Monday, July 11, 2005

shoot 'em up

ChicagoKarl recently outed himself as a wannabe German so I thought I'd elaborate a bit more and explain to you why he's wearing that funny hat.

Most small towns have what you call a Schützenverein. As far as I've been able to understand, this type of club or association originally started out in the 19th century as a sort of voluntary civilian paramilitary group designed to protect small villages from the enemy. Nowadays it serves a more social function with activities such as shooting contests, marching bands, parades and hosting the annual Schützenfest, a sort of county or state fair with an amusement park, local culinary specialties, and lots and lots of beer.

Each year the town's Schützenkönig and Schützenkönigin - king and queen - are chosen according to each club's arbitrary rules, usually, but not always for being the best marksman/woman. One of our neighbours was the king this year, so we were treated to a very loud marching band coming into our little cul-de-sac to pick him up for the celebrations. I've heard that being the king can get pretty expensive seeing that you have to provide beer for the whole Schützenverein.

This year as every year, Hannover hosted the world's largest Schützenfest. It proved very popular with almost 2 million visitors in 10 days. At the beginning of the festivities, there is always a Schützenausmarch, or parade, with the club members from neighbouring towns dressing up in their traditional uniforms and marching through the streets of Hannover, ending up at the fair grounds.

This little guy, known as "Baller Kalle" ( very loosely translated as "shooting Karl") is the Schützenfest mascot.

The Hannover Schützenfest is also known for a particular mixed drink called Lüttje Lage. It consists of a certain type of light (as opposed to 'lite') beer that was originally brewed in 1526, and a plain schnapps, usually made from wheat, rye or barley. The fun part is the way one is supposed to drink it. The beer (5cl and 2.8 % alchol) and the schnapps (1cl and 32% alcohol) are served in separate glasses and it's up to you to get all the booze into your mouth at the same time. You need to hold the beer glass between your thumb and index finger and the schnapps glass with the middle and ring finger of the same hand. The schnapps glass is supposed to be positioned directly over the beer glass as you drink so that both liquids are combined by the time they reach your mouth. Sound complicated? It is. Bibs are provided for the inexperienced. I found this little video to make things a bit clearer. Click on the man in the top hat to see how it's done.

Prost! (that's "Cheers!" in German)


At July 11, 2005 4:30 p.m., Blogger chicagokarl said...

Actually, being only a "wannabe" German instead of the real mccoy is actually quite handy at Schützenfest because when people ask me why I'm not trying to become king I usually just rattle off that the bylaws prohibit foreigners from being king, which isn't true, but then again nobody knows the bylaws by heart or who had them last.

Weird drinking traditions in Hannover. I think everyone in Bevern would require a bib.

At July 11, 2005 4:32 p.m., Blogger christina said...

Yeah, you'd think that people wouldn't try all that hard to be king with the expense involved. I believe our neighbour has had the honour at least three times since we moved in here.

At July 12, 2005 12:02 p.m., Blogger Elemmaciltur said...

Oooooh, I wanna try the Lüttje Lage!!

At July 17, 2005 7:44 p.m., Blogger swissmiss said...

Hmmm, the Swiss beg to differ that this is the largest Schützenfest in the world. Hannover might get the most visitors, but methinks the Swiss have the most shooters - 50,000 participants in Frauenfeld. Okay, it only takes place every 5 years, but 50,000 participants from 250 countries isn't bad!

Hop Schweiz! ;-)


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