Sports, nature, and culture sum up why Innsbruck is a world-famous travel destination. The contrast between a charming city and alpine setting ensures that you’ll never live a dull moment while in Innsbruck. The city’s history and geography make it an important cultural center in Europe.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the Rumer Muller Parade for the first time, and I’m already looking forward to seeing it again in four years. Festive dancing and elaborate costumes combine in a spectacular display of Tyrolean culture. The Rumer Muller parade carries so much importance to Austrian and Tyrolean culture that it has been a part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage since 2011.
What is the Rumer Muller Parade?
Colorful characters, traditional dances and cultural pageantry bid farewell to winter and usher in spring. The Rumer Muller parade takes place every four years in the MARTHA (Mühlau, Arzl, Rum, Thaur and Absam) villages near Innsbruck. Spectators and performers usually have to endure the freezing cold during this event. Luckily, this year we were treated to surprisingly pleasant weather.
The Rumer Muller Parade ranks pretty high on my list of favorite experiences in Innsbruck. Tirol’s rich culture was on full display during this carnival and I feel fortunate to have experienced it because it only happens every four years. If you missed it, don’t worry, there’s plenty of other cultural events you can attend throughout the year.
Rumer Muller Parade Characters
The “Zottler”, “Zaggler”, “Klötzler”, “Melcher” and “Spiegeltuxer” are mystical characters that perform elaborate dances and customs as they parade through town. These charismatic characters randomly target audience members and pull them in to partake in the fun.
On various occasions, performers came over to me and proceeded to rub my head or give me a hard pat on the back. Then they hand you a flask of Schnapps. I was even attacked by a bear. Performers seemed to realize that I’m not from these parts and went the extra mile to pull me in often. After the parade, I left equally delighted and confused as to what just happened.
General details about the event are readily available, but I want the nitty-gritty. After hours of deciphering google translations and harassing my wife to elaborate on what I found online, I’ve come up with the following descriptions of the characters in the parade.
1. Die Hex
Representing their beloved winter, witches make their presence felt at every carnival. Masks include huge hairy moles and warts. Wearing headscarves and a shawl over their shoulder, they’re the most rigidity looking of the bunch. Most carry a broom and sweep over the feet of onlookers. I don’t know what this represents in Tyrolean culture, but we have a similar myth (in Honduras) relating to your feet being swept over – to us it means you wont get married or you’ll end up marrying an old man or woman. Occasionally the witches lunge at random, but making up for it with… you guessed it, a shot of Schnapps from their flask.
As scary looking as they are, the little kids dressed as witches were the cutest performers in the parade.
2. Der Halbweiße
Embodying spring in white linen clothing adorned with colorful patches representing blooming flowers. A joyful and friendly expression is all of us when Spring rolls around. Over his left shoulder hangs a colorful silk cloth.
Most of them carry a thin, bent piece of wood called a “Ulrichstecken”. This stick is used to jump rope back and forth over it. Another use for it is to trap audience members.
These dudes have some sweet moves. Their enthusiastic Schuhplattler dance was a crowd favorite. Schuhplattler is a traditional Tyrolean folk dance. Dancers perform acrobatic moves as they stomp, clap and strike their shoes, sides, knees and thighs. The end of the routine is marked by what I can best describe as an enthusiastic mix between a “Dab” and “Watch me whip”.
Representing the summer, they sport a short Lederhose. Embroidered suspenders, white button up with rolled sleeves, leg warmers, and a green silk tie wrap up the clothing. A small white headdress with is worn above slightly tanned masks. Mere minutes into their performance they also sport gnarly red markings on their thighs from their vigorous slapping.
Tanned wooden mask and white headdress contribute to the representation of summer. In addition to their dance moves, they let out a fierce yodel that almost always made me giggle. Der Melcher, you my boy. Keep dabbing on ’em.
Representing the Midsumer’s Day, this is the most graceful character in the Rumer Muller Parade. Enormous headdresses are adorned with a mirror, feathers, and many jewels. In addition to the brightly decorated headdress, they also sport a serious tan in comparison to the other masks. The facial expression is noticeably happier than the rest.
Tyrolean eagles are prominently embroidered on their vests and silk scarves drape over their left shoulder. Like the Melcher, they also sport the traditional short lederhosen and wool leg warmers. Grace is the best way to describe this character’s movements along the parade. Arms extended out with palms facing up, almost as if trying to absorb the most sunlight possible. Best dressed award definitely goes to these dudes.
