Thursday, May 1, 2008

Happy May Day!

I know we don't really do a whole lot for May Day in the US, but here they get the day off. Pretty cool. It has actually translated into a four day weekend. Unfortunately I didn't know in enough time to think of anything spectacular to do, and having spent last weekend away, didn't really have the financial means to just go running around the countryside. So I have the day off and I'm sitting in the office on the computer. (sigh)
This will give me the chance to finish up on talking about my trip to Rothenburg. Besides all the natural beauty of the place, we also enjoyed the beauty of the food there. The city is famous for it's dessert called the Schneeball (snowball). These confectionery masterpieces are truly a sight to behold. All along the streets we were in awe of the displays. Schneeballs are made of a dough similar to pie crust. The dough is dripped into oil and fried, then collected together in the shape of a ball and soaked in plum schnapps for over a week. The balls are then dipped in one kind of frosting or another, or merely sprinkled with powdered sugar, giving them the appearance of a snow ball. How could we possible pass up this mouthwatering invitation?

Unfortunately, as we all should know by now, looks can be deceiving. I think Crystal described them best when she said it was like eating the dry crust of a pop tart! Eww! The frosted outside part was good, but once you got beyond the edges it was just dry and tasteless. Nevertheless, we were so taken by appearances that we actually gave them a second try, only to be disappointed once again. But you really do have to give them an A for presentation.

We had a chance to sample some other interesting German cuisine as well. While my students found it difficult to believe that there was anything worth eating in Germany, we really enjoyed our meal. I even managed to try one of Nicole's bratwursts. I must admit that, in my mind, a bratwurst is a really big sausage, by reading the menu I learned that bratwursts were originally developed during an era when it was illegal to sell take away food after a certain hour of the day. In order to get aroudn this pesky little detail, bratwursts were developed to be small enough to fit through the keyholes. Fascinating little bit of trivia there. I ordered a meal that was like glorified macaroni and cheese. It was very tasty, and the other girls enjoyed sampling it as well.

I guess I don't really have a whole lot more to say about the trip. It was just a lot of fun. It's so nice to be able to escape the daily routine a bit.
I will make one more round of comments about May Day though. It really is a pretty interesting celebration here. Last night in the town square we came across a massive throng of people. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen so many people in Cheb. There were all sorts of small children dressed up as witches and carrying Chinese lanterns. I felt a bit like I'd stumbled on the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong instead of the May Day festivities in Cheb.
In the middle of the square the people had gathered around a crew of dancing witches ranging from very small girls to teenagers. A band played enthusiastically as the witches danced and twirled, throwing batons in the air. After several songs the procession continued on in a grand march. Naomi and I joined the crowd and followed them up to the theatre, listening to them screaming in the distance. Very exciting. At the theatre they danced again. Sadly, Naomi and I were both really hungry, so we headed home before the fireworks started.
The thing I'm really saddest about is that I missed out on the big burning ceremony. They take a witch effigy and burn it to symbolize the end of winter. It's really quite fascinating. But Naomi had plans to leave early in the morning and Tammy had gone to one somewhere else, and not knowing exactly where it would be, I didn't want to wander around in the dark among the drunken crowds on my own. (sigh)
I asked my class about the celebration last night and learned some more details. Every village has a special tree that they must protect. It only has branches at the top, and there is a large wreath with streamers hanging from it. The young men are supposed to stay up all night and guard it from boys from other villages who want to come and chop it down.
The final celebration of the holiday has to do with kissing. Girls are supposed to be kissed today beneath the cherry blossoms or the birch trees. Those who are not kissed are destined to have a "dry" year. Hmmm...guess we all know how things are going to go for me in the next year in that case...

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