Sunday, July 10, 2016

Festival fun

We didn't leave Appenzell easily.  We lingered over one more decadent breakfast buffet.  We sat on the balcony until we could no longer delay our check out appointment.  Michael emerged from the kitchen, joking, “ I hear you want to leave, is this true?”  We declared our desire to stay forever, and Michael smiled easily, I'm sure he hears this all the time.  We settled our bill, distributed our notes of thanks, and packed the car but still we could not leave.  A festival had been ramping up all week, we saw them begin to build the bleachers and tents in the clearing below the church on our first day here.  Additional creative parking was established in a nearby meadow.  On one of my runs earlier in the week I had counted the addition of a dozen portapotties, this was to be a large event for the people of the Appenzell valley.  Melanie had explained earlier in the week,  “Ah, it is Schwing fest.  A traditional Swiss sport, like sumo …do you know it?”  Yes, we did but we had no idea the Swiss had a traditional form of wrestling.   As we took our seat in the recently erected stands, we were pleased to see there were no large men in diapers and today was the kids competition, from the looks of it ages 8-18.  Over sweatpants and tennis shoes, the boys wore rolled up alpine shorts cinched with a belt which were an important gripping point for their opponent.  Some wore t-shirts while others wore the standard button down mountain shirt.  They stood in a circle of thick sawdust, shook hands and embraced to begin.  The squirming face full of sawdust struggle only ended when the opponent was flat on this back.  The winner then offered him a hand up and gallantly wiped the sawdust from the losers back with two ceremonial swipes of the hand.  The amazing thing to me was with all the effort, struggle, and physicality, it was very peaceful.  None of the boys got angry at one another, no one boasted when they won nor sulked when they lost. Some were stoic in victory, some smiled at defeat, but all were so respectful of the tradition.  A few of the youngest had tears when injured, all only mildly and medic teams moved in quickly with concern but the fretful mothers I expected to see, did not appear.  Fathers arguing with the referee, never materialized.  The stands were full of families, walking barefoot through the grass, admiring new babies, visiting with neighbors, half heartedly watching the matches but there was not one helicopter parent in sight.  In fact the care of the younger boys fell to older boys, it was unclear if they were brothers, mentors or coaches.  One 13 year old walked calmly beside an injured boy, holding on to his wrist speaking in soothing tones.  After their lunch break, the teams (each from a nearby town) took a jog up the Wanderweg, each in different directions, and no adults supervised as the boys crossed the highways and ran off into the hills. Smaller  boys circled older boys, hanging off their backs and arms.  The older boys were gentle and tolerant of the puppy like antics of the youngers.  It was a beautiful display of leadership and what is possible when parents let boys be boys in the best sense of that sentiment.

We had stayed long enough to have one more lunch at the gasthaus, our friends were all delighted with their thank you notes.  We had one more visit with Melanie who we learned is actually from Denmark and only moved to Appenzell three years ago.  She explained to us there is no crime here, really no crime.  After seeing the way the culture deals with a physically dangerous sport and how violence is in no way involved, I believe that this could be a place with no crime.  Though it looks like Melanie is about to assault Greg with this newspaper, I assure you that is just her playful nature shining through.

Finally we traveled onto Friedrichshafen am Bodensee.  We let ourselves into our apartment with a key from the letterbox but our hosts Heidi and Günter both materialized later in the day, curious to hear about our travels and to make sure we were comfortable.  After dinner, Greg and I enjoyed a long walk on the strand, looking out at the vast water of Bodensee, known in English as Lake Constance.  Not a sea but a gigantic lake, the Germans treat this like the beach though, with bathing suits, swimming, sunning, and boats of every shape and size.  The weather was perfect for a beach day for once.  I finally felt the sun on my shoulders today and I think I actually uttered the phrase, “I'm hot!”

One more cultural mystery was revealed to us as we walked along the shore.  We continued to see the teams of young people with wagons of booze, baby carriages of shots and treats and finally we were approached by a group of women all wearing matching shirts and one with a veil.  They were a bridal party, and part of the bachelorette tradition is to sell you treats to get money for the honeymoon, while they drink, a lot.  Now we know!

Back in the ‘burbs, we explored the neighborhood before dark.  There are walking paths here that go out into pear and apple orchards along yet another river.  We stumbled upon a block party hosted by the local lions club with very unique horn music.  In our room this evening we cleaned out all of the travel bags in order to condense our gear down to our two backpacks and one day bag, as we turn the car in tomorrow and will be reduced to what we can carry on our backs once more.

1 comment:

  1. Such an smazing place...I'm ready to pack my bag and move there now!!

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