The Kegelbahn – A Uniquely German Experience
Kegeln or German Bowling.
My first ever visit to a German bowling alley or “Kegelbahn” was in the town of Mettmann, just east of Düsseldorf. One of my friends in Germany had promised to organise a night of bowling when I was next in the country, at his local Kegelbahn along with his team mates.
This game is played by rolling a ball down an alley towards nine pins (not the usual ten) which are placed in a diamond shape on the alley. The pins are connected by a string on top, as part of a string pin-setter, which picks up the pins and places them back into the diamond shape. The balls are usually made from wood and unlike ten-pin bowling, have no holes for fingers.
To add to the challenge, the ball must be bowled under a piece of string (about six inches of the ground) onto a narrow lane with a concave channel. With all these factors combined, Kegeln does require some skill and is a fairly tricky sport to master. This is my excuse anyway, but typically the ball would veer off to one side or the other.
For myself though, and probably thankfully, scoring points wasn’t the main focus of the evening. When I first walked into the Kegelbahn, I realised it wasn’t so much a game as a slice of living history, with plaques recalling past victories and photographs that made me instantly respect the game and the place. At the very core of the sport is its social side, which involved freshly cooked food, beer and conversation throughout the evening. My local bowling alley just hasn’t been the same since.