Summer

the american old west… in germany

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a week ago, i popped into germany for a day to visit a nice little town called pullman city. the name doesn’t exactly sound very german because it’s actually an american westernstadt theme park, located in south-east bavaria just north of passau. the theme of an old-western american city from the 18th and 19th centuries is very strictly kept to. needless to say, i was really looking forward to this trip. i have been to the bavarian-themed village leavenworth in washington state many times, but this was actually the very opposite: an old american village in bavaria! (mind explosion)

and a very popular one at that. if you’ve spent any time in central europe, you have have noticed the fascination of cowboys and “indians” among the locals. naturally, europeans are very excited to experience how this might have been for themselves. upon arrival to the town, the parking lot was swarmed by middle-aged men and women in bouncy, frilly skirts and button downs with cowboy hats, for it was “square dance day” in the town. i couldn’t help but notice that many of these people wore matching team jackets that announced the square dancing group they belonged to back, in say, vienna. square dance is alive and well!

we got our tickets, entered the town, and took a walk down “main street”, lined with many shops, cafes, restaurants, an old “bank” (which housed a geldautomat), and even a jail. it was a grey rainy day, much more reminiscent of germany than the old west, but besides that fact the buildings definitely looked the part!

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pullman city’s founder. needless to say, i made a lot of lil’ sebastian jokes all day long.

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when my czech friends told me that there was a mexican restaurant in pullman city, my squeal of excitement pretty much sealed the deal, so we all headed there for lunch. i felt oddly at home… strange because i was actually sitting in a mexican restaurant in an american themed town in germany, but something about a mexican restaurant just really puts me at ease. i asked jara, my student that was on the trip if he had ever eaten mexican food before, to which the whole table answered, “none of us have!” my goodness gracious! that was a reality-check…. i really am in central europe.

i recommended enchiladas (they had never heard of them) to the group, generally my favorite dish. the authenticity of the flavors left a little to be desired, but i was definitely satisfied!

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after lunch we popped in the dance hall where the square dancing competition was taking place– most of the participants were german or austrian. incredibly surreal.
next, up to the stables where there was a horse show: an irish cowboy and his horse that does all kinds of tricks. it was pretty adorable.

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back at the main street, the daily americanische history show and parade was getting ready to begin! we all took a seat at one of the outdoor tables at a cafe and watched the cowgirls ride by with confederate flags, cowboys doing lasso tricks, and actually a really nice presentation (in german) of american history, from the humble 18th century beginnings. at some point during the civil war era part of the parade, everything stopped and they played the star spangled banner. i don’t know what it was or why, but i got a major twinge of patriotism then. i started putting my hand over my heart and singing along. what came over me? if i had to guess it would be that i felt so happy to see the flag and hear songs of home after being in foreign lands for over two years. although it may have been a slightly cheesy show, my heart was full.

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one unique opportunity that pullman city offers its visitors was a chance to listen to a talk given by hunting wolf (above), a french-canadian native american musican who has been living in germany for many years. i really wasn’t sure what kind of things he was going to talk about (and a little nervous to see if he was really going to play up the whole indian thing just for a show), but it turned out to be a refreshingly honest and insightful conversation with the audience about why he decided to leave the reservation and how people need to remember the connection with nature above all else. 

i have to admit there was some trepidation on the parts of myself and alex to come here. i was a little concerned at how the european portrayal of america would be presented, as i saw lots of confederate flags in the brochure and, honestly, i haven’t heard anyone use the word “indian” to describe a native american in years. but i kept to heart that the town is supposed to be a historical representation, which of course includes the american confederacy. as far as the indians thing, it’s just what people see in films and i think everyone means well. native american tribes are represented mostly respectfully here (with the odd inclusion of the sign below), and there were plenty of opportunities to learn about different tribes and take home souvenirs made by natives.

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what did everyone think? the kids loved it, the adults are already planning to come back, and we’re glad we came. and now if you’ll excuse me, i have the need to pose with my schoko-apfel in front of a saloon.

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