Under the Big Top: The Circus Knie

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 10.30.01 AMI’d never been to a circus. I watched Bozo’s Circus on tv as a child, but after I read Gentle Ben by Walt Morey in grade school, I decided that I didn’t want to see trained animals.

However, Switzerland’s biggest (or is it only?) circus, the Knie is in town, and my friends convinced me to experience a piece of Swiss culture. So we plunked down our 20 CHF each and went (on a school night!) down to Sechseläutenplatz to be entertained.

The Circus Knie, founded in 1803 by Friedrich Knie (in Salzburg, Austria) is based down Lake Zürich in Rapperswil and goes to 38 Swiss towns throughout the spring and summer until October. They’ve been in Zürich for about a month, but in other towns they may only stay two days. I can’t imagine the amount of work it takes to move the whole shebang. It’s a lot of shebang. Over 200 people work for the family-owned company.

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This poor-quality photo shows the intimate size of the arena.

As for animals, there are many, many horses and three elephants. No lions or tigers. The horses were particularly beautiful, and at one point there were about 40 of them in the small ring, all choreographed like a marching band. One of them looked like an idealized My Little Pony with long, long white locks. Some of the manes were braided. Some just very long and silky. The miniature horses were adorable.

I was torn about watching the elephants, hoping that they get a good chance to roam in a bigger space when they aren’t performing. Such intelligent, magnificent creatures.

The acrobatics took up the bulk of the show and since the tent is not huge, we felt as though we were up close and could see just how much strength, skill and grace the performers possessed.

There was only one clown, and he did not wear face paint, but did a good job of interacting with the audience. The ventriloquist was funny, and I liked the live orchestra/band music.

During the intermission one could purchase a variety of snacks, including beer, but no cotton candy or peanuts. We remarked that this felt Swiss to us in that everything was very clean and that it didn’t have a run-down feel to it like small circus’ in the US (like I would know….)


In the end, I was entertained and am glad we went.


One thought on “Under the Big Top: The Circus Knie

  1. Love your posts — you might want to read Modoc: The true story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived.

    As interesting as it is to see animals in our own environment, it is hard to justify their capture and “training.” We used to have a small itinerant circus set up on the grounds of the elementary school where I taught in Cathedral City in the 90″s — the kids (and me, too) were fascinated with watching the tent being raised, etc.

    Thanks again for keeping us on your Glamping list. Patty

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