is so good! Then, we called it a night around midnight knowing we had an hour drive back to Vevey.
I’m SO glad we experienced this! It was so weird and so much different than I expected, but despite all of the cheesy decor and all of the rules, it made my heart really happy! I loved singing about Nashville and seeing music videos of downtown knowing that I will be there in TWO WEEKS!! Can’t wait to get a REAL dose of America soon!