Last week I promised to tell you more about punting in Tübingen.
Punting is most popular among the students of the university, but over the past decade or two it has also been discovered by the tourists. You can rent a punting boat, but you still need someone who knows how to punt - it's an art of its own. As far as I know, Tübingen is the only University town in Germany that practices punting and shares this tradition with Oxford and Cambridge in England.
Here are the punting boats lined up at the Neckarfront, the photo of which I showed you last week.
Most of the boats are owned by University organisations or students' associations. In order to enjoy a trip on a punting boat - and have a party at the same time - you need to know someone from those organisations, and someone who knows how to punt if you can't do it yourself.
The punter stands either at the top or the end of the boat, holding a very long thick stick that s/he sticks to the ground of the river (the Neckar is not very deep here) and thus thrusts the boat forward. It's physically demanding and not easy at all. Unexperienced punters often end up in the water...
A look into a punting boat: do you see those long boards in a pile? They will be turned into seats, and you will leisurely travel down the Neckar, sipping a glass of wine or some beer and eating whatever food people brought. Before you start out, however, you often have to scoop out water from the bottom of the boat.
You can have your trip during the day or, even better, in the evening. Very romantic.
(Sorry for the bad quality of the photo)
On a Thursday in May (I forgot which one) the fraternities and sororities hold the big punting race, "Stocherkahnrennen". It's the slowest and wettest race, with dozens of punting boats. They start out at the Hölderlinturm, go to the bridge and have to go around the pillar of the bridge (the so-called "Nadelöhr" - eye of the needle) which is the biggest challenge because when the first boats round that pillar they will find themselves in the crowd of the boats behind them and THAT can get pretty nasty and VERY wet - it's the most popular part of the race. There is not much space between the pillar and the island - so imagine those long boats in the big muddle! After that it's just speed - go down on the other side of the Neckar island and cross the finish line. The loosing punters have to drink a bottle of cod-liver oil and the winners have to host the following year's party.
Oh yes, the party. There's a HUGE party in the evening - I mean, HUGE.
By now you recognize this house - the Hölderlinturm in its autumn dress. And, of course, the punting boats. Start to the big race.
One of the most beautiful traditions in the little town of Tübingen.