The traditional climbing of the maypole in the Upper Bavarian town of Rottenstuben is a mixture of competition and maypole acrobatics. As the local youth swarm up the maypole as far as the first wreath, some ten metres off the ground, they are cheered on by up to 2,500 onlookers
Pitch, spit and a 30 meter high maypole – the lads don’t need much equipment to scramble the maypole in Rottenstuben. They smear pitch on their feet, spit into their hands and off they go. Under the maypole they meet to celebrate. The Kraxeln is a maypole Gaudi, which developed in southern Lower Bavaria and in the Passauer Land.
“Hauruck, Hauruck,” comes the cry from the crowd. The spectators have gathered around a maypole. A young lad with pitch on his hands and feet tries his luck. He takes a run up and leaps onto the pole. But he slides back down. A great sigh goes up from the spectators. Each year around 2,000 people enjoy the thrillsoffered by the traditional maypole climbing in Rottenstuben in Eastern Bavaria, where young lads and lasses try to shimmy up the maypole as fast as possible.
The festival is well-known beyond the region of Rottal-Inn and is a real attraction for the Bavarian community, helped in no small part by Willi Gschneidner. As member of the Wander- und Heimatverein (Hiking and Local Association) in Rottenstuben, he organises the maypole climbing with his fellow association members. It’s a tradition that has been going for 47 years, but its origins stretch much further back in other Bavarian regions. Nobody knows the precise historical background to this festival, but Willi Geschneidner is happy to speculate: “The maypole is a symbol of fertility and power. It’s likely that this led to the maypole climbing event, because the young lads wanted to impress the girls and prove their strength.”
Preperation for the big day
At the church of St. James, where the soldiers’ pilgrimage took place until 50 years ago, residents and visitors now celebrate the maypole climbing on Whit Monday. However, there’s plenty to be done before that date, as the chairman of the association knows all too well. “We fell the tree in the middle of April.
Before that, we agree on which association is going to steal the maypole. This might be the Volunteer Fire Brigade, for example, or the Shooting Club.” Once the tree is in the hands of the thieves, they need to make sure it isn’t stolen from them in turn – so they try to keep it until May 1st. On that day they return the tree, take it to the church and erect it using pure muscle power, according to the ancient custom.
However, preparations still need to be made for the maypole climbing event on Whit Monday. Over the preceding week, 50 members of the association work together to set up stalls around the festival site and get Rottenstuben into festive mood. Then it’s finally time for the festival to begin.
A very traditional competition
"Some cook up resin, others stir in some honey"
People come together at lunchtime to eat and celebrate with one another. The event kicks off at 2pm: Eight young lads clad in old trousers and shirts get ready for their performance. They smear pitch on their hands and feet to give them more grip on the maypole. The recipe remains a secret. “The participants mix the pitch themselves: Some cook up resin, others stir in some honey,” explains Willi Gschneidner.
Then the clock starts: In two rounds, the lads climb the maypole as far as the first wreath, ten metres off the ground. The fastest one wins. However, it takes more than good luck to beat the record. “The best climber made it up in just six seconds,” remembers the chairman.
Then it’s time for the maypole acrobatics: The young men do handstands onto the pole, perform somersaults, swing back and forth – all while the audience goes wild and applauds. The Bavarian tradition is celebrated together until around 7pm, when it’s time to go home. Willi Gschneidner really relishes this sense of community. “Customs are very important to me. This includes the maypole climbing.” He invites everyone to come and cheer on the lads and lasses next time with the traditional cry: “Hauruck, Hauruck”!
More information from Hebertsfelden (only in German)
... from Willi
Church in Rottenstuben
The Gothic church was built around 1420 and renovated in the 1950s. In the process, very well preserved frescoes were discovered, truly an attraction.
hebertsfelden.de (only in German)
Hebertsfelden Community Museum
The collection shows agricultural machinery and equipment as well as hand-operated fire engines. Also on display are a historic classroom, an old farmhouse parlour and the mayor's office from the post-war period.
Massing Open-Air Museum
A recommendation for families with children. Old farms from the Rottal, Hallertau and Isar valleys have found a new home here.
For all those who want to relax and unwind in our region, I recommend the spa triangle between the spas of Bad Füssing, Bad Griesbach and Bad Birnbach. Here you will find first-class spas, baths and leisure facilities.
baederdreieck.net (only in German)