There should probably be a sign at the entrance of this city which says, "Attention! You are now entering true Schwab Country."

For Tübingen is not just the geographic epicenter of Swabia, it is also where you'll find the echt (real) Schwob at work and play. Schwabenland, although politically just another of the German Lander, often feels and acts like a different country altogether. It has its own language, carefully disguised as a dialect, but almost incomprehensible, even to other Germans; an instantly recognizable cuisine with Spätzle, Maultaschen (a sort of ravioli) and Flädle (pancakes) found on practically every menu; and a reputation for thrift that rivals the Scots.

The well known jingle, Schaffe, Spare, Hausle baue, Hund verkaufe, selbe belle, (Work, save, build a house, sell the dog and do your own barking) does a good job of describing the work ethic and thriftiness of the typical Schwab.

But it's a plaque above a wooden bench in front of the Am Schloss Hotel that probably best captures their wry sense of humor. Looking like something that might be seen on a Welsh railway station, the sign reads:

"DOHOGGEDDIADIAEMMERDOHOGGED"

Translating very roughly into, "Here sit those who always sit here," this mind and tongue-teaser is guaranteed to raise a smile from anyone who appreciates the Schwabs, their dialect and their distinct sense of the comic.

November 1997