A Matter of Honour

People from the Palatinate have never been accused of being quiet. You usually hear them from afar – and inside the lodge of Deidesheim’s local mountain Eckkopf, quiet is nowhere to be found. They come from the Palatinate region, from the Netherlands, from France and America – even from foreign lands just across the Rhine – the vacationing folks who climb some 500 meters to reach the mountain top at weekends. Up here, it’s not just about a bratwurst and “Woi”, as wine is referred to in this region, but also a spectacular view …

You eagerly emerge from the forest and approach the lodge –– having already overcome more than you might have thought possible: the altitude difference of 516 meters often turns out to be more than what you expected down in Deidesheim. But then you reach the top and enter the lodge, and they are all here: the sworn community of Eckkopf enthusiasts huddled together at the foot of the lookout tower, a steel construction from 1975 and the proud successor of two wooden towers. Without fail, the climbers intone an ode to Palatinate wine, the “Palzwei” song, the ninepins club of Iggelheim perform a rousing rendition of the “Lewwerworscht” song, a tribute to the Palatinate speciality liverwurst, while the boys of the scat society make an announcement: “Schnawwel zu, sonz fliecht dir was nei!” (“Close your mouth, before something flies in!”)

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Honestly, where else can you still find this: people coming together to sing merrily and simply enjoy life in peace. This is how Beethoven must have meant it, or at least something very similar to this. Elsewhere in Germany, practices like these have almost died out. Here in the Palatinate region, no one thinks they are preserving a cultural practice; they see it as the unfiltered expression of joie de vivre. The atmosphere here inside the Eckkopf lodge is folksy rather than national. It is characterised by direct democracy like it once was at the Hambach Festival. Of course, everyone here is on a first-name basis. No matter if they come alone or with someone else, hiking or biking – hikers of all kinds love to climb up here. No one stays alone for long anyway – philosophising misanthropes avoid this place of spontaneous fraternisation. Or they are converted.

On the tables, you see “Dubbeglas” next to “Dubbeglas”, the typical regional wine glasses, and the Palatinate rule of three: “Grieweworscht” (black pudding), “Lewwerworscht” (liverwurst), “Schwartemagen” (head cheese). Today, steak is even on the menu. It is the KCD’s turn, the carnival society of Deidesheim. How come? Well, the Eckkopf lodge has been run on voluntary basis at the weekends for more than fourty years. Groups such as the young wine-growers’ society “Jungwinzer Niederkirchen”, the sports club “TSG Deidesheim”, the “Marlachfohlen” (the “foals from Marlach”), the “Marlachfrösche” (the “frogs from Marlach”), the local fire brigade, the folk dance and traditional costumes group, the football society “Schoppekicker”, the scout group, the handball team and whoever else wants to participate take their turns in this merry madness.

The answer to how a thing like this can work, is found down in the valley, in the person of Walter Egersdörfer, the Eckkopf coordinator and KCD top manager. Up in the lodge it is too loud anyway; one member of the Western Palatinate section of the rural women’s association may be in the middle of telling all 72 jokes she knows in a row– not one of which we can repeat here …

Many ways lead up to the Eckkopf. The routes starting in Wachenheim and passing by the castle ruins and then leading uphill are quite popular – but the most popular ones start in the wine-growing town of Deidesheim, which is a pilgrims’ destination for lovers of good wine due to its world-renowned wine estates like Reichsrat von Buhl, Bassermann-Jordan or von Winning. You can walk the routes with the auspicious names of local wines: Rieslingweg, Bacchusweg, Portugieserweg. But you might also arrive at the Burgunderweg via the Traminerweg and from there you could take the Küferweg and start your hiking tour from here. This is of no concern to Walter Egersdörfer – he is too busy.

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Calling him busy is quite the understatement. It is people like him who seemingly all by themselves – and on a voluntary basis, no less – make up for the lack of commitment by the majority of people. It is impossible for us to list all the positions the 71-year-old holds. His telephone rings constantly. And he answers. Always.

“It might be something about ‘Fassenacht’,” the local term for carnival.

