Sunday Snapshots: Some Assembly Required

Fürth, 2015

What’s that? You thought we were done with festivals? Never!

This Ferris Wheel may look slightly questionable, but have no fear. This picture was taken during the set up phase for the Michaelis-Kirchweih  in Fürth. When it’s fully assembled, it looks much more reliable than this. And if you’re in the region, you can see it in action from this weekend until October 11th.

The Michaelis-Kirchweih is somewhat unique to other festivals of its size, as it takes place all throughout the city center of Fürth rather than on a dedicated festival ground. It’s incredibly popular with the locals, who will defend its superiority to other nearby festivals (see: Nürnberg’s Volksfest, the Oktoberfest, or the Erlangen Bergkirchweih), with an almost religious fervor. But, to be fair, the good people of Fürth get that way about a lot of things… never bring up the Fürth/Nürnberg football rivalry unless you have a good amount of time on your hands.

More info here (in German): Michaelis Kirchweih

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Sunday Snapshots: Bardentreffen Alert!

Nürnberg, 2011

Nürnberg, 2011

Bardentreffen is one of the biggest events of the year in Nürnberg, but somehow I have only been there once, and that was in the first year I lived here. Whoops. It seems to go one of two ways, 1) either the weather is crap and you spend all day wet or 2) the weather is great and the city is more packed than a sardine can.

On the plus side there is a ridiculous amount of music, as performers set themselves up on every available open spot, and many of them are as good (or maybe better) than the officially advertised acts. Not to mention that there is food and drink available at every turn, so if you are a fan of drinking tasty things on the street and listening to kids play box drums, you are in luck! It’s from the 29th to 31st of July this year, and you’ve still got time to check it out.

Bardentreffen Official Website

Nürnberg Volksfest: Oddities

First… let’s all just pause for a moment and take note of the fact that I’m writing about an event before it’s over.

That means, dear readers, if you are in this area and actually wanted to take part in said event… you actually could.

For another five days, at least.

volksfest3After a delicious lunch with some of BV’s friends on Sunday afternoon (in which I learned that they are all #teamcookies, thanks kids!), BV and I headed over to the Nürnberg Volksfest.

The  Volksfest, for those of you who don’t know, is pretty much a biannual festival (spring and fall), with all the usual carnival rides, junk food, and other festivus-ness. The usual assortment of teenagers hanging out, people in Tracht, and families trying to run the rest of us over with strollers are all in attendance.

Since we have to* fest it up at Oktoberfest in a mere few weeks, I think it’s best to save our energies for that, but we still thought we ought to go check out the Volkfest, if only to stock up on roasted nuts. That’s pretty much what we did, but of course I took note of a few things along the way.

volksfest1We didn’t pop into any of the “big tents”  because unfortunately in Nürnberg, the big tents mostly have Tücher Bier, which is pretty much crap. Somewhat strange, given that this region (Franconia), has some pretty damn good beers! However, we did find that Schanzenbräu, a fantastic small brewery based in Gostenhof, has it’s own little beer stand. Don’t settle, kids! Keep circling around until you see that antler light fixture, and get yourself a decent beer.

Of course, a number of other regional breweries are also represented, so Tücher isn’t the only choice, but again… don’t settle. Support team Schanzenbräu!

After we got ourselves a delicious brew, we set out in pursuit of pretzels and roasted nuts… because we are adults and those two things would be excellent to take home for dinner. On the way, what did I spy but this…

volksfest2 First though, I was distracted by what I *thought* were crab rangoons; something I miss desperately from Chinese buffets in the States. When they turned out to be not crab rangoons, I was able to focus on the read problem. Somehow, I’m just going to guess that Planet Hollywood didn’t sign off on this name. Seems questionably close.

Most festivals and carnivals can boast some kind of haunted house. The Volksfest had a few similar things,  but one was Wild West-themed, and the other… well…

volksfest4Okay. I think anyone who has traveled in the post-9.11 world can agree that airports suck. There is almost no part of it that is enjoyable, so really, is it any surprise that there is now a carnival ride to imitate that horror? Even the fresh popcorn and the rotating stacks of fake suitcases can’t dress up this 20th-century shitshow.

