The One Party You Don’t Want An Invite To: The German Work Christmas Party

Fun and games at the German Work Christmas Party.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The British work Christmas party typically involves two things; alcohol and sexual shenanigans between people who shouldn’t be having them. So I had high hopes of finally seeing some Germans shed their inhibitions and – dare I say it – lose control when I was invited to a German work Christmas party last year.

How wrong I was.

The first thing that should have told me this was that I was invited at all. For I am just the partner of someone else who works for this company. Partners, at a work Christmas party? These annoying specimens don’t even get a look in at the English work Christmas party. There are two reasons for this: One is that companies claim they can’t afford to invite partners of employees anymore, particularly after the credit crunch (which never existed in mega-rich Bavaria).  The second and real reason is that there’s no way Fred in accounts could finally get his dirty way with Jane from Human Resources if his wife was there, could he?

The second thing that screamed “this is going to be The Worst Christmas Party Ever” is that there were CHILDREN there. Honestly. Children at a work Christmas party. At that point I guessed there wasn’t going to be any cocaine or strippers either then. Oh God.

All work Christmas parties vary in England. I have been to ones in pubs, clubs, bars, the work canteen, you name it. But in all cases everyone gets rip-roaring drunk, women in slutty, ill-fitting dresses dance to bad music and there is plenty to gossip and laugh about the next day.

English women on their way to the work Christmas party.

When we arrived at the Worst Christmas Party Ever however, there was no music. A small group of people were stood awkwardly around a table in the boss’ showroom, which had been stylishly turned into a pretty winter wonderland. That’s right – no traffic light-style disco lights here.

Whoop whoop!

None of the women were in slutty dresses either. Instead they were wearing Jack Wolfskin t-shirts tucked neatly into khaki-style trousers. And there was to be no dancing around handbags tonight – for these lot had brought their rucksacks. We were going on a hike afterwards or something? I manually adjusted the hem on my little dress by yanking it down a bit, and wished I had at least put a vest top on under the laciness of my dress and over my bra. Then I prayed there would be no hike.

German women on their way to the work Christmas party

The Worst Christmas Party Ever consisted of the boss, Ludwig, a successful young family man with long floppy hair and one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen. Then there was his wife along with their two young children who clearly didn’t want to be there either. Then there was Gert, my partner’s colleague and his wife, both aged in their fifties. Gert is from the former communist East Germany, so you can forgive him for being a bit weird. Then there was the apprentice, Stefan, who stank of B.O. and had the social skills of an ape. Then there was the straight-laced secretary, Hilda, who had brought her nine-year-old daughter along. This was going to be a long night.

Sensing this too, the boss’ children suddenly started acting ill and their mother had to leave and take them home. The rest of us sat down to eat a beautiful meal prepared perfectly by some local caterers, albeit in the quietest and most awkward surroundings ever. It didn’t help that my German at this stage was at the same level of the average German two-year-old’s, which made it very hard to join in any conversation that did dare to take place. No one seemed to speak English because, well, this is rural Bavaria where people speak a funny form of German. As many expats will know, you often feel like a deaf mute in these situations.

One thing that did shatter the awkward silence however was the secretary’s daughter sat next to me. She ate and ate as though she had never seen food before. She pigged out so much that her podgy little stomach couldn’t handle anymore, and she started – wait for it – farting. As she was sat next to me though no one could really tell who had let out the farts, despite my obvious ‘you just farted!’ glances I threw hastily in her direction. She just sat there seemingly oblivious to her torrential gas situation. The little bitch.

After the most excruciatingly long few hours of my life, the Worst Christmas Party Ever was finally over. No one got that drunk, no one fell over, no one made a fool of themselves to YMCA on the dance floor, and on one shagged someone they shouldn’t have. But in typical German style the food and hospitality was amazing and no one lost their dignity, jobs, or knickers down some cold alleyway somewhere on the way home. Boring!

