GHDI logo

August Becker: Excerpts from The Palatinate and the Palatines (1858)

page 4 of 7    print version    return to list previous document      next document

There is no one they pity more than those farmers down on the Rhine where wine must be bought, and even more so the potato farmers of Westrich. The wine farmers very seldom drink spirits, but to offer them beer would be truly insulting. They don’t like beer and think it is something for the Old Bavarian to drink or the rich gentlemen who don’t work and simply follow a fashionable beer culture. Indeed, if not for the town and county notables and the Jews who drink beer, the few beer taverns that exist in the wine country would have to close up shop. In the plains and cities they drink more beer, but the district farmers are said to have different stomachs from those of the people of the Palatine wine country, and are supposed to be hearty eaters, which their rich land supports.

Much is different in Westrich, though, where the land is not as attractive or as fruitful and the climate not as mild. The people of the Vorderpfalz always get a chill when they think of Westrich, or at least they pretend to. They should not forget though that there are also people living beyond the mountains, respectable people. The thick, wooded highland of the Haardt can now be quickly traveled by train, thus there is enough of an opportunity to get to know this land and people better than through mere hearsay. But the people of the Vorderpfalz still think of Westrich as an ancient land full of ancient people and a sad mix of forests, moors and rocks; one judges it by areas close to the Vorderpfalz, such as the forest valleys in Speyerbach where, in the single farms of Elmstein, the people actually die of typhus, or one judges it by the highlands of the Gossersweiler and Dahner valleys in Wasgau and their somber, poor inhabitants. Hard work and stamina characterize the people of Westrich as well, and their talent in farming is as uniquely developed as that of the people of the Vorderpfalz. The Westrich farmers have even turned certain areas of this hilly country into models of agriculture and cattle breeding. All in all, the Westricher admittedly does not have the elasticity of mind and body of a Vorderpfalz native; he is neither as quick-tongued nor as witty, neither as noisy in his merriment nor as passionate. Even his physique takes second place to that of the people of the Vorderpfalz, and one frequently finds that the Westrich native’s posture communicates his more depressed nature. The quiet Westricher is more introverted and more contemplative, and he doesn’t like to display his wit. Even his mischievousness has a good-natured streak of endearing naiveté, whereas the Vorderpfalz native can be satirical, even sarcastic. Teasing, making snide remarks, and pulling someone’s leg is far less common with the Westricher than with the Vorderpfalz resident, who was born with these qualities and who would not feel well at all if he didn’t have someone to joke about and tease. Without Swabians or Old Bavarians to make jokes about, the Westrich native is usually the one who gets teased and who usually manages to take it in a good way. But he also has his own strong opinions about the “uncouth Palatine farmers” and the “squawkers” in the Palatine wine country. Admittedly, one can generally describe Westrich as potato country in contrast to the fruit and wine country

first page < previous   |   next > last page