Sunday, 22 February 2009

Germany - Day 2, Weiberfastnacht and the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle

Another tourist road led to the small town of Oppenau where there was a carnival in full flow and it seemed appropriate to stop at a community centre where there was a party to investigate. The children were all in fancy dress, the men were dressed like Noddy and Big Ears with elaborate wooden masks and the women wore colourful medieval style dresses. It all looked a bit pagan to me, which I suppose it is really, and reminded me of the film ‘The Whicker Man’ when villagers in fancy dress sacrificed a stranger. With that thought rattling around my head I remained alert to any threatening behaviour.

There was none of course, this was all a lot of good fun and it did explain the carnival bunting in Gernsbach and I discovered later that this is the festival of Fastnacht which is a carnival in Alemannic folklore that takes place in the few days before Lent in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Alsace. The Alemanni were German tribes who lived in this part of Europe nearly two thousand years ago and this area remains characterised by a form of German with a distinct dialogue called Alemannic. The celebration literally means ‘Fasting Eve’ as it originally referred to the day before the fasting season of Lent. The schools are all closed for this festival and all over the Black Forest there are six days of parties and making merry. At the community centre everyone was shoving down platefuls of food and consuming lots of drink. A sort of doughnut seemed to be popular and these I learnt were called fasnachts and are a traditional fatty treat that are produced as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat and butter, which are forbidden during Lent. This is a catholic tradition but in protestant England we call this Shrove Tuesday and serve pancakes instead of doughnuts, it is much the same thing. This festival is also called ‘Weiberfastnacht’ or Women's Carnival on account of the fact that tradition says that on this day women take control of local affairs. I might be mistaken of course but I was under the impression that this was every day not just once a year.

Out of Oppenau the road climbed again and provided stunning views over the Rhine valley, flat and contrasting sharply with the Black Forest mountains, looking deep into neighbouring France. The road finally arrived at the Allerheiligen Wasserfälle, which is a five hundred-metre waterfall on the river Lierbach as it tumbles quickly through a narrow gorge full of boulders and fallen trees. It was especially dramatic today because of the melting snow that was adding to the volume of water that was contributing to the rapid flow of the river. The sides of the mountain were covered in little icicles that had attached themselves to and entombed little blades of grass. On the ground the compacted snow was easy to walk on and made the climb to the top of the gorge easy except that is for the parts when the steps were covered in treacherous ice and it was necessary to cling on to the railings for fear of slipping over. After the falls and back in the car the road continued to an unusually numbered road, the 500, that would have led directly back to Baden-Baden if I hadn’t tried to be clever and find another tourist route which because of the inadequacy of the road signs only led to the uninteresting towns of Bühl and Sinzheim and then back to Baden-Baden through the St Michaels tunnel.

Back at the hotel there was more rugby football, this time France versus Scotland and although I have never associated Germany with rugby football I was interested to discover that they are in fact ranked 26th in the world out of a total of ninety five countries affiliated to the International Rugby Board which, let’s be honest, is really quite respectable.

After a rest and a beer from the mini bar (because the discount mini market was closed) it was a return to the town centre for a restaurant and tonight a traditional German establishment where we enjoyed food from an authentic German menu and red wine by the half litre jug. I had a wiener schnitzel which I probably wouldn’t order at home because my daughter, Sally, would strongly disapprove but I have to say that it was really, really good.

It was the end of a long day and after a final walk along the Stiftskirche to walk off the meal it was back to the hotel in anticipation of another good day tomorrow and a drive to the famous university town of Heidelberg.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I have just stumbled across your blog by accident and as someone who also has the 'travel bug' have fund it fascinating.