When Montgomery “Monty” Collins, the developer of Monkey 47, came to Berlin in 1949, the “Da Bach na” race in Schramberg was a traditional event that had long since been in full flow. The tub race down the Schiltach stream was first staged in 1936 and is a weird and wonderful custom that has become a real highlight of the Swabian-Alemannic carnival season. Each year, these madcap Schramberg daredevils – individually or in pairs – tremble with excitement as they rush down the course.
But now they don’t just sit there in a boring bathtub. The Da Bach na participants come up with some fantastic ideas to really catch the crowd’s attention. Only the first and last competitors appear in plain tubs (which were originally used for slaughtering purposes) as they hurtle “da Bach na”, which is local dialect for “down the stream.” Each team thinks up a motto, which remains a closely kept secret. They prefer to take a side swipe at local or national politics, but they also like to simply have a bit of fun. Previous creations have included rockets, horse-drawn carriages, even a South Sea island, which navigate the swirling 500-meter course including two rapids. These daring adventurers hope to cross the finishing line relatively dry, buoyed by the thousands of onlookers. But the crowd still likes to cheer whenever a participant capsizes. Carnival in Schramberg keeps the Olympic ideal alive: It’s the taking part that counts. A couple of local politicians have even dared to negotiate the course, to demonstrate that they remain in touch with the wider public. Television has also discovered the event. The popular soap opera “Die Fallers” has filmed at the da Bach na race on a number of occasions.
This fun “water sport” evolved from a crazy idea in 1936. During a somewhat “extended liquid brunch” (as the da Bach na competitors’ fraternity puts it), the gentlemen present decided that it might be good fun to ride down the enlarged Schiltach stream in bathtubs. Back then, not many of the Schramberg residents were big fans of carnival, but that was about to change. They extended an open invitation to take part in the Carnival Monday “da Bach na” race and staged it before people made their way to work at the Junghans clock factory. The locals were so taken by this wet and wonderful event that they finished work early and joined in the celebrations. The fact that the day before Shrove Tuesday is a holiday can be traced back to this story.
Today, onlookers come from all over. Stands are erected, primarily at the Rossgumpen bar, from where viewers hope to see the participants perform particularly artistic stunts. If one of them falls into the water, everyone shouts “Batschnass!” (soaked to the skin), and if the outcome is a positive one, they cry “Furztrocken!” (dry as a bone). Those that end up in the water swim to the finishing line. So far, they’ve all made it, and to ensure that this remains so, members of the local fire brigade stand in the 2–3°C water to help starters on their way.
There is a similar event in Matlock, England. Their bizarre race is called the “Boxing Day Raft Race”, in which imaginative homemade tubs and rafts venture down the River Derwent after Christmas each year. But it’s no real competition for Schramberg. The Brits have only been on board making monkeys of themselves since 1960, and although they’re an eccentric lot, they’re not as wacky as those in the Black Forest.