It has been happening in early September for almost a decade yet most people don’t even know it exists. We are talking about Popraci, Berlin’s toughest race, where you have to roll huge straw bale rolls around Rixdorf as fast as you can. Yes, this is for real and we were there to tell you how cool it really is.
On September 12, 2015, we were in the middle of Rixdorf to see what could be only described as something really weird. Weird because we never imagined to see groups of people running around huge straw bale rolls on the streets of the German capital. But it happened in front of us and it was so cool we had to write about it here.
But, before we say anything, we have to explain to you why this exists in the streets of Old Neukölln.
The History of the Rixdorfer Strohballenrollen, also known as Popraci.
In June 1737, the Bohemian colonists took over some parts of what was known as Rixdorf. This small community of protestant refugees from Bohemia in Berlin, together with German-Rixdorf, ended up becoming what is known, today, as Neukölln. They were invited to come to Berlin by Frederick William I and they brought with the the tradition of Popraci.
The history says that, after the first Bohemian village mayor took office, the population of the German-Rixdorf got in touch with the Bohemian neighbors but the response they received was only Popraci. At first they didn’t know what it meant but, later, they realized that Popráci means after work.
But things were not that simple. Since the Bohemians didn’t pay taxes and could not be drafted into military service, there was always a weird feeling towards them from the German side of Rixdorf. Any wrong feeling or words would trigger a fight and things were getting a little too heated. This is when an idea was born.
After the harvest, two hay bales will be brought to the middle of the village and the local youth will get the opportunity to compete and measure themselves without violence. This is how Popraci, the first Rixdorfer Strohballenrollen was born back in 1737.
Popráci was held every year from 1737 on the second weekend of September. Every year, more and more people would gather around and compete in this playful race around Rixdorf. But everything came to an end in January 1912 when Kaiser Wilhelm II approved the renaming of Rixdorf to Neukölln and the prohibition of the straw ball rolling race and the party that happened with it.
Everything changed in 2008 when the Künstlerkolonie Rixdorf decided to revive this almost forgotten tradition. Nowadays it happens every year on the second week of September and we are looking forward to see Berlin’s toughest race happening again.
When we took our cameras to see the 8th Popráci in a warm September day in 2015, we were not expecting to see that many people there. It was more than Berlin’s toughest race, this was a street party filled with live music, street food and a lot of fun. Our favorite part was seeing the straw bale rolling teams running around, dressed up in costumes and going crazy at every turn that they did.
Popráci – Berlin’s Toughest Race in 2016
In 2016, the 183rd Rixdorfer Strohballenrollen will happen on Saturday, 10 September. And you have to go there to see how this revived tradition brings a lot of joy to the streets of Neukölln. See you all there!