Ulm celebrates festival

ULM, Germany For any local in Ulm, Germany, it is clear that every penultimate Monday in July it is time for the big city festival: Schwrmontag, which translates to Oath Monday.

This spectacular event belongs to the city’s image like the Mnster cathedral or the heraldic animal, the sparrow. Monday was the official celebration of Schwrmontag 2014. Because New Ulm is Ulm’s sister city, people here should know what the festival is all about and what is going on, when the Ulm locals over there go crazy for one day.

The official center of attention on a Schwrmontag is the incumbent mayor’s (currently Ivo Gnner) annual report on the balcony of the “Schwrhaus” situated in the vineyards. At 11 o’clock sharp in the morning, he steps out to give account.

“To be a common man to the rich and the poor in all equal, joint and upright concerns, without reservation.” is what he traditionally pledges at the end of his speech, promising all “his” citizens to only achieve the best for them. He takes the oath on the prevailing municipal constitution in commemoration of the imperial city constitution and the signing of the small Schwrbrief (oath letter) in 1345.

However, the actual highlight and an even bigger viewer magnet is the subsequent event on the city river, the Danube, in the afternoon. In Swabian dialect it is called “Nabada.” In High German it would be “Herunterbaden,” and “bathing down” would be an appropriate translation.

This cheerful water parade, in which anyone can participate, consists of non-motorized boats and rafts either handmade or purchased that navigate a five-mile stretch on the Danube. Every year, clubs and other groups design imaginative theme boats taking some of the local celebrities for a ride. Even bands go on rafts, play their songs and try to win the spectators’ attention

The “Nabada” is also based on ancient events. As early as 1800, it was mentioned that the youth floated down the Danube to get to the tourist restaurants, while they carried along their clothes in tubs.

Another historical explanation is an old annual fair custom, which describes how farm couples floated down the river. After their wedding ceremony, they would hop on a raft built from boards on two barges.

The first official Nabada took place in 1927. At the end of the 1960s, it was opened to the public. Previously, only the organizing clubs could participate.

Not even the rain that was pouring down over Ulm on Monday could stop the people from floating down the Danube. As happens every year, tens of thousands of people came to be on the water or to simply to watch the rafts and boats. After the 4 p.m. event, as usual, people either went to the traditional “Hockete,” a cozy sit-together under the open sky in the Ulm Friedrichsau, the city’s largest park. Or, those who preferred to stay in the city center, where it is all carried out, listened to live music, partied at the local clubs or had dinner at one of the many restaurants.

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