I’m not sure if I’ll get there again this year… like I said, I have to save my energy for Oktoberfest in a few weeks, but if you want to go…

Volksfest Nürnberg:  August 28-September 13, 2015

P.S.~ Drink the good beer!

*”have to” fest at Oktoberfest: the annual phenomenon wherein I’m not planning on going to Oktoberfest and then people just decide to come visit. Prost!

A Very German Weekend: Part Two

First of all..

short·ly [shawrt-lee]
adverb
1.in a short time; soon.
2.briefly; concisely.
3.curtly; rudely.
4.a unit of time in Heather’s world that may extend to more than two weeks

Apologies once again for the delay in posts (I know people are falling over in despair around the world and all), but things got a bit hectic in the preparations for my parents being here. They visited for a week, but the cleaning, laying of hallway floor, and trying to make this look less like a haunted house in general, was  pretty time consuming. But we’re back, we’re recovered, and so it’s time to blog again.

Back to the German weekend….

One of the things I really wanted to do this summer was to see the raising of a Kerwabaum (or Maibaum, if you prefer), at one of our local festivals. I mentioned it briefly in this post about the Erlangen Bergkirchweih, but it’s something I haven’t seen here yet. For the last three years, I’ve been driving past these things, or spotting them rising above villages on the train, and by God, I wanted to see them actually put one up. Part of the charm of moving to ze village here, is that our town actually still does this as part of their Kirchweih celebration. Last year, BV and I were back in the States the weekend of the fest, but this year I was determined to go. So on Saturday afternoon, we wandered over to the Marktplatz to see what there was to see.

Another part of the charm of moving to the village means that there aren’t that many people so we were able to get a good spot. BV was still put in charge of photography on this one though, because the majority of Germans are still taller than I am, and I don’t enjoy taking pictures of people’s backs. The tree was still on the ground when we arrived, so BV was dispatched to grab us some beers before the show began.

The whole operation took about an hour to complete, and of course, the soundtrack was provided by a local band. Different parts of the procedure seemed to involved different songs, as the conductor kept a close eye on the tree’s status at all times. Here you can see the band, and the tree propped up on sawhorses. If you look closely, you can also see the snazzy hats that the “Kerwa Boys” wore pre/post tree-raising, and their Maß beers, which were consumed at every possible pause in the process.

kbaum1After this, the “Kerwa Boys”  began to get out the long poles, which you can just see in the photo above. Two poles are connected at one end with a short chain, and the poles are used to gradually scoot the tree higher and higher.

As I said before, the band’s conductor kept a sharp eye on things at all times, so when the tree was being set in its final position she could cue the band for the celebratory song. All in all, it was very festive, and the Kerwa Boys celebrated by draining whatever was left of their beers. Immediately after that, they traded the long poles for their special beer tables, which were placed at the bottom of the tree. Tradition says that they tree must be guarded by them for the remainder of the fest, lest another village come by and swipe the tree. How anyone sneaks one of these things away in the middle of the night is beyond me, but apparently it happens.

Once the tree was settled in place, the mayor came out to give a little speech and officially open the festival. He talked for a few minutes, and then introduced a poet, who came out in a super-sweet outfit to read a poem that basically talked about all the shenanigans that the Kerwa Boys and Girls had gotten up to the year before. Village lesson: they do not forget your shenanigans, so behave yourself!

kbaum10After the Poet of Shame was finished, the band played a bit longer. I noticed the guy pictured below standing there, and asked BV what was up with the alarm clock.

kbaum12He had no idea (bad German, bad!), but our questions were about to be answered. The band cleared off, and made way for a semi-reluctant sheep to take the stage.

kbaum14He was not entirely thrilled with being the star of the show, at least not at the beginning.

In some towns, the dancing takes place around the Maibaum, but because of the placement in our town, that’s not possible. Instead, the dancing took place around the sheep on the stage. Yes, around the sheep. Because the winner of the dance, gets a sheep! Score!

Okay, they probably don’t really get the sheep anymore, but… traditionally speaking, they got the sheep. So how does one win a sheep?

kbaum15See the bouquet in the girl’s hand on the left? That is the winning bouquet. The afore-mentioned alarm clock is set, the band plays, the older gent in the middle calls out the dances, and the flowers are passed from couple to couple. When the alarm clock rings, the couple holding it scores the sheep. Soooo… keep your eyes on the bouquet!

