Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 3 Traunstein Festival

Today was a day I was really excited about – we were headed to Traunstein to see a 500 year old festival which involved 400 horses and local sword dancers as a celebration for the local farmers. Richard had accidentally come across this festival while searching for easter festivals that we might be able to go and see whilst in Bavaria.

We left at 6.30 am to arrive early – it was a 1.5 hour drive on the autobahn. I got accused of being a nana driver, because even when doing 140 km/hr I got passed by the airport shuttle van. I sped up to 160 km/hr (with encouragement from all the passengers), but still got passed like I was standing still – mostly I drove in the “slow” lane at about 130 – 140km/hr. The scariest thing is that you don’t even feel like you are going fast. Our car had a lot more in her, and could have gone much faster again if I had really put my foot down. I think I actually prefer the motorways to the off roads, because although fast, at least you don’t have to worry about crossing intersections and the dreaded roundabouts. I managed to drive right through Munich and out the other side on our journey – which sounds impressive until you realise it was Easter Monday 7 am and actually we were the only car on the road.

Traunstein was a lovely old town (dated back to 1200 AD), with cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings. There were no people about however, and no reference to the festival, and we began to wonder whether we had come on the wrong day. It turned out we were just early, and found some traditionally dressed young men with a basket selling festival badges. There is some connection to St George and the dragon, with lots of reference in the town, but we never quite got an understanding of what the connection is.

The boys sold us a festival badge, and in faltering English, explained that we needed the badges to attend. After about ½ hour, more people started to be milling about, many in traditional dress, and a few four in hand horse teams pulling decorated wagons trotted through the town square, past the church. We saw hardly any tourists – this was an event for the locals, which made it all the more special for us. We found out from the information stand, (though the lady spoke very limited English), that the festival started with the sword dancers in the square, followed by the parade, that went on up the hill to a church, which she took us round the corner to show us.

The square filled to brimming with people, the music started, and in marched the sword dancers with all their extra guards, leaders, and flag bearers. With lots of pomp and ceremony, they performed their unusual and intricate dance moves and patterns with their swords. They wore funny little leather shoes with buckles, and high pieces of leather at the back of the heel. We took lots of photos, so it is easier to look at them, than explain what they were wearing. They were very bright and colourful.

Next, was the highlight for not only Sarah and I, but the whole family, as mostly heavy (and I mean heavy!) horses and riders, wagons, and walkers paraded past us. All were decorated to the maximum with straw and flowers, and all the people were in traditional dress of many varieties. Everybody from granddad to the smallest child seemed to be involved in the parade, and there certainly must have been at least 400 horses. Many of the heavy breeds I have heard of but never seen in the flesh, but they would have made our NZ Clydesdales look positively puny!

After a bit of apple strudel for lunch, we headed back towards Munich, unsure of what we might do next, as it was still early in the day. The kids were keen to go to the Munich Zoo, as they had seen signs for it. It was an enormous zoo, which took us a good three hours to walk round (and even then we didn’t see it all). All the writing about the animals was in German, so a bit hard to decipher, but we did manage to see a NZ kea (listed as Australasian)! We were keen to see the wolf (the first variety of which actually looked like a fox) – because we wanted to know what we were up against in Monte Negro! The interesting thing about this zoo was that they had big indoor and outdoor enclosures, all viewable by the public, so I guess in the winter, you can still see the animals. Most animals had babies with them, though it still seemed very early in the spring. We enjoyed the baby elephant and zebra. Also unusual, was the fact that you could have camel rides. Sarah lined up instantly. These were two humped camels, and you sat on a strip of leather in between the humps. She said it felt nothing like riding a horse. There were also Haflinger rides (type of horse/pony), but was only for under 6 year olds – Sarah was quite put out by this. The bat cave was “interesting” in that the bats were actually flying round with us, trying to get bananas hanging on strings. Needless to say, I didn’t stay in there very long once I realised they were flying with us – mice with wings is even worse than mice that run along the ground as far as I am concerned!