Posted: 6/24/2007


    Mellrichstadt is a very old town dating back to the Hallstatt Period of around 1200 B.C. and on the nearby Grafenberg mountain there were decisive clashes in 1078 between forces of Henry IV and Rudolph of Swabia. In the 13th and 14th Centuries the nucleus of the present town, with an eliptical stone wall surrounding the town, with 2 gates, which is still standing, was built.

    Until 1990 or so the northern hinterland stopped 4 kilometers away at the East German border, which I drove to on my last visit in 1981. The watch towers, the electronic fences and the conscripted armed border guards are no longer there.

    Enough of history and lets talk about fussball. It was the 27th Annual SILBERDISTEL-CUP with well known German clubs such as 1 FC Nürnberg, TSV 1860 Munchen, Carl Zeiss Jena, plus lesser known Bavarian clubs and visitors from Hungary and Luxembourg, each team housed with families of a surrounding village.(Silberdistel is a local flower, like a sun flower only silver). The local team TSV Mellrichstadt has now become 1.JFG Rhön, to encompass players from the whole region.  The local born hero is not a fussball player, but Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. Great music between games such as Footballs Coming Home (from Euro 96 England) and Was wir alleine nicht schaffen das schaffen wir dann zusammen ( from World Cup 2006). MAYBE my rough translation. Third Place is O.K. if Oliver Kahn gets to play) !!!

   I had a daunting task.  The local mothers baked cakes for the players and coaches after their meals and I volunteered to taste them all. There was Strawberry short cake, Cheese Cream cake, Tutti Frutti and cream cake, Nusscake, Apple Struddle, local Quark, dry ginger cake, Lemon cake, Cherry cake, Gewurz cake, Rasberry cake, Blueberry cake.... about 20 different ones. It took me a couple of days, but I washed them down with local Franconian wine, local beer, Radler(beer and lemonade) Spetzi (lemonade and coke) and the Food Taster of Mellrichstadt pronounced them all as very good.

   The tournament started in 1981 and is still going strong with TSV 1860 Munchen beating VSC Debrecen from Hungary in the final 1-0 this year. The weather was great throughout the weekend and the only time it rained was on the Saturday evening when I joined the great and the good, the team representatives, the tournament organizers and the Burgemeister(Mayor) in the historic Schloss Keller for a Franconian feast of local specialities plus drinks.

   Neither the hard working tournament Director Wolfgang Taubert nor the Burgermeister Eberhard Streit, would qualify to open The Olympic Games where even Presidents, Prime Ministers and Dictators are limited to a maximum of 10 words speeches, 'Let the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing begin'.  the local Bavarian Fussball Verband (BFV)representaive Reiner Lockmuller was not so bad, about 50 words.

   Die Rhön is the local area of wide landscapes and forests with the High Rhön, a UNESCO Biosphere area. We visited Wasserkuppe, the highest part at about 3,000 feet, where we wanted to go gliding, but it was too windy, so we went on the sommer rodelbahn where you speed down a mountain on a small toboggan on rails in a zig zag path to the bottom. Not being a Michael Schumacher type of guy, I used the brake around the hairpin bends.  

   Die Rhön has black faced Rhön Sheep and foxes, wild boar, and deer. In fact as I am writing this blog, from my 3rd floor office window in the house of my hosts Thomas and Renate Erhard I look 300 meters across the road and up the hill and Bambi is playing in the long grass.  Thomas carried the flag for West Germany in the Opening Ceremony of Dallas Cup II in 1981 and played in the USA vs The World  Dallas Cup match at Texas Stadium, and later hosted Tommy Stone in his earlier home during Silberdistel Cup I.