Sturm, Twang and the Imaginary Wild West in Europe
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Karl May Fest, Radebeul
I'm off tomorrow night to the annual Karl May Fest in Radebeul, Germany, near Dresden -- a weekend with multiple Sauerkraut Cowboys and Indian Dreams in one of Germany's paramount Wild Western Spaces.
It's the first time I've been there since the Fest in 2005 -- which was so cold and wet that discomfort is my main memory...
This time I'm meeting friends there -- Dana Weber, who is doing her PhD on Karl May festivals, the German country singer Roland Heinrich, who is performing, and Nicolas Finke, who edits the Karl May & Co magazine.
For several years I've been exploring the imaginary wild west in contemporary Europe -- observing and experiencing the many ways that Europeans embrace the mythology of the American Frontier to enhance, imbue or create their own identities. (Or, indeed, just have fun.) On this blog I will post pictures, stories and links relating to this multi-faceted subculture, from European country music to rodeos, theme parks, round-ups and saloons....
I'm an American writer, photographer, and public speaker long based in Europe. I've chronicled Jewish cultural developments and other contemporary European Jewish issues for more than 20 years and currently coordinate the web site www.jewish-heritage-europe.eu. My latest books are "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," published in 2007, and "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," published in 2008.
I also am working on "Sturm, Twang and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe," an exploration of the American West in the European imagination for which I won a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH summer stipend grant. In 2015 I was the Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, SC.