Beiträge

Schliersee…So Much More Than Cows

After several years of obsessively photographing the various local Almabtriebs, this year I was sent a very kind invitation to come and experience another lovely local farming event. The Schafprämierung, in english we would call it a sheep “Best in Show” which, also included goats. This event is held each year in Tegernsee at Kohlhauf-Hof.

Sadly, after many years of great weather, this year the event received a complete soaking due to the remnants of hurricane Maria. Though the weather dampened everything, animal and people alike, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the farmers and young breeders.

Despite the weather, the atmosphere was a festive one. Of course there was a small local traditional band playing and the air was fragrant with hot homemade stews, sausages and lamb steaks. Never to be forgotten at any German gathering, an entire table of delicious homemade cakes. Local vendors set up booths and sold various hand made products like  cattle bells and sheep’s wool items.  An amazing weaver from Miesbach brought her traditional Bavarian style loom carpets while women carded and spun wool. For the children a class was offered on felting wool and they really enjoyed.

Representing Schliersee was Franz Leitner (junior). His families beautiful farm, Kirchbergerhof is located in the  Fischhausen part of Schliersee. Franz was showing his magnificent Alpine Steinschaff. Through this event I learned In 2009 the Alpines Steinschaf was named “endangered livestock breed of the year” so its cultivation and care are very important to the breeds survival. It was great to be there in support of a fellow Schlierseer.

What stole my heart were the happy faces of the young breeders, Jungzuchter, who were showing their sheep for the first time. Watching the connection of these young children and their much loved and trusting sheep was precious. The joy of the parents and grandparents who could share their passion for animal husbandry was written all over their faces. These traditions of local farming if not taught and shared might one day might sadly die out. Sharing and teaching them to the younger generations helps to keep the traditions alive. Their joy just fills you with pride for this beautiful alpine land and its people.

I am sure there were technical aspects of a Schafprämierung which were very important for the health of these local breeds but for me it was the joy of community that I most took away from the day. The excitement of seeing the results of the years hard work, breeding and caring for these sweet faced creatures. The sheep were definitely the stars and their personalities shined through. Many of the sheep tried nibbling on the serious judges aprons causing them to break from their important stoic roles into warm laughter.

 

 

The judges took great care to check each animal thoroughly for particular signs of good breeding. The health and care given to every animal was judged accordingly to a strict standard.

 

Unfortunately, although I was properly attired for the weather, myself and my camera encased in gore-tex for protection I ended up getting soaked to the skin which sadly brought and end to my visit.

 

 

For more information on Schafprämierung and events:
http://www.alpinetgheep.com/news-bayern.html

To learn how you can stay at the beautiful Kirchbergerhof farm:

http://www.kirchbergerhof.info/frame-index.html

 

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).

 

 

 

The Secret Side of the Maypole Tradition

As you might have already noticed, I love everything about ancient cultural traditions.  One of my personal favorites, the Bavarian tradition of the Maypole, I believe might just be one of the most fun.

A Maypole or Maibaum is a tall tree that has been stripped of it’s branches and is either left natural or painted with the classic Bavarian blue and white.  Besides the decorative stripped and checked painting a Maypole has either crests symbols or figures jutting off the sides which represent the many different craftsman guilds of the village. The Maypole is erected by the young men of the “Burschenverein” a kind of Maypole club. They are placed in the village square on the first day May. The t of May or Mayday is often called Workers Day.

Much of what I have already written is common knowledge so I won’t bore you with more facts. But were you aware that much of the work that goes into making a Maypole must be done in secret? For the its own safety? This is absolutely true! It is tradition for the young people of other villages to stealthily steal the Maypole from another town and to hold it hostage for unbelievable amounts of beer and food. There are many famous thefts of Maypoles including the legendary 2004 theft of the massive one on the top of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze which was done by helicopter.

I learned firsthand how much effort is put into the safe keeping of the pole when I first moved to Schliersee and was motivated to stop and take some photos of a Maypole in progress in one of our neighboring villages. I would stop by from time to time to see the various stages from natural tree to hand hewn pole and onto the finish painting.  On one of my last visits I had the definite feeling that I was being watched. Just behind me was a mobile wagon used on construction sites, peering out of each window were nervous faces of young men. I had to laugh to myself thinking t they must be wondering if I am doing reconnaissance for another village to come steal their Maypole.

Every effort is made to secure the safety of the Maypole and therefore the honor of the village or town. I have seen 24 hour video camera coverage. Recently here in Schliersee a radio personality moved in and kept watch over the local Maypole 24 hours a day. It was great fun to watch as he was visited by various people, blessed by the local church and even pizza was delivered to him so he didn’t have to leave his post. You are required to pay the ransom for the stolen Maypole and with astronomical ransoms being the norm, guarding that pole is a serious business.

As with everything in Germany there is a list of rules and basic decorum for stealing another villages Maypole which must be followed. I have acquired the list for you incase you are feeling the need to invade your neighboring town.

Bavarian rules for Maypole Theft:

  1. No rooted trees must be stolen, the tree must have already been felled.
  2. Trees must not be stolen from the forest, since wood theft is otherwise punished.
  3. The maypole must be stolen only when it finds itself within the place, for it is only then that it is a maypole.
  4. You cannot steal your own town’s Maypole. It is forbidden.
  5. The tree must be stolen secretly and undetected.
  6. The tree must not be sawn or damaged.
  7. Violence against guardians must never be applied.When a guardian from the village puts his hand on the tree, he cannot be touched by the thieves.

If violence is used, the police are often switched called, which is always unfavorable for the preservation of the custom.  So basically keep it a clean.

  1. If the thieves within the municipality boundary are surprised at the transport, they must return their prey without a fight. If you are found within the town stealing the Maypole you have to give it back.
  2. Once the Maypole is erected it can no longer be stolen.
  3. Boards and wreaths must not be stolen, only the tree itself. So the decorative attachments must he stay
  4. If the theft was successful, the parties enter into ransom negotiations.No extreme claims may be made.
  5. It is permitted to steal a stolen Maypole back, either from third parties or from the defendants.The rules must also be strictly adhered to.
  6. Traditionally, the Maypole thieves help to erect the trees and help with decorating as well.
  7. If negotiations fail, it is considered additional blessing to those who stole the Maypole.After a few weeks, the Maypole sawn and auctioned.Before that on the “ Schandbaum” or “Shame-Tree,” a panel is often affixed, on which the thieves express their disappointment by mocking.
  8. After reconciliation peace is restored.The tradition of the maypole should be handled in such a way that lawyers are unnecessary.

Let this be a reminder to anyone who might be interested in attempting to steal a Maypole this year….always follow the rules and keep it fun.

 

Laura Boston-Thek Laura Boston-Thek

American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).