I found this whole thing to be totally adorable. Plus, the sheep seemed to have accepted his fate, and just hung out watching the dancers. Some of the dancers seemed a little fuzzy on the steps, and I also enjoyed watching them as they kept an eye on the feet of the other couples. I guess the dancing club needs to meet a bit more often. But then, the alarm rang, and we had a winner!

kbaum24The winners then got to take a celebratory solo circle dance around their new sheep….

Finally, the opening ceremonies had come to an end. The last thing to do was for some guys to shoot off some old-fashioned powder guns, and for everyone else to drink more beer. We headed back home, so we could gather our grillables before heading to a friend’s house for a BBQ and the Germany-Ghana WM match.

kbaum28Naturally, those guys also had sweet outfits to wear. But since that isn’t such a nice picture to end on, I’ll give you this one instead….

kbaum27Fest love connections happen at all ages…. even the mini Kerwa Boys can’t resist a lady in a Dirndl.

A Very German Weekend: Part One

Last weekend was a long weekend (yet again), due to Corpus Christi on Thursday and then the inevitable Brückentag* that almost everyone takes on Friday. Add to that the current World Cup madness, and you have a recipe for general feelings of festivity around every corner.

Since it was a long weekend, it was only right to take full advantage of that fact and indulge in an assortment of very, very, very Deutsch activities. First up….

 

A beer fest. Like you had to ask.

I heard about this beer fest back when I first moved here, but always managed to miss it until this year. Before in this blog, I’ve gone to beer fests in tents, under trees, and pretty much everywhere else, but this one is a little bit special. That’s because it takes place in the Nürnberg Burggraben. What the hell is a Burggraben, you ask?

Literally, castle moat.

Damn right, it’s a beer fest, in Europe, in a moat. From a castle.

 

Personally, I found it to be a much-needed reminder that though I spend a lot of time on this couch, worrying about things like money, and time, and life goals…. I still live in Europe and it’s awesome and I can go to beer fests in castle moats. Yes.

This year, the Fränkisches Bierfest Nürnberg, offered about 40 varieties of beer from Franconia, our region of Bavaria. Sadly I didn’t get to try all 40, but I did have three, along with some fellow English teachers who joined me for the event. Seating was fairly easy to come by, and though the sky threatened, only a few drops of rain fell. The fest extended for quite a long way underneath the castle, and bands were sprinkled along the route. There seemed to be a little something for everyone, and even balloons and some rides for the kids. Hopefully the children stuck to drinking Radler, at the very most.

I didn’t take a ton of pictures (too busy concentrating on the beer), but here are a few….

nbg bierfest1Part of the Nürnberg castle makes for an impressive backdrop.

nbg bierfest2In this picture, you can see one of the bridges that crosses the Graben behind the castle. The moat and old city walls aren’t complete anymore, but they do still surround a good portion of the Altstadt, and there are walking paths and gardens inside now. And beer fests.

nbg bierfest3A very dramatic Creperie lit the night for us. I’m sorry I don’t have more details on the beers, but I will say that they were good. Specific, I know. I tried one from the stand on the right in the photo above, but I don’t remember the second part of the name. Blogger fail, as per usual.

So yes, part one of a very German weekend was festing. As for part two…. that will come shortly.

Does anybody want to help try all the beers next year? 😉

 

 

More info on the Franconian Beerfest (stay tuned for next year!):

http://www.bierfest-franken.de/

 

 

*Literally: Bridge day, a day off taken between a holiday and the weekend. Some companies leave it up to the employees, but quite a few companies are entirely shut down on those days, presumably to avoid the chaos of people trying to beat out their colleagues for the day off.

Fest Season Is Upon Us: The Erlangen ‘Berg’

Shhhhhh.

 

Do you hear that? The ominous thumping? Sounds like an Oompah band mixing with the bass line of German Schlager music, aka DJ Ötzi and company? (Side note: if you don’t know what that is, Google. 🙂 I’m not linking to the silliness.)

