Learning the local culture
We gained an interesting insight into Bavarian culture during our recent visit to Munich. Learning a little of the local culture is one of the things we enjoy most about travelling. Many cultures and traditions which spring to mind when you think of Germany are actually Bavarian culture and traditions These are found only in and around Munich.
During our 2016 trip, we were very fortunate to be invited to spend a week with a Bavarian family in a village outside Munich . Here we experienced everything from Bavarian food and drink, to housing, traditional costumes and folk festivals.
Our hosts, the parents of our daughter’s friend, were keen for us to experience as much of their local culture as we could fit into a week.
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Bavarian culture in the Village
We found the quaint, alpine “German” houses in the villages around Munich. These cottages however are unique to Bavaria.
Built in a traditional style, our hosts home featured loft beds near the ceiling which were accessed via a ladder. This provides not only additional warmth during the cold winter nights, but also maximises space. From the living areas downstairs, glassed conservatory enabled the garden to be enjoyed during the cold winter months. This opened onto the outdoor terrace in summer.
Spring had well and truly sprung in thee garden, quite large by German standards and abuzz with spring. Bumblebees the size of a small apricot buzzed from blossom to blossom.
In spring, Germans do like to take advantage of every ray of summer sunshine. As we were visiting in May,ate either on the terrace overlooking the garden, or in the glass enclosed conservatory. We shopped at the the local market to buy traditional German food, choosing fresh bread, cheese and traditional sausages from individual stall holders before browsing through the local shops. Here we found everyday clothing stores had window displays of traditional Bavarian costume alongside modern clothing displays.
Breakfast each morning was a feast, for someone like myself used to coffee and toast. Our hostess served traditional selection of Bavarian breads, sausages and cheeses on the terrace each morning, together with fruit preserves made from the produce in her garden. I was happy to stash a couple of jars of plum jam in my suitcase for the trip home.
On our last evening we cooked salmon slow cooked in a sauce with every vegetable you could imagine. If we have the opportunity to return their hospitality, I am not sure that a roast lamb and sausages on the barbecue will match the German feasts we enjoyed.
Our friends explained much about their rich Bavarian culture, with Oktoberfest perhaps one of the better known German folk festivals.
Oktoberfest is actually held in September, running from the third weekend in September to the first weekend in October. The tradition began in 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese invited the citizens of Munich to celebrate their wedding in the fields outside the city gates.
Today Oktoberfest is one of the biggest folk festivals in the world. Over six million visitors descend on Munich to sample the local German beers and food.
The Mayor of Munchen officially opens the festival “tapping the first keg” with the fewest possible hits. The beer then officially starts flowing from the beer tents from the six traditional Munich based breweries.
Bands play only traditional Bavarian folk music, as festival goers clad in traditional Bavarian costume- Dirndl and Lederhosen feast on traditional Bavarian food. The menu includes traditional roast pork, roasted ham hock,grilled fish on a stick, sausages pretzel, dumplings and cheese noodles. Planning to go to Oktoberfest? Read more here
Dirndl and Lederhosen
Tracht, the traditional Bavarian costume is often confused as the “German” traditional dress, however it is only worn in Bavaria in the south of Germany.
The ladies wear tight fitting Dirndl dresses, with a white blouse underneath and an apron tied around the waist. How you wear your apron is also very important. Tying your apron to the left means you are single and open to offers. To the right means you are married or promised to someone. To the back is for widows or waitresses and the front for children and young girls.
The men wear lederhosen- leather shorts with embroidered leather braces and white shirt, long socks and a felt hat. Traditional Bavarian brides hand embroider braces as a wedding gift for their husband- to- be, with motifs denoting their town and occupation.
It is not unusual in Bavaria to see the locals donning their Dirndl and Lederhosen on Sundays, for festivals and weddings. Our hostess donned her Dirndl for us on Sunday in honour of our last day visiting, in keeping with their Bavarian culture.
May Day, or Maypole Day is another Bavarian folk festival on which the villagers don their traditional garb to celebrate. We had a close up view of the Maypole in our hosts’ village. They also shared with us the video of the hoisting of their maypole which is shown in these pictures, and the party and dancing which followed.
During April, the men of each village will go out and cut down the largest pine trunk they can find. The Maypole committee then hides this away for safekeeping, before the villagers decorated it with ribbons, wreaths and unique signs denoting the craftsmen’s guilds of each resident of the village.
On May 1 the villagers gather for the ‘hoisting of the maypole”. This job requires the muscle power of all the men in the village. It is raised using smaller trees that have been stripped of their bark and slung together at the top by thick rope. The men then slowly hoist the maypole into a pre-prepared hole. Then party begins, lasting well into the night.
Guarding the Maypole
The maypole then has to be guarded around the clock for the next two weeks, as part of the Bavarian Maypole tradition is that villages try to steal the maypole from their neighbours.
If successful, a ransom of copious quantities of beer and food is payable for its return. Basically you have to put on a big party for the neighbouring village to get your maypole back.
Sawing or damaging the Maypole in any way is not allowed. One of the most spectacular thefts occurred when a maypole was removed using a helicopter. It was then flown to an alpine hut when negotiations began for its return.
Note: out of respect for our hosts’ privacy I have not included identifying photos of their home in this post.