Monday, July 28, 2008

Part 1 - Memmingen Fischertag

We left on Friday to get an early start on our weekend, and we drove with Jace's workmate, Ingo, to his hometown of Memmingen in the Bavarian state of Germany. The timing was significant, as we were going to observe a time honored festival celebrated in Memmingen since 1465 and given its name in the 1900's, Fischertag.

Once a year, the Memmingen creeks or canals (as I will call them, because they just look like canals) are drained and emptied for cleaning. Before they can be emptied and cleaned, the men of Memmingen fish out the fish with special nets and traditional dress.

The fisherman with the largest fish caught on the day, by weight, is hailed the Fischerking and will be honored throughout the coming year.
Here the fishermen are patiently awaiting the
signal to jump into the canal!

ON the Fischertag , the whole town, and a lot of tourists it seems, came out for the event which started around 7 am when the fisherman gathered at the canals with their equipment and support team. The fishermen sat around the canal, waiting for the signal that meant they can jump into the canal. Whether they do it surprise or scare the fishes or just to build up the excitement, minutes before 8 o'clock the down hushed to an eerie silence.

Fishermen jumping into the canal!

THEN at 8 am on the dot, a canon was fired, signaling the entire town that the festival was on and that they could enter the canals! There was a whole lot of splashing and suddenly the previously silent town was a flurry of excitement!
The fishermen have long poles with nets that they use to scour the bottom of the canals for the fish (they are going to die anyway when the canals are drained, so perhaps they are doing them a favor despite scaring them half to death by jumping into the water on them!).

The excitement went on for awhile, with fishermen catching fish after fish and exchanging their filled nets, reading for the next catch.

The nets are big and U shaped, with a flat top that lays along the bottom of the canal, so frightened fish are easily scooped up into the nets.

Then, as fish are caught they are thrown up over the railing to the support team. As females are not meant to take part in the Fischertag activities in the canal, a lot of women are supporters on the sides of the canals, exchanging nets and putting the fish into the Fischertag buckets for weighing before 9 o'clock.

Exchanging the nets.
Ten minutes into the morning, the action was still going... actually, the photos don't really do it justice... as you can't hear the noises they were making. How do I describe it?.. well....

When a fishermen caught a fish, he would make this loud noise while he was carrying the fish to the sides of the canal to exchange his net - something like "AY YA YAYA YAYA YA YA YA AY" and then the person taking the fish from the fisherman would reply "AY AYAY AY AY AYA" just to stir up the competition. It is hard to imagine, but it was insane with all the "AY YA YA YA YA's" going around.

Then again, why imagine it when you could watch this VIDEO to get the real picture!

Some Fishermen wore traditional dress and some wore costumes that look like smiley faces, but that is really the city's symbol, the Mau, or the Memmingen Moon. The men also had to wear their fishing licenses in their hats - like this one- worn by a Memminger that I am guessing has participated in Fischertag before!!! And likes a good beer after a hard day's work of fishing!

These are the buckets that fish are kept in until weighing. (The Fisher King, LOL!)

The fish are then kept in buckets of water and marched to the weighing table in the center of town. After about 25 minutes, the event was pretty much done, with men hanging around in the creek/canal to splash around and enjoy the cool water.

Then, they will march to find out who is the next Fischerking...More on that tomorrow!

Until then, here are some proud Memmingen Men (only men that live in Memmingen are allowed to participate in the Fischertag!) in their traditional garb.

A colorfully dressed Memminger, on his way to give up his catch.
Waiting for the next big one... I want this hat badly.

This is my favorite. He is quite a hunky fisherman. Very Robert Redford does the Fischerking.

Traditionally dressed and very fashionable, if I do say so, fisherman... resting from a hard day's
work of trying to become the Fischerking!

Continued tomorrow...


Bluefish said...

I think it's about time for women to join the event too. They shouldn't exclude women from it as women's movement has been going on since the 60's. (I sound like I'm writing a sociological paper). Sorry about that...maybe they don't want to change the traditions.

Anyway, this is a great blog about learning different culture because we sure won't see anything like this in Americas. Maybe smaller towns get together to do meaningful activities.

Carolina said...

Hello, I've been watching all your videos and reading all what you wrote about the lovely Memmingen, I'll be in there during September...and it is much probable I will stay there for a long long time, so I kindly request your help to give me all the feed back as possible about the people,the "stadt" alles!!

This is a great blog!!

Jessica said...

Thanks, Carolina!

I am glad that you like the blog and that you will be going to Memmingen.

I have to admit, that was the first time I had been to Memmingen, but probably not the last as we had such a great time their and our hosts were just fantastic.

I think you will really enjoy Bavaria. Juls has a blog, titled This non-American Life, perhaps you have read some of her blog already? She lives in Munich so she probably will write more about living in Bavaria and the culture there.

All I can tell you is that I was enchanted by the town - the canals and the city walls and the old buildings. And the town is not at all small. There are quite a few big shops and a nice downtown area. So I imagine you will be quite comfortable there.

Please feel free to ask me specific questions and I will do my best, but check out Jul's blog and let me know how you like it when you arrive. I think you will enjoy it!

All the best... and I hope to see more comments from you soon! ;)

casey said...

Hey Carolina,
if you have more questions on Memmingen and the infrastructure, then let me know. I'm the guy who took the two to Memmingen :), means I stayed there for nearly 25 years and it is my hometown :)
So feel free to ask me if you want to know something more.


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