If you hear that, it means that you are somewhere in Bavaria and there is a fest nearby. Don’t see anything? It’s easy to find one, just turn around. Summer around here is pretty much a non-stop traveling parade of giant pretzels, people in Dirndl und Lederhosen, giant beers, and brightly lit rides. In the mail the other week, we got a complete guide to all of the village fests in our area, so if we want to, we can pretty much hit one a weekend from now until September. At least we can’t say there’s nothing to do on the weekends, right? Almost every village has it’s own separate Kirchweih, which just lasts a weekend. The bigger towns and cities will party for a longer time though.

A note: according to most people, a Kirchweih is officially a celebration to mark the anniversary of a town’s church. Somewhat suspiciously though, all of these seem to take place in summer. Kirch (church), is still in the name, but at this point the religious aspect is as elusive as a Wolpertinger. Today, it’s just a fun town celebration, an excuse to put on your Dirndl and do a little ridiculous dancing. Some traditional aspects remain, and many villages still put up their Maibaum at this time. According to the poster for our village fest in a few weeks, this will happen so I’m hoping I can get there in time. I still haven’t seen one go up, and I want to see this!

Since our fest isn’t for a few weeks though, today I’d like to share with you the Mother of All Franconian Fests: the Erlangen Bergkirchweih. Around the area, it’s affectionately known as the Berg (or Berch), or the much-less clear Kerwa. To be honest, that might be spelled wrong but that’s how it sounds in the Franconian accent. Except less clear. I’ve been hearing about this from my students since I arrived here, and was assured that this was Franconia’s (our region of Bavaria) answer to Oktoberfest. In fact they said, it’s better, because Germans actually GO to this one. I said that I hadn’t gone to Oktoberfest and not run into any Germans yet, but I would take their word for it.

Now, I don’t think I got the full experience, as we were there early in the afternoon on Saturday, but it was enough time for a beer and a few pictures. I was very happy that I had convinced BV to go along with this, as he was convinced that it would be packed and horrible. Which is exactly what all my students had been saying for the last three years as well.

“Germans go! It’s better than Oktoberfest! But so many people! I don’t go!”

I’m paraphrasing three years worth of conversations here, but you get the idea.

Granted, Saturday was hotter than bejeezus, so perhaps it wasn’t as crowded as it could have been, but I thought it was totally fine. But, once you’ve survived The Pit, aka, the standing-room only area in the middle of the Hofbräuhaus tent at Oktoberfest, no other fest looks crowded in comparison. A word of advice? If you’re at Oktoberfest, do not go in The Pit. It’s horrible. Just don’t.

We walked up the hill- hence the Berg in Bergkirchweih, bypassing all the food goodies, until we reached the row of Keller. This was a pretty cool thing, I thought. At Oktoberfest, each brewery has it’s own huge tent, or Zelt. There aren’t any windows, so you have no idea what’s going on inside until you get in, and that’s if you get in! Once you’re in, you have to get a seat at a table in order to get a beer. If you try to flag down a waitress while lurking in the walkways, they will knock you over with the ten empty Maß (liter glasses) that they’re carrying. Or worse, the ten full ones. Those ladies do not mess around. Get out of their way. At the EBK (I’m lazy, sorry), there are different Keller, which are large seating sections, stepping up along the hillside. Underneath the seating area was a place to walk up and buy beer, and some had stages at the top. Most of them served Tucher (the beer from Nürnberg), or Kitzmann from Erlangen.

After taking a look down the row, we found a place in the front row at one of the Keller. This was easy to do as that was the only place exposed to the sun, and as I said before, it was hot. Our table was reserved later in the day, but that was no problem as we weren’t planning on staying too long. BV drove, so his fun was limited. We weren’t sure if there was service, as we didn’t see any waiters or waitresses, so BV consulted with the next table. They assured us that there was service, but said it may be faster to just go get the beer ourselves. This is a definite advantage over Oktoberfest… waiting for a beer there could be an Olympic sport. We were thirsty as could be by this point and waiting was not going to happen.

