Station: [9] Rosing Farm - Skittle Alley

Strike! A babble of voices, laughter, the clink of glasses – playing nine-pin skittles has always been a gregarious activity. The players stepped up at the end of the alley – that’s to the left of where we are now. From there, they tossed the ball towards the nine wooden pins, which were arranged in a diamond formation. Locally, the game is sometimes known as “Kegelschieben” – skittle-pushing. The aim was to topple all the skittles in a single throw – to achieve a “strike”, or “chalks”. People liked to play for small prizes, or to decide who’d pay for the next shared jug of beer.

At the other end, you can see a small annexe, into which the “Kegelbub”, or skittle boy, could retreat. This was a popular and lucrative job for the village lads. They were hired to stand at the end of the alley and call out the hits – loudly and reliably, mind you. Then set up the pins again and trundle the ball back to the players along the groove on one side.

Our skittle alley, which was built in 1872, once stood in the village of Steppberg in the Jura Mountains. The structure consists of a small, rectangular room called a “salettl” furnished with tables and benches, where the players sat. Then there was the alley itself, which was 20 meters or 65 feet long, plus the annexe for the boy. The roof is actually what tells us that the skittle alley originated in the Jura Mountains. It’s called a Zwickdaschendach, roughly a “snipped shingle roof”. In the Jura quarries, of which there were many, they used to quarry thin limestone panels. These were snipped into a round shape with pincers and used as beaver tail shingles – called “daschen” in the Bavarian dialect.  

When the alley was dug up and moved, we found fragments of beer glasses, coins from the kingdom of Bavaria, and – a whole lot of clothes pegs. In other words, when the alley wasn’t being used for playing skittles, people dried their washing in here, because with these walls, it’s nice and airy.