Saturday, April 07, 2007

Hurray - It´s Dult Time!

It´s Easter weekend. Which invariably and inevitably means: The centuries old tradition of the Oster Dult is starting today. The Dult is a kind of outdoor shopping mall where you can buy all sort of mostly useless, overpriced bric-a-brac, not to mention stuff your face all day long with bratwurst, candyfloss, cake, waffles, Magenbrot (a special variation of gingerbread), and other high-caloric food. The tradition of this fair, which takes place twice a year (in fall and in springtime), dates back to the year of 967, although the Easter Dult is first mentioned in 1276.

Frictions with the residents happening to live nearby (or right in the middle of it, as we do) is inevitable, you can safely place bets on it. Nowadays, for the residents it mostly means trouble to find a place to park your car (if you´re not fortunate enough to have a garage nearby, which most people don´t). If you are fortunate enough to have a garage, it still means a lot of hassle to manoever your car through the crowds of (country) folks herding through the stands, blocking the way, moving slowly (if at all), and reacting even slower. It means halfway blocked entrances to your home. Oh, and if you were unfortunate enough to have your car parked on the Tuesday or Wednesday before the Dult started, you may have woken up and found out that your car has been towed. Though there have been "No parking" signs placed indicating early (a week in advance) that parking would not be allowed from Tuesday, no hint had been given that your car would be towed (in fact, the "No parking" sign was not a "Do not halt under any circumstance!"-sign - yes, there are two different signs for this in this country). This most likely did not happen to you as a resident with years of Dult-experience, but it might have happened to you if you just moved in and have so far been unaware of the Dult-tradition. Or if you were one of those unlucky out-of-towners, pleased to have so easily (unusual for a place that close to the city center, and right opposite to the shopping mall in our city) found a place to temporarily park your car. I almost felt sorry for those unlucky geezers from LL or GZ ; but only almost, as they would have blocked the residents parking area under normal circumstances ... (Plus chances are that the latter were probably going to be among the very country people that are going to drive me nuts by their sheer presence for the coming two weeks - perhaps they won´t now *hehehe*).

So what!, you might be thinking, as long as it mostly bothers the car owners and drivers, and some stupid out-of-towners, what´s so bad about having a fair at your doorsteps (literally!). Lo and behold, the bothersome experience does not stop there. For you as a resident it means having to endure a smell mixture of bratwurst, likorice, fried almonds and fried onions, occasionally topped by the fragrance of some orange-spice detergent (which is one of those articles which are apparently only available at the Dult - see below), so if you are among the lucky ones owning a balcony, or if you happen to feel the urge to open a window for some fresh air, you are invariably confronted with the above exhausts. Oh, and if you feel the urge to leave your house for a quick dash wherever, your way is blocked by the above herds, moving v-e-r-y sss-lll-ooo-www-lll-yyy (in fact, maddeningly so, making your blood pressure jump up in an instant), until you´ve finally managed to sidle your way across the street, over the bridge, where you will finally be able to at least make some headway and start walking at a halfway normal speed. And perhaps you don´t care for those masses of (to a major degree obese) country folk, who at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning - presumably having had breakfast not too long ago - stuff their faces with giant, fat dripping bosna sausages just below your window. No, this is not a sight for the faint hearted!

Oompah-oompah-oompahpah! The sound is bound to wake you up, if not make you fall you out of bed. If you happen to be at your home on the Saturday before Easter, when the Dult is officially inaugurated by the mayor of A., you will have the dubious pleasure of being unvoluntarily treated to seemingly never ending round of traditional German Blasmusik (translation: music for brass instruments) by a traditional Spielmannszug (translation: brass band) intonating traditional German Marschmusik (... I don´t have to translate this, do I?), jawoll! This, of course, is worst when you are really hung over from the Friday night before, and you awake with your head pounding in unison with the stomping noise of the drums (however, since the Friday before Easter invariably is Good Friday, which means no loud music and dancing in any bar, making it an especially dull and boring evening, chances are you won´t be affected by really bad hangover symptoms for the start of the Easter Dult ).

The stand keepers, on the other hand, are invariably pissed off at residents who apply some sort of guerilla tactic against their foes, such as dropping burning cigarettes on the canvas covers of their stands from the balconies above. And they have developed a particular hatred for one lawyer residing somewhere down the street, who with every Dult makes sure the fire department checks - "With their biggest fire truck, I swear!" - that not a single stand exceeds the allocated space by one inch, possibly hindering an emergency deployment, should a major fire storm break out (perhaps due to a burning cigarette hitting the canvas of a Dult stand?). And, of course, they are constantly mad at the city for charging such exuberant fees to set up their stands. Or at the residents daring to use their cars, venturing through the crowds, spoiling the atmosphere and hindering business in the process. Or at the residents who never spend money at their stands ("Hey! Some of them have been walking past my stand for the past five years, without ever buying a single thing!" Hmmm ... wonder why ...!). Have I mentioned that the relationship between stand keepers and residents is a particularly hearty one ...?

During the past years, for me the Dult has, hence, increasingly meant to resort to the use of the back door, foregoing the convenience of using the shopping mall just across the street, and taking the way to the more distant supermarkets (which, admittedly, does have its advantages - such as escaping the very country crowds which also happen to make up the majority of visitors of the shopping mall; on Saturdays, anyway). But it´s not only the throngs of visitors I am seeking to avoid by this escape-and-run (or at least: escape-and-walk-at-my-usual-fast- stride) strategy; increasingly, it´s also the stand keepers right around our entrance, who happen to be the same, year after year. It´s not that the´re unfriendly - just the opposite: Whenever I arrive from my shopping ventures, fully packed, the friendly guys selling vacuum cleaner accessories always helpfully offer to open the door for me. Because we - being open-minded, friendly people - have not been among those residents treating them with disgust, but ususally greeting them with a friendly smile, every now and then engaging in some sort of conversation, we have developed some sort of companionship, and frequently they love to start a heavy round of small-talk whenever they are idle (i.e. devoid of customers), which, unfortunately, happens as sure as hell when we are time-pressed and/or not in the mood for a lengthier conversation about how bad the residents are, how much they are paying to set up their stands, how little they are earning in return, how bad the weather is (it is always too cold at Easter, and always too warm in fall) - in short, how miserable life is.

So, you wonder, isn´t there anyone happy about this tradition? Well, I guess, there must be. Some people we have spoken to, wondering where the appeal of Dult lies, are swearing that there are things that you can only buy at the Dult. Such as 5 pairs of tube socks at a real bargain price (5 EUR). Or that orange-spice wonder detergent that gets rid even of the most persistent stains. Or the magic device which in only an instant solves the problem of a congested drain - without chemicals, just some sort of magic contraction of pressure! Or the wonder, unscratchable, never-burn-food frying pan. Or the nylon apron, which seems to be a favourite garment for the typical country housewife when going about her daily chores. Or the set of ever sharp kitchen-knives. Not to mention the Belgian pralinés just around the corner. Or the mountain cheese, sold at under 10 EUR per kg (okok, the price really isn´t bad, and the cheese is actually pretty good!). And - you can go and spend money on a Sunday, relax in the sun, enjoy the typical German (and Swabian) fare, making the entire family happy: Mom by buying the wonder kitchen utensils, dad by treating him to a round of early morning beer and bratwurst, and little Jo and Ann by giving in to their desire for plastic toys and a round of candy treats.

I´m glad there actually are some people who do derive some sort of satisfaction, so the suffering of residents and stand keepers and all the others (yes, you, whose car has been towed!) is not entirely in vain. Suffering for some deeper purpose - how suitable for the season! Well, then: Happy Easter! :)

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