Unfortunately the following day everyone who had been at the Worst Christmas Party Ever came down with a vomiting virus so severe we were all chucking our guts up for two days. The little girls who had been taken home ill by their mum got it from school first, then their mother must have picked it up from them before passing it on to all of us by handling our cutlery before we ate.

And that’s why kids really shouldn’t be at Christmas parties. One because they are farty and annoying, and two because they carry disease-ridden germs most of the time.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. It was very nice of the boss to invite us and feed us all with such lovely food. But I really hope we don’t get an invite again this year.

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Funny Things I’ve Heard Germans Say

One of the best bits of mixing with foreigners is their hilarious grasp of the English language.

And while I commend anyone for learning and having the guts to speak in another language, it’s still really funny when they mess up.

Here are the top ten clangers/laugh out loud things I’ve heard during my time in Germany.

  • “My B.A. smells.” I think the German guy in question meant B.O.
  • “I have pins and nails.” That would be pins and needles then.
  • “Yummy. Lamp!” It’s lamb actually. And on that note, “vegetables” is not pronounced  “veg-e-tables” like the piece of furniture.
  •  A German doctor: “Would you like the anti-baby pill?” A pill that stops you from getting pregnant and repels all other babies? Brilliant!  Ja bitte!
  • Same German doctor, about to carry out a vaginal examination: “And now let’s check the situation in your vagina.” And upon finishing: “The situation is good!”
  •  A woman about to have some stitches in her arm taken out: “I’m going to have my ropes removed.”
  • A typically direct German guy – trying not to be direct – to my American friend: “I don’t know how to say this nicely but I really want to f*** you.”
  •  My mother-in-law when I asked where her son was: “He is outside having a sh**.” She meant smoke.
  • My German midwife, while I was giving birth: “Press! Press!”
  • An inquisitive German: “What’s a muff?”

Awards and shiz.

Me AKA Auds

Collecting one of my awards. Thanks Wikipedia.

There I was enjoying a nice cup of tea as I put away my tweeds following that morning’s hunt when up popped a message: “Brit has won an award”.

In fact, it isn’t just one award, but three. People must like reading about Germans a lot more than I thought.

I only started blogging about life as a Brit in Bavaria 10 months ago, as the harsh German winter plus my first stint as a stay-at-home mum threatened to override all of my brain cells and make me spontaneously combust.

Waaaaaaaa!

Since then I have connected with many other bloggers, travellers, expats and wonderful Bavarians whose support is what makes the effort to blog worthwhile. A big thanks to them all!

The awards I have received are hardly the Oscars of the blogging world. In fact, they have been given to me by other bloggers who I paid a neat sum to say they like me. I in turn have to nominate other bloggers who I feel deserve the awards too (thanks for the cash my dears) and they also pass them on. Some may see these awards as an annoying chain, like those letters you used to get at school in the eighties.  But I like to look at them as one big happy cyber conga that just keeps on growing.

Some may choose not to accept the award and the rules that come with doing so. And that’s fine.  But on the plus point the recognition is about awarding up-and-coming blogs and increasing the number of links to them. Plus I thought I better get my arse into gear and nominate after reading how those who have refused to accept these ‘chains’ have seen their blogs die slow horrible deaths.

Germerican Denglish nominated me for three accolades – The Liebster Award, The Sunshine Award AND the Versatile Blogger Award. WOW. Germerican Denglish is all about an American dad, a German mum and their young son ‘who most definitely speaks Denglish.’ As the mother of a bilingual young one, I feel their pride and pain. Thank you for taking the time to nominate me, not once, but three times!

Meanwhile, Deanna of From Casinos to Castles also thought me worthy of the Versatile Blogger Award. A big thank you to her too! Deanna is a Vegas girl who now lives in Germany with her German husband and their child. My partner is German too (violins please) and we have sons around the same age, so I can really relate to her blog about expat life as a mum (DON’T DO IT).

Definitely give both of those a read if you have a moment.