The KCD, where the so-called Prince of Carnival takes up residence in Deidesheim during carnival, is his domain. One of his duties is to organise the TV broadcasting of the carnival session in Frankenthal by SWR. The carnival society comprises 90,000 members, amongst them 20,000 youngsters, allocated to 385 clubs. A lot is on offer for the youth, but for senior members, too. “I get into the Bütt myself and fool around a bit … ,” he says referring to the special carnival speaker’s platform.

Back when the carnival enthusiast from Oppenau was still running his waste disposal company, it was less difficult to manage the Eckkopf lodge. Driving up there with a lorry was easier than with a car, which is how it’s done today, since the forest roads are bumpy, muddy and very much worn out by forestry work. “You hop, you dance, you wobble around. We have to take everything up there, literally everything, even drinking water: 2,000 litres per weekend.” The incredible effort that is put into running such a lodge is something the hikers actually do not notice.

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„… so e ganz spezielli Hausmannskoscht schmeckt erscht rischtisch zu em federweiße Moscht …“ (“… such special traditional food really tastes like it should only with some new wine …”)

Egersdörfer and his society swear by cooperating with others, for instance, with the winegrowers’ cooperative “Ruppertsberger Winzergenossenschaft.” “They have clean, proper wine. We need no frills here, so that the wine spritzer costs four fifty then.” It is about fairness and coming together in a cosy atmosphere. At the Palatinate wine festivals, direct communication still works. You don’t stare at your smart phone, you raise your glasses to one another.

Running the Eckkopf lodge needs a functioning organisation. Each year in November, all interested clubs meet in the local municipality’s council hall for the big lottery. “We were lucky this year. Service on Whitsun! The conditions were good and people are hungry.” Eight to nine volunteers are needed to deal with the rush of visitors. 6 pm is closing time, after that it takes two hours to clean up. Whether the next generation will continue the practice? A melancholic expression appears on Walter Egersdörfer’s face. “The young generation is a problem everywhere. I don’t know if in twenty years clubs will still be like they are today …”

One of the KCD’s partners is the “Meckenheimer Dorfplatzhexen”, the “village square witches” of Meckenheim. A wise choice, as it is always good to have such mystical beings on your side. The clubs work independently to a large extent, and gastronomy is no different. Whether guests are to delight in handball players’ rolled roast, young wine-growers’ schnitzel or witches’ knuckles is left up to the respective clubs.

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Networking – as it is called today – is what Egersdörfer does from home. He travels a lot for carnival purposes, but he of course prefers to stay at home in the Palatinate Forest, although he is also quite appreciative of the right-hand side of the Rhine. “A real river like in Mannheim or Heidelberg, this is what is missing here. And the Odenwald is also beautiful. You can find lots of pastures and meadows, which creates a much more varied scenery than we have here in our region. Beyond the Weinstraße, there is only forest, forest and more forest …”

But let us return to the mountain top. In the meantime, some musicians have come together and are now performing a concert on the Eckkopf. They shred guitars and caress violins, while some guests form a spontaneous rhythm section tapping forks on glasses and their knuckles on the table. Every song has been sung, no better time for another trip through the catalogue.      “Un´ noch emol” – “And again!”:

„In de Keschdezeit fahr ich mol widder häm, un machmerrs mol widder värzeh Daach begwehm …“ („In the chestnut time I will go home again and will take it easy for a fortnight …”)

Please note the following: On www.deidesheim.de you will find important information regarding the opening hours of the Eckkopf lodge kindly presented by the municipality. You will be horribly disappointed if – after a long hiking tour – instead of a refreshing Riesling spritzer and “Weißer Käs” (curd cheese) a closed door and some withered pinecones is all you come across. This has caused many a divorce, or so they say. And we definitely do not want to forget to mention Josef Reinhart, the warden of the lodge, who, amongst other things, makes sure that 2,000 litres of raw water are at the hikers’ disposal in the hospitable lodge every week. As a matter of honour, of course. Hats off!


www.deidesheim.de