And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of Witches, Ascension,Waldmeister, Cauldron Races, And Carnival

May is a busy month here in Gutenberg Land.

What with St Walpurga,

she of the thirtieth of April witches’ covens,

waldmeister punch,

a hallucinogenic drink

served in small amounts in almost all pubs here,

(more and you could end up seriously poisoned)

and fires of massive proportion,

made out of old tires and the remains of old clothes,

winter firewood,


and anything burnable.

This is the time to play nasty pranks,

like putting a bus stop bench in front of a bank,

or all the much-hated parking meters,

on the roof ot the establishment,

(or the police department.)

Or for making sure that couples,

expecting the patter of little feet,

suddenly find  a brand-new baby buggy,

donated by dear friends,

but also on the roof.

And then there is the matter of the local traffic signs.

(It once took me four hours to get back home from a not too distant friend’s,

after  the locals, who had obviously had too much waldmeister,

turned all the street signs the wrong direction.)

And then,

just when you think you have surved another Walpurga,

and even the oldest,

and most experienced,


have made their way home from the hills,

and dried out,


it is the fifth of May.

Ascension day.

The very serious church holiday celebrating the bodily ascension of Christ into heaven

forty days after Easter.

Here, it is a legal holiday.

With beautiful church services,

ancient robes of great historic interest,

fantatic special music,


a particular order of worship  used only here in Gutenberg Land,

the organ’s vox angelii- voice of the angels- being used in the cathedral,

and trombone parades winding their way through the narrow streets to the church.


at one minute after saying good-bye to the priest,

or the Swiss guards in the cathedral,

the men are picked up by bus

by their choir,

or volunteer fire department brothers,

fishing buddies,

hunting club,

bowling team,

carnival buddies,


at exactly six minutes after saying good-bye to the priest,

are on their way back to the hills,

the accordion-player’s at least partially naked rear end,

showing through the window,

as he stands to lead them in “la paloma”


“I want to live as the wild geese live,”


any other of the, still, at this moment, relatively non-obscene songs,

as they wind their way to the Witches Hills,

where they will grill a huge sow,

decorated for the serving in a hat and sunglasses,

and drink about three cauldrons of highly powered punch.

A cauldron being big enough to hold a man,

as they cauldron race each other down the hillside stream,

once the punch is gone.

The beer comes later.

And the hot dogs.

And Hungarian grill cheese.

And anything else they decide to throw on to see what happens.


as the sun comes up the next morning,

and the medical personnel

who have been coerced into coming along,

by dire threats that the next doctors’ and nurses’ ball just MIGHT

have a few scheduling problems,

and who by now are having more than a few problems getting the winner of the cauldron race

out of his cauldron,

and into the bus,

and would probably leave him there,

if it weren’t for the fact that he is the only tenor who can actually hit a high c,

or at least somewhere close,

more or less,

they say a few communal prayers,

and a good deal more communal curses,

and stuff the seats full like their life depends on it,

hoping against hope,

that when they finally get back home,

their wives and girlfriends,

many of whom have left the children with grandma,

have not gone out in a fur coat,

over sexy underwear only,

to lean on a wall at the polar bear section of the zoo,

and catch a few rays of the all-important

first sun of the year,

or have dressed to the teeth,

and gone,

in groups of upwards  of 12

to a “womens’ showing”

of a mushy romantic movie,

made more palatable by large amounts of champaign,

and afterwards nachos at the Mexican bar

and a few words with the Tex-Mex bar staff,

who are used to this,

and find it normal to flirt,

especially as it is cinco de mayo here too.

Celebrated normally by the younger portion of the community as such.

Who love all things exotic.

And non-German.

Any fiesta in a storm.

And as the dawn comes up over the horizon,

and the women hastily look for their high heels,

and the mens’ bus heads rounds the hill,

and slides into the town,

the sound of la paloma reaching the waiting families before they do,

the thoughts of all the locals,

“my sixtieth year on the bus,”

“wasn’t that waiter adorable”

“I could have won that race if I hadn’t lost my paddle in the creek”

“we should go to the zoo on our office lunch hour”

“next year we should have TWO HUNDRED accordions,”

“this was better than St. Walpurga”


into one thought

and one thought only.

Sunday is the big carnival parade.

And mothers’ day.

And that will be SOME party.

copyright 2016

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