The rules for receiving these awards include posting random facts about myself and answering a set of questions. To spare you from a long post with too much information about me you can read my answers for each award on this page instead.

So, with no further ado, here are the blogs I would like to pass these awards on to. The recipients will either love me or hate me for it. The first I hope. If not, then just take it as a way of me saying “Thanks for taking the time to create a great blog.” As I said, don’t feel that you have to acknowledge the award. But remember your blog WILL DIE if you don’t.

In line with the rules these are all rising star blogs with less than 1,000 followers. See this page for details on how to pass them on and annoy lots of other bloggers. In all honesty I don’t read too many blogs due to time constraints (a toddler, a home, part-time work, this blog, and a Bavarian to pick beer bottles up after). But the ones I’ve listed here are the ones I look forward to reading when I see they have posted something new. They mainly make me laugh and/or inspire me to travel.

So spread the BLOVE.

Word.

The Liebster Award: (Liebster is German for dearest, sweetheart, kindest, nicest. Yes this is slightly embarrassing. Germans use this word sparingly. Well, no one’s ever said it to me. )

Homesick and Heatstruck For an entertaining, touching, and laugh-out-loud blog on life in the Middle East.

Tricia A Mitchell For a great,  insightful travel blog that really makes you feel as if you are there on the journey with her.

James and Pierre For cycling the west coast of the USA for charity and creating a superb blog to match their efforts.

hayleylyla For being so wonderfully Liebster-like and bringing a touch of glamour into my cold, Bavarian, fashion-starved world.

Germerican Denglish Right back at ya! For a funny and sweet blog about life here in Germany.

The Sunshine Award: (For those who have brought sunshine into my life. I might be sick now.)

Living in the Langhe Funny blog from a fellow Essex lad living in Italy (although he doesn’t admit he is from Essex in his ‘about’ page).

Had a Few Beers For being really crude. That kind of humour is really missing here in Germany.

Observing Hermann For keeping me up to date with Germany’s current affairs in a deadpan style.

Englishman in Italy For being so downright hilarious (English).

Good Day to Live Written by a Bavarian who shows that life enriched with travel doesn’t have to be rich.

From Casinos to Castles For being brave enough to share her struggles as an expat mum in a humorous way.

Versatile Blogger Award: (As it says on the tin.)

Well I have now run out of blogs to nominate. I clearly need to get reading more before I die a slow horrible death for breaking this chain. If you don’t hear from me for a while, you know what happened.

Brit Joins German Gym – Finds Everyone Gets Naked There Too.

Original image description from the Deutsche F...

Workout done. Let’s get naked. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been living in Germany for almost two years. And in those two years I have seen more strangers’ penises and bottoms than I ever could have imagined.

That’s because life in Germany goes like this:

It’s summer! Let’s go down to the local lake! Get down to the local lake – oh look, there’s an old codger sunbathing with his willy out! And there’s another emerging from the lake, with all his bits on show! And wait! There’s another, changing out of his swimwear with all of his manhood dangling out! In England you would be arrested for this kind of behaviour. But in Germany? That’s just how they roll.

Or:

Let’s go to the local swimming pool! Get there to find that the changing rooms are just one big room. Mixed. No curtains. No dividers. Number of strangers’ penises I have seen now doubles in one go.

Then there was the time we went for a nice family swim only to find that it was naked sauna day and we were the only ones wearing any clothes.

Even when I was on the beach recently in Gozo, Malta – where nude or even topless sunbathing is banned – I ended up having a conversation with a German man whose willy was on show. He was wearing trunks but they were so small his manhood had manoevured its way out of there. Or maybe it was so used to being out on the beach it was like: “Hey, what’s going on? Why am I locked up? It’s so dark in here! Let me out!” And with that it found its usual freedom, pulled up a sunlounger and enjoyed the nice cool breeze.

Swimming trunks

Let me out!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In short, there’s no avoiding cocks and bottoms in Bavaria, unless you always go out with a big black bag over your head.

