Friday, February 27, 2009

The Running Of The Barrells

By some Divine Coincidence, the Reich-Ducal visit happened at the same time the Old Raubenstadt Festival tradition of "The Running Of The Barrells" was being held. The Markgraaf took particular delight in telling the Duke and Duchess how the custom had gotten started and how it had evolved over the years, as they took their seats in the stands near the finishline.

"Many years ago, a beer wagon lost its load of full beer barrells at the top of Brewer's Hill, and they careened away down the strasse. Between the people trying to get out of the way of the cascading casks, the apprentices trying to recover the run aways, and the customers of the Inns and Bars lining the road pursuing the barrels for their own purposes, the confusion was severe, to say the least.

After the original incident, there were recriminations and charges flung back and forth between the brewer's, the cooper's, and the hauler's as to who was to blame. So it was decided by the Guildmeisters that an annual competition would be held.

Each cooper would construct a thirty gallon barrel for the race, decorated with his colors and heraldry. Each brewer would fill the barrel with his "Winter Dark" Lager. Each hauler would nominate an apprentice to captain a team of one cooper apprentice and one brewer apprentice armed with wooden prybars to maneuver the barrell down the hill. If the barrel springs a leak, they are eliminated. The first team to get their barrel across the finish line wins bragging rights for their masters until next year's running.

However, each Inn and Bar along Brewer's Strasse is allowed to field a two man team. If they manage to stop a barrell in front of their establishment, it is theirs. In addition, there are the runners who start at the top of the hill. Each runner carries a white scarf tucked into his belt.
If a Inn and Bar team manage to grab the scarf from the belt, the runner is obliged to go to their establishment. Any runner who makes it down the hill, with his scarf, ahead of the barrells gets to drink for free in any establishment for the rest of the day.

Its a rather interesting combination of hockey, luge, curling, football, and tag. Definately not for the weak of heart. Of course, the legend around here is Augustus Sigismund von Barfly, a retired, half-pay Colonel of Barfly's Freicorps. He won the Runner's Competition for five years in a row!

Ah! There's the Noon Gun now! The race has begun. For all its rough and tumble, there are elements of strategy and tactics envolved. Each Barrell Team must hurry, but they cannot lose control of their momentum. They also must not be too far in advance, lest they be intercepted by an Inn and Bar Team.

The Inn and Bar Teams can snatch more scarves if they separate, but it will take both of them to try and stop a barrell, so they cannot get too far apart.

The Runners must stay ahead of the Barrell Teams to win, yet if they get too far out in front, their scarves are easier to pick off."

After a few moments, the rumbling of wooden staves on cobblestones could be heard above the roaring of the crowd. It promised to be a memorable day!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Beersteiners Are Coming!

"The Reich-Duke Wilhelm and theDuchess Lydia are coming here. Here to Heidlebeerunberg?!", the Margravine inquired.

"Yes my dear. Otto assures me that everything is under control for the State Visit and that we should pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

"Did our beloved Prime Minister have that far away, glazed over look in his eye when he said that?"

"Well....he did look sort of frazzled, now that you mention it."

The Margravine closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I suppose you planned to entertain our guests by hunting at the Lodge during the day and carousing at the local inns at night?"

"Errr....Yes? The Gamemeister said that the grouse are getting too thick, and he finally found where that big boar that got away last Fall has gone. Wouldn't that be a fine centerpiece for a feast? The Brewmeisters said that the Winter Dark is particularly fine this year."

The Margavine again closed her eyes and took another deep breath. "God in Heaven! Men!", and with a snap of her fan, she set sail for the nearest exit, calling for the Meister of Ceremonies.
The last thing he heard as she departed was, "After the Reception, a Ball....that means the Hall Of Mirrors must be readied. The gardens are in good shape....Fireworks! Fireworks launched from the Felsigberg so they reflect in the river! Good! Good! What else now...."

Ever since then the Palace had been at the center of a whirlwind of activity not seen since the Thirty Year's War. Squads of servants opened and aired rooms that had been closed since the Markgraaf's Grandfather had ruled. Companies of maids dusted, mopped, and swept and then dusted, mopped, and swept some more. The cooks planned menues and inspected the cellars looking for rare vintages and casks. Carpenters and tradesmen constantly paraded from the town to the Palace and back again.

The Markgraaf took it all in stride - an island of calm in a frenzied sea. He knew that beneath her facade of long suffering, that the Margravine was enjoying herself immensely already. And why shouldn't she? The Reich-Duke's visit to Raubenstadt would be the first visit of a person of consequence since Wallenstein had come through.

The Markgraaf shuddered. "God spare us from such another visit. Perhaps enough time had passed for the High Nobles to acknowledge that the grandson of a Frei Captain who had taken the Fortress of Felsigberg, had a right to rule, and the threat from Baden-Baden would fade. That would be nice." Then another thought crossed his mind, "I wonder if my boy Andrew, Major Thirst, and Professor Dryasdust will be in the Ducal procession? Herr Krause should be in his service by now. It will be nice to see all of them. With the new Stagonian 'King' nearby, one could not be too careful. Maurice was bad enough, but this Ludwig....from under what rock did he crawl? Von Mack would know...hummm....No one has reported hearing from Von Mack for a couple of weeks now." The Markgraaf wondered what the old horse thief was up to that would keep him from getting in contact or at least sending a message?