How a nighttime bell has caused uproar in a Swiss village

There is uproar in a Swiss village and it's all to do with the incessant ringing of a nearby bell at nighttime.

How a nighttime bell has caused uproar in a Swiss village
Some people are complaining about bells in Swiss towns. Photo by AFP

Tribune de Genève reported that an unnamed woman recently moved to Plan-les-Ouates, a municipality of just over 9,000 inhabitants in canton Geneva. She took up residence near an old schoolhouse.

The bell on the top of the school building rings every 30 minutes, day and night.

The new arrival complained that the chiming disrupts her sleep and asked town authorities to turn off the bell during the night.

But her request did not strike a chord; in fact, it has caused outrage among many of the town’s residents, who have launched a petition — signed by 300 people so far — opposing any move to silence their bell.

“There is no question of stopping the bell for a new arrival”, said longtime resident Gérard Genecand, who is spearheading the campaign to keep the around-the-clock tolling.

Jean-Claude Maillard, president of an association which manages municipal archives, is also angered by the woman’s request.

“It's like when a rooster crows in a village. When people from the city arrive, they complain about it”, he said.

Both say that townsfolk is “sentimentally attached” to the bell, which was originally part of Geneva’s fortifications and was gifted to Plan-les-Ouates in 1901. Since then, it had become firmly rooted in the town’s culture.

In its response to the resident, municipal officials sent a message that was clear as a bell: they refused to comply with her request because “this bell has been ringing for 120 years and no one complained,” they noted.”We have always heard it at night, but it never stopped us from sleeping because the body gets used to this type of noise very quickly,” Maillard said.

Mayor Xavier Magnin said that the resident will not let go so quickly. “She threatened to take legal action”, he said.

In bell-loving Switzerland, the nightly chiming is a widespread practice and an integral part of the culture.

Most people like this centuries-old tradition, which dates back to the age before smart phones and other electronic devices showed exact time. 

And this is not the first time when bells set off an alarm in Switzerland.

In 2018, a dispute erupted in town of Hofstetten about the six-minute-long bell ringing at 5:30 am at the local church. Several residents asked that the morning chiming be postponed until 7 am, so they could get some more sleep.

But hundreds of outraged residents showed up at a church meeting and voted to leave the morning ritual unchanged for the sake of tradition.

Curiously enough, town authorities are much more lenient towards animals than people.

In 2019, the bells of a church in northern Switzerland have been switched off indefinitely so as not to disturb a pair of mating storks. 

The Swiss cherish the bell tradition but many of the country’s foreign residents, not so much.

Switzerland’s English-language forum even has a thread called ‘Damn church bells’, which publishes complaints from bell-haters.

It also advises apartment seekers to check how close the house is to a church and to listen to bells before signing the lease.

This suggestion may seem odd to newly arrived foreign nationals, but it does ring a bell with those who are accustomed to Swiss ways. 



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What’s on: Six things you should do in Switzerland this April

From Zermatt's unplugged music festival to Swiss beer in Solothurn, there are plenty of events in Switzerland to keep you entertained this April.

What's on: Six things you should do in Switzerland this April

Tulip Festival 

Morges (Lake Geneva), March 29th-May 12th

OK so this festival does start in March but it runs through until May 12th – and April might be the best time to visit. 

The Fête de la Tulipe or Tulip Festival is an annual event held in the city of Morges every year featuring more than 140,000 flowers and around 350 varieties of tulips which you can admire while wandering around. 

This year’s theme is ‘Countries of the World’. The special programme features lots of events, including music and dance, a children’s theatre on Wednesday April 3rd plus guided tours. 

Zermatt Unplugged

Zermatt, Valais, April 9th-13th

This mountain resort may be known for winter sports, but it’s also worth visiting at other times of the year. 

And this music festival, featuring pared-back performances, is a great time to sample Zermatt’s vibrant scene in spring. 

Taking place from April 9th to 13th, you can watch artists, bands and DJs such as Ronny Scott’s All Stars and Jake the Rapper perform next to the unique mountain scenery – including the iconic Matterhorn. 

This year, the festival will showcase 120 concerts across 17 stages spread throughout the village and across the surrounding slopes.

READ ALSO: Eight music festivals in Switzerland you can’t miss this year


Zurich, starting April 12th

This four-day festival, which translates to the ‘the six o’clock ringing of the bells’, starts on Friday April 12th, leading up to the climax on Monday April 15th.

The highlight is the procession of the guilds to Sechseläutenplatz with the giant ‘Böögg’ (a snowman effigy that symbolises winter) burning at 6pm on Monday.

While not a public holiday, many businesses, offices, and banks close on Monday so that Zurich residents can celebrate this ancient spring festival.

READ ALSOHere’s why people in Zurich burn a huge snowman every April

International Exhibition of Inventions 

Geneva, April 17th-April 21st

If you’re looking to be inspired or you are in the world of innovative business, the International Exhibition of Inventions might just be the place for you. 

Featuring creations from 40 countries all over the world, this year there will be 1,000 new inventions and products by 800 exhibitors.

More than 30,000 visitors attend this event every year, including hundreds of journalists and entrepreneurs.

It’s taking place at the Grand Saconnex,Palexpo Halle 5 in Geneva and, at the same time, a Climate Fair will be held in the same venue. 

Solothurner Biertage

Solothurn, April 25th-27th

Neighbouring Germany is better known for beer, but that doesn’t mean that beer in Switzerland doesn’t taste great!

That’s right, beer fans should get down to Solothurn Beer Days festival to sample the good stuff. 

More than 50 Swiss breweries will come together for the event to present over 200 varieties of craft beer. 

Make sure you sample some of the great food on offer – including Swiss favourite raclette – to soak up the alcohol. 

A mug of beer on a beer garden table.

A mug of beer on a beer garden table. Photo: Engin Akyurt/Pexels

Food Truck Festival 

Locarno, Ticino, April 26th-28th

Thanks to its location in Europe and diverse population, Switzerland is a great spot for delicious food.

And now there’s a place to sample some of it – you’ll find authentic snacks and delicacies at this food fest in Locarno.

Featuring trucks, caravans and ape cars coming from the north of the Alps as well as Italy, local ingredients are used for a variety of mouthwatering dishes and drinks. 

Make sure you’re hungry when you head to this event, which is free to enter and takes place on the Piazza Grande.