As posted earlier, I was back in Pullman City, a wild west theme park in Bavaria, near Passau, a few weeks ago for some filming on a documentary on “Cowboys, Indians and Europeans” that is being made by the New York filmmaker Riva Freifeld, whose past work includes a documentary on Annie Oakley.
With Riva at Pullman’s Mexican restaurant, after the shoot. Photo: Stefan Grandinetti
What can I say about this latest visit to Pullman? In short -- it was fun — and a bit of old home week, as I caught up with some folks I had met years ago. Best of all, Riva thinks we got some good footage. She and her cameraman, Stefan Grandinetti, filmed me interviewing a variety of people who work (or hang out) at Pullman — from an “18th century minuteman” who has built a cabin in the “authentic section” of the park, where hobbyists and reenactors can construct their own dwellings, to Hunting Wolf, the “half blood Cheyenne” who conducts programs based (in part) on Native American lore; to Detleff Jeschke, a former prize-winner rodeo rider who has long been the park’s program director.
The scene was much as I found it in 2003 and on my subsequent visits (the last time I had been there was at Xmas in 2009, when my country singer friend Willie Jones played Santa -- I posted about that on this blog.
I always enjoy going to Pullman City Passau…and also to Pullman City Harz, a sister wild west theme park in north-central Germany. These places become a world of their own.
At Pullman City Passau, the organizers are keen to emphasize that it is a “living” western town, because of the “Authentic Area” where hobbyists actually live — on weekends and vacation time. Some come even in the winter, modeling their “real imaginary” lifestyles on the 19th century past, even in the bitter cold.
A number of songs have been written about both Pullmans. They tend to play on the country music trope of “home” that make “Country Roads” and “Sweet Home Alabama” so popular….
Here’s the official Pullman City song, declaring that Pullman City is “my home town.”
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.