The annual Mammoth Raft Race in Thurgau is a carnival on a river.
When you happen to be visiting Thurgau, you might hear the word combination of "Thurgau" and "why" at least once from your concerned friends. What a shame, if you ask me!
This region is a blind spot for many Swiss, yet it offers a good array of activities and events for different tastes. In order to discover this lesser known part of Switzerland, I headed to the small town of Kradolf. There, deep in the heart of Thurgau, the annual Mammoth Raft Race took place.
A different type of Mother's Day
For more than 40 years, people have gathered on the green banks of the Sitter and Thur rivers to watch this colorful and witty tradition, usually held on Mother's Day. It all started as an initiative by a local canoeists club, with 13 rafts participating.
This year, 26 rafts competed in the Originality Class where it is not so much about speed racing as it is about being original and just having a good time.
Among the spectators, I can spot many families, couples and groups of friends, all enjoying the amazing weather and getting the first proper sun tan of the year. The perfect time to grab a Saft vom Fass und Flösserstumpen (a local apple wine beverage and a grilled sausage), join them and watch the show unfold.
Truly a spectacle on waters
For those who have missed the Fasnacht carnivals around Switzerland in early spring, the Mammoth Raft Race will be a close thing to seeing one. Thanks to the boundless imagination and creativity, all kinds of special floats were created for this 12 kilometer ride of fun: From a train to a giant cheese fondue!
Watching these fantasy worlds come together is very amusing! How often do you get to see an "actual" Star Wars crew tackling a waterfall, or a bunch of Super Marios chilling on their little raft castle?
(Photo copyright Thurgau Tourism)
Behind the joyful looks of the parade, a lot of work and effort is involved in building the rafts (and navigating them on the river). Especially given that the weight of a proper raft can reach up to 3 tons...
The winners of the race, Rotzenflöö, have invested roughly 1000 working hours into their Treasure Island float (Die Schatzinsel). They have participated 31 times already.
The Swiss do take their hobbies seriously!
Some practical information
The day before the actual race, all rafts are on display for a preview, and you can also meet the rafters themselves.
(Photo copyright Thurgau Tourism)
Every year, the race starts in Degenau at 10 AM and you can watch the final in Kradolf from around 3 PM to 5 PM. If you are the active type, rent a bicycle in Degenau and follow the rafts along the river.
The 2017 race is taking place on May 14 (in case of bad weather, May 21).
Staying in Thurgau
Visiting Thurgau does not have to end with seeing the raft race. Like the cherry blossom time in Japan (or Bern), May is the perfect month to visit Thurgau. The apple trees all over the rolling hills are in full bloom, which is simply magical.
In case you decide to lengthen your stay, explore the alternative accommodation opportunities Thurgau has to offer. How about sleeping in a circus caravan? It will nicely wrap up your quirky tour in Thurgau!
Happy and sun-kissed, the next day I hop on a boat in the charming town of Stein am Rhein and head to nearby Schaffhausen to see the largest waterfall in Europe. The Rhine Falls are another story and another canton, yet I must say, Thurgau and its surroundings were a delicious apple to bite into.
It sure pays off to turn your why's into why not's!