Happy May Day everyone!
If I were still in Germany, I’d be running around throwing bricks and setting things on fire, much like in this funny little Flash game.
Kidding! I’m just kidding, honestly. I’ve never thrown a brick in my life. The game is still pretty funny, though.
No, in truth, I would probably be at the annual May Day party in the Spechtpassage in Freiburg. The Spechtpassagenfest was (and presumably still is) something of a Freiburg institution. Though the core of the day-long (and night-long) party takes place in what is basically an alleyway in one of the funkier parts of Freiburg, the actual partying spills out onto the surrounding streets. Like any German party worth its salt, there’s music, there’s food and there’s an enormous quantity of really good beer.
There are a few key events from my first year in Freiburg that are still intensely clear in my mind because they marked the points in time when I suddenly stopped thinking of myself as someone who was just passing through and instead felt completely comfortable with where I was and what I was doing. One such event was the first May Day Spechtpassage party I ever went to. It was a long, sunny day and a long, debauched evening spent listening to music, drinking that lovely beer, and speaking nothing but German. In that first - sometimes difficult and frequently lonely - year abroad, this was pretty much the definition of a brilliant day.
The other May Day parties I went to in Freiburg may not have had the same emotional impact as that first one, but I think back on them fondly nonetheless. If nothing else, there were always bands playing somewhere. One year, Jeremy’s old surf-rock band, Leopold Kraus, played on a flatbed truck outside of the Spechtpassage, to the amusement of all present. On the only rainy May Day that I remember, Salter Cane’s previous incarnation (Beam) played in a quirky little cafe near the Spechtpassage (and we have the pictures to prove it). It was one of the most enjoyable concerts we ever played.
In all the other years, we had to make do with bad German funk rock and decent German punk rock and whatever music (frequently reggae) was being blasted from the open windows of the people living around the Spechtpassage. The weather was usually really nice, so we would wind up hanging around outside with frosty beverages from early in the afternoon to well into the night, listening to the music and enjoying the first real taste of the sunny, summery Freiburg days to come.
May Day this year was spent sitting in front of the computer all morning, playing music in a cellar all afternoon, and wallowing in nostalgia all the times in between. There were loads of things that drove me crazy about Germany - stupid store opening times, noisy movie theaters, a lack of cheddar cheese - but I think that today I would have put up with all of that for the opportunity to sit around at the Spechtpassage and watch the world go by.