Every weekend in Wolfenbüttel there seems to be a celebration. For Maifest (May Fest) during the weekend of May 21, the Entenrennen–translated as “duck run”–celebrated the arrival of spring, and, as a charity event, helped fund a children’s hospice in town. Naturally, my friends and I had to participate. How this worked: we paid 2 Euros for a rubber duck, and when it was time for the race to begin, we released our ducks into the Oker River. You could put your duck into a big plastic box, which would be dumped into the river all at one time. Or you could throw your duck as far as you can. I chose the latter, though, thinking about it later, I realized my throwing arm wasn’t strong enough to gain much distance. But at least it hit the river, unlike some unlucky ducks that were stuck on the bank.
The first five rubber ducks to reach the finish line (a big net) about 30 minutes later down the river won some choice prizes, such as a helicopter ride and movie tickets. The rest of the ducks were gathered for random drawings of 30 or so smaller prizes for children (rubber ball, frisbee, kleenex–apparently, the best prize of the smaller prizes!–and so forth). It was rather fantastic to be part of the community, walking along the banks of the river, following the ducks as they made their way down. Of course my concern was what would the real ducks think of these rubber ducks? Would they be confused? They’re probably smarter than that. After all, our rubber ducks were Lessing ducks.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a writer, philosopher, poet, and art critic in the Enlightenment period. From 1770-1781, he was the librarian for Duke August the Younger of Brunswick-Lüneburg, at what is now the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel. Lessing wore a powdered wig, like most of the folks in the Enlightenment period. These ducks had permanent wigs, books, and horses (part of Wolfenbüttel’s logo), and so of course, they were Lessing ducks. Some of them even contemplated the meaning of life…
Not only did Maifest bring rubber ducks, but it also ushered food trucks into Wolfenbüttel. So many different food options available. I chose a crepe egg wrap from Uganda, in which a fraction of the cost of the wrap went toward helping to fund water resources in Uganda.
The food truck festival in Wolfenbüttel was like a German Bacardi advertisement: cool trucks, lawn chairs, grass placed on cobblestone in the middle of the Stadtmarkt, surrounded by beautiful German buildings from the 17th century. In particular, the Wolfenbüttel Rathaus (Town Hall) right behind the food truck was constructed in 1602.
On Sunday, I will take part in further community festivities as I cheer on big burly men in the annual Bus Pulling Competition. Awww yeah, that’s right. Five-man teams will pull a gigantic bus. I’ll have more tales to tell after this weekend.