Trachtenfest!

It has been a very full week here in Germany. Since my last blog we attended the Schlitzenländer Trachtenfest, checked out Driessen Leinen Fabrik, saw the Gutenberg museum in Mainz and moved along to St. Goar on the Rhine.

Trachtenfest, or “folklore festival” was a lot of fun. We watched traditional dancing by groups representing Hamburg, Hessen, Czech Republic, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Potugal and Greece. Although not all of them donned their traditional cultural costumes, it was wonderful to see the joy and the themes that spanned every culture.

We watched dances that expressed themes including courtship and marriage; seeding, crop tending and harvest and the celebration of these themes. From earnest to cheeky the variety was delightful.

If we didn’t get a good enough look at the costumes during the dance performances, we certainly got the opportunity during the parade. There were no motorized floats allowed. We saw horses, goats and oxen though.

The local Schlitzer costumes are very complex in their construction. The heavy skirts are smocked at the waist down to the hip. This affords a very good fit. There are multiple layers underneath that give the skirt fullness. No worries about being cold! Over the blouses the women wear a shawl that wraps in a criss cross fashion. These are cross stitched with wool in floral themes and decorated with fringe along both edges. In winter the underskirts were made of felted wool. The socks worn were hand knit of lace weight yarn. Many are heavily embroidered along the sides. Some of them wore shoes onto which the uppers were knit. Lace caps top it all off.

To me, the big thing that stood out about these costumes was how many textile techniques were required to make them.

Some of the fabric is woven while some is felted and still other is knit or crocheted. These days people buy ready made lace but generations ago the lace would have been hand made as well.

The men wore short pants (knicker bockers) with woven shirts and suspenders done in the same style as the women’s shawls. Their shoes and socks were one piece, knitted together. They wore small fur caps. At first glance I would guess they were made of beaver or something similar.

In contrast, the Mexican and Brazilian costumes were bright, colorful and made you want to celebrate. Their lively dance styles were quite a contrast to the German folk dances. The Brazilian dance costume were covered in brightly coloured feathers, mimicking the exotic birds of South America. The Portuguese costumes were more earthy and less fancy.

I suspect that most North Americans think of the dirndl and Lederhosen when they think of German traditional garb. Truth is that each region has its particular spin. I was hoping to see some Black Forest outfits with the big pompoms. Sadly there weren’t any at this year’s festival.

I didn’t take any photos of the linen factory. I was completely self indulgent and shopped for myself. The owners were lovely. We had a nice chat. Later that evening when we were looking for seats at the final dance performances, we ended up sitting with them. Turns out one of the owners grew up in the same southern German town where my father grew up. Small world.

I feel like I have babbled on enough for today. I hope you find a reason to celebrate and dance.

Happy Summer!

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