So it’s no surprise that Germans get naked at the gym too. I joined a gym in Germany for the first time last week, and with that I took my German cock count up from 100 to 125.

Now don’t get me wrong. From what I have experienced so far, German gyms are amazing. Firstly, they are absolutely spotless. Secondly, when you walk in everyone using the gym turns and says hello to you. When you leave, you’re expected to say goodbye to everyone too. I think that’s really cute. Another difference is that as all Germans have OCD, you are expected to carry a little towel around the gym with you that must act as a barrier between your sweaty self and whatever equipment you are using at ALL times. Forget your little towel and expect to be on the receiving end of some scary German looks. Considering Germans are so frightened of germs, I’m surprised that they are called Germans and not Cleanmans or something like that.

After my very satisfying gym session I decided to pop into the sauna. In England most people wear their swimwear in the sauna even if it’s not a mixed one. That’s because we are prudes who would rather die than let anyone other than a very select few see us naked. However, my previous experiences of German saunas have taught me that wearing any clothes at all is not the done thing, whether it’s a mixed sauna or not.

Deutsch: Keltenthron Sauna

Don’t be fooled. The towels must come off. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

But what about a gym sauna? Surely it’s a bit awkward to get completely naked in front of that old bloke you just exchanged niceties with over the chest press machine? The one thing that got me through going naked in a German sauna once before was the fact I wouldn’t see any of the other people in it ever again. It’s a different story if you use the one at the new gym you’ve just joined.

Reily

After this we’re all going to get naked! Ja! Photo credit: Tulane Public Relations

Holding my towel close to my chest, I opened the door to the mixed sauna, and found a spot right next to the door. There was a man aged approximately in his sixties and two women around the same age already in there, all naked of course. From their conversation I gathered they all knew each other from the neighbourhood, and had probably seen each others bits and bobs on numerous occasions before. There was no awkwardness between them at all, and none of them seemed worried about having boobs down to their ankles, pot bellies, or pubes as long as their noses.

Floating sauna

At least it wasn’t a floating sauna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, one of the women even got up and did a funny little dance in tune to whatever they were all chatting about, and the others laughed as her big, wobbly bits jangled about and almost knocked me in the face. After she left and everyone fell silent it was really hard to stiffle my massive internal giggles.

This time I decided to keep my towel on, much to the amazement of the other members They were all giving me rather strange looks that said: “Is your body covered in warts or something? Come on, get your kit off!” While I commend the Germans for having the guts to get naked in front of each other without a care in the world, it’s just one culture shock that I will never be able to comfortably adapt too. Especially down at the local gym and in front of men I don’t know.

Nudity will always be associated with sex in my eyes because sadly that’s the kind of society I grew up in. The society I’m more used to is also not as safe as in Bavaria. If a woman went nude in a mixed sauna back at home it would be a risk as unfortunately some might see it as an invitation. When you have been used to certain constraints for most of your life it is very hard to shrug them off when you move abroad and things are a lot different.

And on a less serious note I have yet to see a hottie in the sauna. Maybe I’ll change my mind about German saunas when I do. Until then, it’s just old men’s wrinklies all the way.

And Then The Pigs Magically Became….Sausages

On Saturday we went to one of my favourite local spots in Bavaria, a tiny, picturesque village up in the hills with a farm, adjoining restaurant, and a 5-star bakery.

I’ve never heard of a 5-star bakery before and I’m not exactly sure why the Kasprowicz in Gut Kerschlach is one, except for the sign outside saying it is and the exceptionally good cakes.

But at least I can now say that I have been to a 5-star bakery, even if there weren’t any limos parked outside, high-class hookers hanging out at the counter or bread rolls lounging around in tuxedos smoking cigars.

To get to the village you have to drive to another small village in the south of Bavaria called Pahl, and walk 20 minutes or so along a trail through tall forests and rolling countryside with gorgeous Alpine views.