This guy’s face says Autumn all over it. He looks like he’s already thinking about where his winter shoes are and how much snow he’ll be shoveling soon. Der Zaggeler wears what appears to be a blue hoodie onesie. His onesie is decorated with almost one hundred tassles in colors representing the colors of forest leaves during the Autumn. His headdress is made of 100 black crow feathers and a jeweled mirror on the left. A rabbit fur lays on the left side of the headdress. He moves along the parade with wild and almost uncoordinated dance moves.
Known as one of the wildest characters in the Rumer Muller Carnival, Der Zottler does the walk it out throughout the parade. Similar to Klötzler, their performance is defined by dynamic jumps and twists.
The headdress is adorned with peacock feathers, jewels, and a fox fur. Like the other Winter characters, facial expression is grim. Unlike other winter representatives, his robe is bright and colorful.
The Klötzler groups march to their own beat, causing loud clatter with jumping and twisting to rattle their costume. Wooden shingles on the costumes add up to more than ten kilos, resulting in extremely fatigued performers after the parade.
Apparently, this group serves as a space marker between the Schuhplattler dancers and winter figures.
Another difficult figure to perform as is Der Krameter. This costume is made of Juniper shrubs and can weigh up to 45 kilos. Noticeably, the weight and bulk keeps the performer from making rapid movements. Much like the Klötzler, Krameter also serves as a space marker in the parade. Ensuring that the following performers have ample space to carry out their performance.
Performers’ wives gather the Juniper, sometimes while still covered in snow. Krameter is unique to carnival performances in Tyrol.
Der Bär and Der Treiber
After a long winter, the bear awakens from hibernation in search for food. Roaring through the town he represents the Spring. I’ve read that in times past, performers paraded with real trained bears.
Behind the bear, a handler attempts to restrain it in representation of winter fighting back. As always, the Spring succeeds, but only after a hard fought struggle.
During the struggle, the bear attacks the crowd and the handler must help the victims by restraining the wild creature.
Hunters and Police
Hunters play out hilarious scenes in which they shoot down a bear, shortly after, the police show up to make an arrest.
Once the police make their arrest, other hunters create a distraction to make their getaway with the downed bear. I got a really good chuckle watching the scene play out.
Farmers and their goats
Adding more comedy to the carnival, farmers can be seen feeding and milking their goats. Sometimes the goats aren’t pleased and attempt to flee with farmers fighting to wrangle them.
This portion of the performance originates from Hall, but is now one part of the Rumer Muller Parade.
The performance portrays a ghost-steed. Blacksmiths make an attempt to calm the horse by feeding and caring for it, but eventually the horse lets loose sending the blacksmiths in pursuit.
Das Thaurer Fasserrössl
Continuing with the comedy. Performers seem to be hazing one of their members during the entire show.
The ram is one of the oldest traditional figures in the Rumer Muller parade. The handlers attempt to subdue it, only to end up being rammed over and over again.
This elderly couple originate from Thaur, but also makes an appearance in the Rumer Muller Parade.
I thought this represented a son that refused to move out of his parents home and the old lady still has to carry him around as a burden. However the lady is actually carrying her husband and it’s only there for a joke.
From what I gather, this character disappeared from the Thaur Muller parade. Thanks to old timer stories, it has made a comeback. Its image has been re-assembled based on the stories told from years past. His costume is made from multicolored patches and the headdress is adorned with jewels and similar to that of the Zaggeler. Unlike the Zaggeler, his hat has a rabbit instead of a fox. You can see his dances are a mixture of the wild moves of the Zottler and gentle smooth motions of the Zaggeler. After reviewing all my photos and videos, I realized that I’d only seen one of these.
The apes were the most random figures in the entire parade. According to a few of the sites I’ve read, this also dates back to the times when performers paraded with trained animals.
I have scoured the internet and asked many local friends to tell me about this figure. As of now, I’ve come up empty. His cheerful expressions seem to represent spring, but it could also be summer. Similar to Der Halbweiße he can be seen carrying a branch used to trap audience members. Like the other performers carrying the curved branches, he also hands out Schnapps after capturing you.
Yet another mystery character in the Rumer Muller parade.
“Abmullen” and a fertility rite
Getting hit on the shoulder by one of the carnival characters is something to celebrate. Locally known as “Abmullen” it is considered an honor, a form of recognition, and a fertility rite. It’s possible that my mother contacted the performers because I was on the receiving end of the “Abmullen” on several occasions. I’ll let you know if it worked in nine months.
With so much to do in Innsbruck, it’s possible that cultural events aren’t at the top of your must do list while visiting. Do yourself a favor and squeeze in one of the many events occurring throughout the year. Stay informed on all the events by following our Facebook and Instagram accounts.