For the religious among us, the 17 May 2012 is a celebrated day when Christ ascended to Heaven. For the others who are not, there is vatertag to celebrate.
Our neighbour celebrated this tradition last year and he kindly invited me to join them this year. The participant only needs to be a dad (in loose terms) to join in, or have the potential to be a dad. This event is also popular with young men (in their twenties) as well.
For the trip itself, it need to meet some criteria for it be traditional. Firstly, we need a group of men (see above). In our group, there were seven of us, all men and from the local neighbourhood.
Secondly, access to some beer is critical. The local brew is preferred. For us, that would the Kolsch, or Köln water. As there are seven of us, the organiser made an executive decision as got 4 kegs or 20 litres of beer. I also think that beer help to social aspects of the group of men.
Thirdly, we need a wagon that can be pulled along. The wagon needs to big enough to carry all the beer, and food. Well, the food only consists of some cans of Pringles and the traditional Salt sticks.
An lastly, we need a route through the forest. The whole idea is the walk through the woods with beer in a wagon and have a good afternoon talk men stuff. Our organiser chose to start from the nearby town of Burscheid and walk downhill to our home town of Leichlingen. The trip is about 14km long, along a re-purposed railway track, and through some beautiful forests.
The trip started at 10am and we reached home by 6.30pm. We stopped at a local pub for a meal by 3pm. They were also plenty of chances to grab a wurst along the way as well.
My neighbour told me that this tradition is an important part of a man's life in Germany. I guess that it is a way for men to talk, share and do men stuff. When I heard about this last year, I was rather skeptical as to the value of it. Other than a sorry excuse to get drunk, I fail to see how it would add value. Well, I was totally wrong on many levels. After the walk and talk with the other dads, even with my limit German, I was able to get a sense of how the men of Germany live their lives. They are proud people and have many traditions to uphold. This walk is one of many. Personally, my participation allows me to form a bond and break the social barrier that an expat feels when living in a non-native speaking country.
Contrasting this to the culture of men in Australia, I find it difficult why more of these type of events does happen back in Australia. Are the Europeans more cultured? Who really knows, but I do think that this type of events does give the men a more healthy lifestyle.