It’s very pretty to say the least.

Once more it’s great for kids, because there’s very little traffic up there, and you can tour the farm with its kids’ park and zoo, with  moo moos, bunnies, baa baas and neeeee-ighs! (This is how I talk now I have a 16-month-old).

Now we all know how much kids love animals. And how much nicer it is to see them on an ‘eco’ farm, being treated all humanely and stuff. It was a lovely family outing, and our hearts were literally singing with joy as we skipped around in the sunshine like characters from a Disney movie, talking to the animals all Dr Dolittle like.

But sadly we were unable to find the oink oinks. The map showed their barn as being at the back of the farm. But they were nowhere to be found.

Max has just learnt how to make grunts like a pig.  When you’re a parent and your child learns to make grunts like a pig, THIS IS ONE OF THE HIGLIGHTS OF YOUR YEAR.  Therefore, we had to find those smelly noisy pink buggers as if our lives depended on it.

After ten minutes of frantic searching, we found what we thought was the pig area. Hooray! Max’s face lit up, and he started making his cute oink oink noises.

We all skipped over holding hands, with grins like the Cheshire Cat (not really but got to keep up the Disney-esque-ness of it all). We had found the pigs!

But instead of the pigs we actually found this….a sausage factory.

Are you having a laugh? Who puts a sausage factory on a farm for kids, right where the pigs are meant to be? That’s the wurst!

There wasn’t even an attempt to disguise the factory of horrors. There’s a whopping great big sign on the sausage factory announcing it’s a sausage factory, explaining to the children what happens to the animals inside. The way they break the news is quite hilarious. The sign is in German, but let me (or Google) translate.

“Kerschlach Factory. Here the animals that come from the farm and from partner companies are slaughtered in an animal friendly-way and are transformed into speciality sausages.”

“Transformed.” What a nice way of putting it.

It was a sad end to a beautiful day. We trundled off, heads bowed,  looking and feeling grim. Damn those Germans for always being so brutally honest and direct. Practicality rules over everything here. Feelings don’t always count. That’s why there was a sausage factory on a farm for kids. That’s why my friend’s nan lives in a sheltered housing scheme for the elderly with great views of the cemetery over the road. That’s why people here still wear Crocs – in public.

Although I have to admit, I have enjoyed a German sausage or two in my time.  They taste amazing. I guess there’s no point hiding the truth of what happens to most pigs in what is the land of sausages. In Britain I doubt this scenario would have existed, for fear of being insensitive and giving children nightmares. Not in Bavaria!

And at least, like whenever something doesn’t go to plan here, we can cheer up over five-star cake.

Nuremberg: Great place. So what’s up with the locals?

Nuremberg is  one of my favourite destinations in Germany so far. Yes I know I raved about Regensburg. And I haven’t been to Berlin yet. But read on and you’ll see why Nuremberg must surely be one of the top places to visit in Deutschland. DESPITE THE AWFUL PEOPLE. More about them later.

Nuremberg is Bavaria’s second largest city behind Munich. But I love it so much more. According to a friend of mine, Nuremberg has a higher unemployment rate and more druggies than Munich. Great! This means it is far grittier and therefore more interesting than nice but dull Munich.

But please don’t think that because of that Nuremberg is some hell-hole full of pick-pockets. Far from it. Its centre is a beautifully restored medieval marvel, full of ye-olde-worlde buildings and airy cobbled streets. It is where one of Germany’s most famous Christmas markets is held. Its history is simply fascinating, and can easily be recaptured through the dozens of museums and sights on offer. But it is also lots of fun, with cool clubs, bars and a thriving student scene. It seems to be pretty popular with stag parties too (that’s bachelor parties for you Yanks), as Nuremberg is surrounded by hundreds of breweries, and has a number of brothels. Class!

