03 May 2007

Salzburg Excerpts and May Day Festivities

With the semester rolling along now for only a couple weeks it didn’t take long for the first excursion and holiday. Last Saturday the International Student Organization went to Salzburg, Austria. But the highpoint of the of the week up to now has been May 1st, a holiday throughout Bavaria.

This was actually my second time in Salzburg; it was one of the cities I saw while on my two week highschool trip in Germany and Austria. We saw the city for only a portion of a day, so I figured it would be worth it to make another trip. Unfortunately, this one was also very fast paced.

With a nearly four hour train ride both ways, we only had around another four hours in the city itself. Most of the time was spent on a guided tour and driving from site to site on a bus. We passed many sites which had something to do with the Sound of Music. The Von Trapp family lived in Salzburg and the movie was filmed in the area.

Salzburg is also famous because of a guy by the name of Wolfgang Amadeaus Mozart, it was here where he was born. His birth house is now a popular museum, and some chocolate makers have borrowed his name for their special creation: the Mozartkugel (Mozart Ball). The highly overpriced and small marzipan filled chocolate is pictured below.

What the tour guides don’t tell you is that Mozart actually hated
Salzburg. He moved away as soon as he could. Don’t let that keep you from visiting this city though. The old town is beautifully preserved and car free, and the natural scenery of the Alps is enough to call you back someday.

As the first day of May, Tuesday was an official state holiday and one for celebration. May Day has its origins from the Medieval Ages. While I never did fully understand the reason behind it, I did learn that historically it was the day the peasant workers and craftsmen received their annual wages. The celebrations revolve around the raising of the Maibaum, or May Pole, but they didn’t begin or end there.

Steffi, a German friend, invited me to a traditional May Day breakfast with some of her friends. Let me clarify that a little more, it was the traditional Bavarian May Day breakfast. We met at Café Paradeis, which with an opening year of 1313 is the oldest restaurant in Eichstaett, and sat under the morning sun. The meal consisted of a pair of weisswuerste (white sausages), a salted pretzel, sweet mustard, and beer. Actually most of us parted from tradition and ordered soft drinks instead of beer, although a soft drink for breakfast is as crazy for the Germans as a beer would be for most Americans. Weisswurst is a speciality from Muenchen (Munich), and in order to eat it one must first remove the outer skin.

In the afternoon a few us from breakfast met up with the International Student Organization and trekked up the valley ridge to the May Pole raising ceremony. The revelers had already cut down a towering pine from the forest and stripped off all of the lower branches, leaving only the crown of the tree in place. They placed a few adornments on the tree, like the Bavarian flag and the crest of Eichstaett. Then in a very slow process (around 45 minutes) they raised the tree with nothing but sheer man power. Through poles and ropes the tree gradually reached its standing position. The tree will remain until the next May Day when a new tree is brought from the forest. Here are a few shots of the event:

After the raising, the time came to celebrate with music and dancing. Attending these traditional celebrations is about the only way nowadays to see the famous lederhosen for men and traditional dresses worn by the women. In reality, the dresses and lederhosen belong to the Bavarian culture and have no connection to the rest of Germany; the same applies to their style of dancing.

I have said it before and I’ll state it again, the stereotypes and most of the knowledge that Americans have of Germany are not truly German, rather Bavarian. The locals often jump at the opportunity to defend this fact. Ask a Bavarian from where they come and Bavaria, as opposed to Germany, will often be their answer. After all, the full official name for the state is Freistatt Bayern, or Free State Bavaria.

Here are some photos of the men and women who proudly up hold the dancing traditions.

After the professionals danced a couple rounds they invited everyone to join the fun. Germans and some of the international students, including myself, attempted our best. It may not have been pretty, but an observer surely could not have groaned about our enthusiasm.

In the one below, Olga is dancing with a middle-aged German man in the middle. When the music started up he approached her as she was sitting and pulled her out to the dance area. She was stuck with him for the rest of the time.

The rest of the lecture free day was spent relaxing with ice cream by the river and eating dinner with friends.


Anonymous said...

Aw what a great day!
The dancing and costumes look so cute and fun, I want to do it! I am so buying a traditional Barvarian dress when I get there. Then I'm going to wear it every day and you're going to teach me a traditional dance. Deal?!

- nata

Nick O. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick O. said...

Well I think the cost of the dresses starts at around 200 euros. That is, according to the girls I've talked to. I'll teach you a dance, but I can't gurantee it will be Bavarian, or from anyother culture even. I'll even go ahead and by the lederhosen for myself while I'm at it.