Monday, August 10, 2009


Saturday I woke up surprisingly early for having such a busy, busy week and being exhausted - it marked the one week landmark of arriving in Germany, and within minutes learning about an almost instantaneous wedding amongst other exciting surprises. I made breakfast, and just took care of stuff and went for a good run, something I always enjoy doing in new cities I live in.

Later in the day I met up with other classmates from the language school for our planned outing to the Saarspektakel for the afternoon. This was the second day of this very large festival on the river Saar that takes place in Saarbr├╝cken. The streets along the river were filled with people, music and food, and it was a very cool site seeing the area so full of life.

The first thing that we noticed were the large groups of people crowded on the bridges. They were all trying to get a view of the drachenboat [ Dragon Boat ] races. This is a relatively new idea, only about a decade old and borrowed from China, but has become very popular here, especially in the Saarland area. We learned that the races are competitions that have competing teams from different companies racing against each other. The co-workers train together, and thus create a team bonding experience to try to gain the exciting award for their company. Apparently the companies train some weeks in advance, often two times a week! They all have fun, have special chants, get the crowd going and even dress up.

[ This costume was PG - one chanter on a boat had on a kilt - and when they won, well the whole awdience got a full moon surprise... ]

The races would take place throughout the entire weekend with different preliminaries and finals. The river also had other events taking place, including a time when some cars... or boats dressed like cars... or maybe real cars?... we didn't quite know, were cruising down the river.

[ A truck that allowed you to go scuba diving... interesting... but that isn't that big...]

There were also very relaxing looking innertubes where friends could get together and have a nice, slow bbq down the scenic festival scene on the river.

[ a different type of boat race which looked like man-made boats. The most popular that got a lot of chants was the one lined entirely with beer cans. ]

Perhaps one of the coolest parts about the riverfronts was the large music venues and food stands that lined the way. There was a lot to see, and a lot of fun stuff going on. As for food, there were options from fresh flipped crepes, to wursts and other sausages, beer stands and other beverages, as well as some local specialties.

Together with the group, we got some food to eat, walked around, and later ended up at the main music stand to hear the free concerts. Some of the music was decent, some pop rock and indie music, some solo artist playing the piano and singing, and other artists were comically lame. Us Americans had a great time pointing out the direct rip-offs that this one "r&b" singer was trying to portray, as well as a Swedish pop group that we all hoped was going to reminisce Abba, but only regurgitated everything that has been deservedly forgotten from the 90's - but we did come up with one conclusion - the Germans here definitely love their cheezy love ballads. The teens to the grandmas with purple hair were all bopping away and clapping.

During one intermission between artists the MC's came out, and of course were speaking German and they were asking where some of the audience was from. People screamed out different cities from around Germany, and then there was a woman from Vienna, Austria who got an applause for being "from so far away". Us Americans were screaming pretty loud even though we were near the back of the crowd from the stage...

A little after some more quirky MC talk, there was another contest. We didn't understand what it was, but people were raising their hands. All we understood was 100 Euros. Do you raise your hand or not? Well, we didn't and we regretted it. The objective was to have one male and one female go on stage and trade pants and shirts in front of everyone. Heck, a friend and I, we were just wearing shorts and t shirts. We would have been up there pronto for even 20 Euros! [you gotta do what you gotta do when the exchange rate is bad...] I guess we need to learn some more German if we want some money for taking our clothes off in public...

[ something we didn't understand, but people swimming in the river at night with torches.]

Overall, the event was very fun. It was different than a summer festival that I have been to in Japan with natsu-matsuri, but not quite the same as an American festival, even though there were plenty of food stands and music venues. It still had a very German feel that was exciting to have only minutes away from my house.

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