One of Nuremberg’s most interesting sights has to be the dungeons underneath the Rathaus. That’s the local town hall, not a house for rats. You can take a tour of the old prison, built between 1334 and 1340, and imagine the absolute horror the inmates went through there. The cells were small, cold, stone-walled, and completely devoid of daylight. A pail served as the toilet and the table. Some people were tortured as a way of making them confess to crimes they may or may not have committed, and you can still see these torture devices  today. Some inmates were subsequently sentenced to death by hanging, beheading, burning or burying alive. Don’t go on a hangover, like we did.

In stark contrast to the dungeons was my next favourite attraction – the gardens at the Kaiserburg. The castle’s grounds are a perfect place to catch rooftop views of the city and to laze around surrounded by the wonderful flowers.

Another great aspect of Nuremberg is its fascinating yet harrowing Nazi legacy. It was here that Hitler held his mass party rallies and stripped the Jewish of their German citizenship in 1935. Bastard! More than 6, 000 people were killed and 90% of the centre destroyed during the war. But many of the ruined buildings were rebuilt using the original stone, which is why you can still see most of the old town today. Nice.

A must-see is The Reichsparteitagsgelande (pronounced ri -chhhhhhhhccccchhhhhhrrrrrrr flemmy flemmy spit spit schpart tie tag schhhhcccclrrr geland – e), or more easily known as The Nazi Party Rally Grounds. A visit here is a great way to comprehend the scale of Hitler’s support in Nuremberg back in the 1930s. This was where he held his huge rallies to thousands at the Zeppelinfeld. Today the grounds are used for sports and music events, but you can still tour the old grandstand, and literally stand where Hitler did to address the mammoth crowds. Standing in the footsteps of one of the most evil men in history feels eerie to say the least.

In Hitler's footsteps at the Nazi Rally grounds

In Hitler’s footsteps at the Nazi Rally grounds

Despite its shady past, Nuremberg is now a young, multi-cultural, buzzy place, known as the “City of Human Rights”. We loved strolling down the Way of Human Rights, a symbolic row of 29 pillars and one oak tree bearing the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. No I don’t know what that is either, but it sounds like a very good deal.

Way of Human Rights

Way of Human Rights

So, if Nuremberg is such a gorgeous place, what the hell is wrong with the locals? We couldn’t help but notice that almost everyone we dared to have a conversation with in the city was miserable, unwelcoming and completely stand-offish. Yes, I know they are German. But still. In Nuremberg they take it to a whole new level. Here I am with one of them.

A Nuremberger and I

A Nuremberger and I

Our first run-in with an unfriendly local was at a sausage cafe, where I was loudly told off by a butch looking waitress in a dirndl for giving some of my bread crumbs to a malnourished pigeon. Yes I know it encourages more of them, but there are polite ways of addressing these things. Then I was accosted by a market stall seller for daring to take photographs of Nuremberg’s famous ginger-bread cookies. But I got a picture anyway bitch, and here they are:

Gingerbread

Gingerbread

We were also made to feel extremely uncomfortable in a cafe where the witch ahem waitress serving us was extremely curt and awful. We almost felt guilty for daring to order a large breakfast each, and spending our Euros there. Mrs Awful then told another member of staff off for a good ten minutes in full view of all of the customers, saying how crap she was at HER job. Professional!

On a night out during our trip, I had a very insightful conversation with one of the lovely Nurembergers.

Him: “Where are you from?”

Me: “England, but we live in the south of Bavaria.”

Him: “Most people who come to Nuremberg from the south of Bavaria never admit it. We hate each other.”

Me: “Oh.”

Man gets up and leaves.

I then had a rather unpleasant run-in with a really cheesed off toilet attendant in a nightclub. I could tell something was wrong when I was sat on the loo doing a number two, and someone started spraying air freshener under the door. Blaming it on a slight drunken haze, I thought nothing of it until I left the said stinky toilet.

Cheesed-off toilet attendant: “Hast du kacka gemacht?” (Did you do a poo-poo?)

