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Lokin' Good in Lederhosen

Every summer thousands of Austrians gather in a small village in the foothills of the Alps for one of the world's strangest parties. It's the annual Lederhosen Festival. An Alpine leather shorts party? What could be more fun? We sent the Savvy Traveler's Martin Stott along--and just to make the experience more memorable fixed him up with his own pair of lederhosen when he got there!

Lookin' Good in Lederhosen
by Martin Stott

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I've never had such trouble packing. What do you wear with lederhosen? T-shirt, collar and tie? Boots? Sandals? Socks? In the end I take the lot.

So I get here just as the party's starting, heaving a huge suitcase on wheels. I can't believe my eyes. Everywhere you look, leather shorts and knees--old knees, young knees, nobbly knees and Viennese. And the beer and Schnapps are flowing it's ten o'clock in the morning and it looks like most people are already on their third glass.

As the oompah bands get into full swing I stagger off to the tourist board to pick up my lederhosen. I don't want to sound like a whining pom, Rudy, but when you asked for my waist size I gave you it in centimeters. You seem to have passed the measurement on in inches.

And with those words of reassurance I head off in shorts, sandals and Alpine hat. I feel like Count Von Trapp. The streets are alive with the sound of music and the slap of leather on thigh. There's enough room in these shorts for the whole family and I'm sure I look stupid. But no one's laughing at me because we're all dressed the same. Suddenly it becomes quite fun. I join in the spirit--if you can call Schnapps a spirit. The first glass feels like someone's hit you on the head with a hammer and set off a Bunsen burner in your chest.

As the afternoon flows gently by it all becomes a mellow haze. At one point four men carry on to the main stage a humongous chocolate cake in the shape of a pair of lederhosen. It's so big all five thousand of us get a piece. Then they have the competitions. First prize is for Miss Lederhosen. Earlier in the day I'd seen the event advertised with a cartoon poster of a buxom young blond wearing nothing but her leather shorts. As a conscientious journalist ever striving for accuracy and detail I'd immediately put in a request for a post-match interview.

Then there's the prize for the best dressed man. Needless to say I didn't get a look in. The winner, Hugo Tannwalder, is a local pensioner with the full garb--correct socks, shirt, and waistcoat and a two-hundred-year-old pair of lederhosen embroidered with the white center core of a dozen peacock feathers. Now I know what to wear--you wait till next year.

From the International Lederhosen Festival at Windischgarsten, in the stunningly beautiful Austrian Alps, this is Martin Stott for The Savvy Traveler.

Lederhosen Past and Present

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