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A hot summer – Spearing the Dragon Festival in Furth
If you are planning to spend your summer holidays in Bavaria, you shouldn't miss a very special spectacle in August: From 5th to 21th August, the annual Drachenstich-Festspiele (Spearing the Dragon Festival) is being held in Furth im Wald. What makes this event in the Upper Palatinate so special? It is one of the oldest folk plays in Germany with a history which can be traced back to 1590.
A dragon with history
The story of spearing the dragon is probably much older than existing records might suggest. The struggle between good and evil, embodied by the nightmarish dragon, the brave knight and the fair maiden, has sparked people's imagination for as long as anyone can remember, and Furth im Wald is no different. Originally, the play was a part of the annual Corpus Christi procession. However, the colourful and alcohol-laden hustle of its “sheep” soon became a thorn in the church's side. But since the people of Furth ignored every prohibition, the church permitted creating a separate folk festival at the end of the 19th century in order to avoid a people's uprising. The people of Furth simply did not want to let go of their dragon.
Like the event itself, the content has also undergone several changes over the centuries. Thus, the spoken text was always changed and adapted to fit the prevailing spirit of the times. Since 2007 the dragon is speared in front of the historic backdrop of the Hussite Wars.
A colourful side-programme
During the festival weeks in August, onlookers have the pleasure of watching several performances. The Drachenstich is accompanied by a colourful side-programme – more than 1,400 participants in original costumes, more than 250 horses and countless replicas of all sorts of medieval accessories come together and bring alive the town's history in the historical parade on 14th August. Entertainment for the entire family is provided by, among other events, the children's festival on August 20th and 21st. This is when the special performance of the children's Drachenstich takes place in the Drachenstich arena. Those who can't get enough of medieval times can witness impressive sword-fighting at the Cave Cladium tournament from August 19th to 21st or spend their guilders at one of the many market booths.
The undisputed highlight is of course the performance of the Drachenstich itself. The Further dragon is one of the things which cause onlookers to stare – and locals have a right to be proud of their particular specimen as it has even made it into the Guinness Book of Records. As the largest walking robot on four legs, the dragon even can boast its own website. What is special: The dragon not only weighs eleven tons and is over 15 metres long, it can also move independently, spread its wings and spit fire. He owes these abilities to a consortium from industry and research which built the monster and was led by Zollner Elektronik AG from Zandt in Upper Palatinate. Thus, it is truly one of a kind. If you missed him at the festival, you can gaze at him in awe at his dragon's den from April to October.
- by Alexandra Schmidhuber
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