Me, pleased that I had finally understood a German speaking German: “Ja!” (Yes!)

Cheesed off attendant, spraying furiously: “Du Schwein! Nein!” (You pig! No!)

I had never been told off for using a toilet as a toilet before. Somewhat surprised, I looked at crazy spray lady as if she was crazy, washed my hands and left the loo. Did my poo really smell that bad? I have pondered that question ever since.

I remember meeting a lovely family once from Nuremberg who were on holiday in our part of Bavaria. We got chatting by the lake, and they explained that they liked to come down this way because the people are ‘much nicer ‘. I can see their point.

Today I visited a Bavarian friend of mine, and told her how much I loved Nuremberg. Before I could mention our experience of the locals, her face turned to angst. “But what about the people there?” she hissed. “They are bloody awful! I lived there for six months. If you walked up to a stranger and said ‘hi how’s it going’ they would look at you as if you were bloody mad. Terrible people.”

So there you have it. Nuremberg. Great place to visit.  Just be prepared for the people and don’t poo anywhere, especially in a toilet.

A Bavarian Pole Party Fit for a…..Pole

The story of the Bavarian maypole has to be my favourite Bavarian tradition yet. For the blue and white poles you see dotted around this part of Germany aren’t just any old chunks of decorated tree. They are practically Bavarian royalty.

Each village in our rural parts has one of these poles proudly standing somewhere central and stretching high – very high – into the sky. You usually see them somewhere central, like outside the local Rathaus (town hall) or by the main green. As you can see in this picture, even the guinea pigs at Munich Zoo have one.

They are made from a tree cut down from one of the many nearby forests, and then decorated with the emblems of local trades people, like the butcher, the baker, and the candle-stick maker. Every few years they are replaced by a new pole, which is usually hoisted up on May Day during a party involving lots of beer, men in lederhosen, and women in dirndls. It’s a very proud moment for the villagers, because it’s taken a lot for that pole to go from tree trunk to the biggest erection in the village.

The Royal pole would usually have spent the days or even weeks leading up to May Day being guarded at a top secret location by the local villagers. Sometimes it’s hidden in an old barn, or somewhere big enough to hold this bloody huge tree trunk. Not the easiest thing to conceal in say, someone’s lounge, is it?  The pole is guarded with the villagers’ lives because it is completely legal for rival villagers with nothing better to do to steal the pole before it is put up. Yes, really. Despite being a land known for its rules and religion, the Germans bend the ‘thou shalt not steal’ commandment when it comes to the Royal Poles, allowing a kind of pole theft- free-for-all. Respect.

In fact, this did actually happen this year in a town not far from us. In the dark of the night one town’s pole was pinched by the folk of a neighbouring town, who managed to locate it with the help of secret servicemen and then override its alarm system. Yep, some of these poles have an alarm system. For a village to have its pole stolen under its very eyes is a huge embarrassment. The said pole was eventually returned, along with crates of beer for the thieves and their red-faced victims to enjoy together.

On the Royal Pole’s big day, its appearance is given the final once over before it is released from its secret hiding place into the big wide world. It is then usually paraded around on the back of a truck or by horse as part of a celebratory procession, a bit like a blushing carnival queen. The men of the village then precariously hoist it into position, often using long bits of wood. This can take hours. During that time lots of beer is consumed by the lads with the life of the pole – and many of their neighbours watching – in their sweaty, beery hands.

This is a nerve-wracking time. Not because the huge tree trunk could fall down and seriously injure someone. But because, more importantly, some poles have been known to break and then those buggers from the other villages can come along, point at the broken trunk, and laugh out loud at their competitors’ agony.

Once the pole is finally in place, the party really gets started, and even more beer is consumed.

This tradition in Bavaria goes back to the 12th century, and it clearly hasn’t changed much since. But of course in the end it’s all a bit of fun, and a great excuse for Bavarians to bolster their great community spirit and have a few beers at the same time. Prost!