Pfingsten (Pentecost) in Germany and Battle of the Bands – Part I

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Note: Don’t forget that you can click on any photo and see the full-sized version of it.

I mentioned in my last journal that many times since I moved here I have heard music down the street and ran to find out what was going on, camera in hand. That was the case for the Bamberg Zaubert fest in my last travel journal.

It’s happened in my little Bischberg about three times since I moved there at the beginning of May, too. Fortunately for me I live right on Main Street and can shoot photos from my window. I’m on the third floor so I have a bird’s eye view of the goings-on.
The first time I was surprised by music was on May 24th. About 8:00 o’clock in the morning I heard German oompah music. (is there any other kind around here? No.) I grabbed the camera, ditched the lens cap and opened the window. First I saw nothing but a fireman wearing his blue uniform and a glow-in-the-dark orange vest.
The music stopped and I heard a woman speaking as if over a PA system and other people murmuring replies. I recognized it from my Catholic upbringing as the scripted prayer/response thing they do. Everything around here is Catholic and hardly anything happens that isn’t church-related.
As the sounds grew closer, a little parade led by altar boys and girls came into view. You can see some of the band members in this photo. There were only six of them, which was a surprise to me. I was waiting to see the rest of the band that wasn’t there. Then I saw the loudspeaker – check it out: it’s being carried on a pole by the man in the red shirt on the far side of the street in this photo:


The procession wasn’t much longer than what you see in the photos. They continued out of earshot. Later, around 10:00 a.m. they came back the other way!
My landlady, whose name is Frau Dütsch (I’ll call her Frau D), told me that it was because of Pfingsten, or Pentecost. This is the Catholic celebration of when the Holy Spirit descended in tongues of fire on the 12 Apostles. It supposedly happened 50 days after Christ’s resurrection, so that’s why it’s called Pentecost. BTW, German for 50 is “Fuenfzig” so the words sound kinda the same.
Frau D told me that the procession had walked to Weipelsdorf and back. Weipelsdorf is the small village about two kilometers from here where my friends Hilde and Adi live.
However, I went to visit them later that day and Hilde told me that the procession actually walked to Trosdorf and back, which is another little village also about two kilometers from here. So they’d walked about 2 ½ miles total that morning, praying and playing music. Nice day for it.
Hilde said the Pfingsten procession alternates years. One year they go to Trosdorf and the next year they go to Weipelsdorf. So the landlady wasn’t too far off. Plus I might have misunderstood her squeaky German – that’s always possible.
Hilde also told me that the Bischberg band is actually much, much larger, but the rest of the band members were on a bus trip to Rome.  She said they were very well known as being one of the best in the region.
Since then I’ve discovered that the band practices next door at the Gasthaus (pub) on Friday evenings. So when the weather is nice I sit on my balcony and enjoy some Bavarian tunes. They’re really quite good. To call them an oompah band is doing them a little disservice but it gives you an idea of the type of music they play. The music is actually a lot more melodious than an oompah polka thing.
On June 29 I was ecstatic to welcome my beloved husband, James, for a visit! We did so many fun things that I’m saving those stories for another post. Some of you have already seen my freelance articles about Munich and the BMW Museum (, BMW Welt ( the City Tour(
But on 3 June, lest you think I was hallucinating the music, we both heard it. This time I had been forewarned. Both Hilde and Frau D made sure I knew about the procession in advance. It was Corpus Christi, another Catholic feast day celebrating the Eucharist, or body of Christ.
The parishioners, band, priest, and assorted churchgoers would proceed from the church, which is to the right of my window, would march past my building to a large concrete crucifix that stands at a corner to the left about 200 yards away. There they would say a mass then march back in the other direction to another large concrete crucifix that is to the right of my building for another ceremony of some sort. Toldja it was a very Catholic country! Of course all this means that the main street that runs in front of my building would be closed to traffic during that time.
The township had strung used-car-lot flags across the street a few days before. That morning people put flags at the windows, too.


The people across the street hung out embroidered banners.

Frau D even brought me a set of flags for my window so I put those out. Don’t tell her I removed a couple of them so they wouldn’t get in the way of my pictures.

It was a rainy day but not drenching. The procession soon made its way into view:


The fire local volunteer fire department fills many roles in a small German village.  They escort all the processions like policemen. (I love it when people on the street are looking directly at my camera.)


I was most intrigued by these green outfits. I found out later on this group is the local fisherman’s guild. Nice hats!


Remember the rack of Dirndl (traditional dresses) in the department store from my last journal?  I think I figured out why there is such a market for them:

Here’s the whole band back from Rome!

Here’s the rest of the fire department:
How does the priest rate his own canopy?  It wasn’t raining that hard. Well, I guess he IS carrying the body of Christ!


All the faithful:
On their way back, they cut over a block and didn’t march right past my building. Notice I took this picture from the street a short way to the left of my building. James and I had gone down to the bus stop to catch a bus into Bamberg, but it never came because mass was still going on and the street was closed.


The procession reappeared to the right of my building as they congregated at the other concrete crucifix for the second ceremony.
James and I finally gave up and went back to the apartment. We eventually caught a later bus into town, but there was no hope for it during the marching.
I had originally planned to include the third episode of German Music on the Street, but it is proving to be such a long story with so many photos that I’m going to end this journal here. The third episode will be longer than both these put together, so stay tuned for that.
And I will leave you with this photo for no apparent reason – not sure why one of the putti in St. Martin’s church is playing cowboys and Indians.


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