Friday, May 30, 2014

::DAY 10: Kirche & Town-Hopping::

The church bells rung a 'hurry-up' and streams of people walked the cobblestones to St. Paulskirche for morning service. We were among them. Church is a real event in tiny Dinkelsbuhl. They shut down roads to accommodate the crowds. No, we didn't understand a word. But we sang our hearts out, mangling half the words. I'm sure.
The afternoon was spent meandering through the countryside, passing through as many tiny towns as we could. Commonalities: Steepled churches, red-tiled roofs & maypoles. Spotting the slender, bowing and bending poles became a game.

May Day comes from the Celtic festival of Beltaine, which was aimed at encouraging fields and crops and trees to produce well. Now, May Day is just a fun way to celebrate the end of the long, dark winter nights.

"The beauty of a town's maypole is a matter of pride. "Experts" carefully select and fell a tall, beautiful tree. Artisans paint and decorate the maypole, complete with craftsmen's crests, a wreath and long ribbons for the dance. The men of the town raise the maypole on April 30, a sometimes difficult job because they can be as tall as 90 feet. The men use a system of hoists made of smaller, stripped-bare trees to heave the pole into place.

Climbing of the maypole is another matter of pride. Men show off their prowess by shimmying up the tall, polished tree without the benefit of handholds.

Rival towns typically try to steal other towns' maypoles. This happens so frequently that towns have started guarding their maypoles from the time the tree is felled until the end of May Day festivities. The best known theft involved a helicopter and "copious" amounts of beer and food as ransom."

Nordlingen is a town built inside a meteor crater. We walked the entire way around it's wall.
The castle perched on the cliff in Harburg drew us in. The question was, how to reach it? Lots, and lots of climbing.
 What a beautiful country. Every town is a gem.