BV ran to go get us beer, and I baked a bit in the sun. While he was gone, I realized while he was gone that we were sitting in a Keller that served Tucher beer! The brewery had another name, but was owned by Tucher…. uhoh. It’s the biggest brewery in Nbg, and they’ve bought up a lot of smaller breweries, but usually it’s still their beer in the glass. Neither of us are fans of it, and there are just so many better beers around here! Luckily he caught our mistake too, and returned with liters from the Steinbach brewery, a small brewery right down the hill in town. Yes, we sat in an area with the incorrect beers. For shame! To be honest, I’m not sure if that’s a big no-no, but better safe than sorry. When a waiter finally did pass our table, we turned our glasses just in case. I’m not big on scoldings from harried waitstaff, sorry. I would normally show you a sweet beer picture here, but the only one is of me looking very warm, so we’re skipping that today. BV needs to work on his portrait skillz. As far as cost goes, a beer this year was 8€ everywhere we saw, plus of course the 5€ deposit fee on the mugs.

The seating areas were pretty full, but as I said before, it was early so things were still fairly tame. There was the usual array of bachelor/bachelorette parties, people in weird costumes, and of course, plenty of people in Tracht (traditional clothing, aka Dirndl and Lederhosen). We enjoyed our delightfully cold beers, and watched the show. These adorable ladies were selling shots, presumably part of a bachelorette shindig, and I’m not sure what’s holding the attention of the gentlemen better. The girls, or the shots… what do you all think?

berg7berg6Not a great picture, but you can kind of get an idea of how the terraced seating looks. I absolutely loved being under the trees and in the open air! I will say though, that if you’re clumsy, you may want to consider drinking as close to the main thoroughfare as possible. The steps up were a bit steep and tall. A few Maß and I could see people tumbling down faster than Humpty Dumpty! And once the table dancing starts later in the evening…. look out. There were a fair amount of warning signs but who knows how effective they are. Drink with caution, kids.

We headed out in search of lunch after our beer, as we wanted something more substantial than fest food. But there was of course time for a few more pictures. The next one I’m including for a few reasons: 1) it shows part of the edibles area, 2) it includes the terrifying ear of corn that appears at all fests and sometimes haunts my nightmares, and 3) there are children in Tracht. Kids in Tracht are pretty much the cutest damn things in the world, but no, I will not be producing any in the near future. Sorry not sorry.

berg3But since I don’t want to give you all nightmares too, I won’t let that be the last picture. Instead, here are some pretzels and the Erlangen Schlossgarten, on our way back to the car. Not a bad place to lay in the grass and people watch, right?

Have no fear, we absolutely had a pretzel. On our way to lunch. Fest!

So if this post has at all convinced you to head to the Bergkirchweih, you’ve got a few more days to do it. The fest ends on the 16th this year, so strap on your traditional finery, hop a train, and get on over here!

More info:

Erlangen Bergkirchweih Official Site

Have you been to the Berg? What are the best fests where you live?

2013 Recapped

Some bloggers are kind enough to post regularly, and keep their readers up-to-date on all the goings-on in their lives. I…. am bad at it. December was chock-full of things to do at work, things to do at home, things to do out and about, and so here we are with more than a month between posts. How time flies when you’re having fun. Or doing mountains of paperwork… could go either way in my case. But luckily I’m nursing a massive hangover from a little too much New Year’s celebration last night, so post time!

Since 2013 is coming to a close, I thought I’d take a cue from every other blogger out there, and try to figure out what in the world I’ve been up to all year. So hop on into your time machines and let’s journey on back…


January:

We rang in 2013 in Tuscany with hiking, sight-seeing, and eating more than anyone should probably ever eat. Thankfully we even saw the sun in Italy, because we supposedly had the darkest January on record back in Germany. It was looooong and dark.

February/March

I have nearly no recollection of February or March. I’m guessing the weather was still crappy and I protested it by watching too much bad TV. In good TV news though, my episode of House Hunters International finally aired, and Courtney and I didn’t seem like total spazzes, much to the relief of friends and family. 

April:

The clouds lifted and we celebrated with some weekend drives to the Franconian Switzerland.

May: 

Germany came out of hibernation, which meant it was time for my balcony to get prettified. I also found the cutest Gartenhaus in history.

We took another drive to the Franconian Switzerland, where I made a tiny friend.

Across the street from the horses, we visited the Felsengarten Sanspareil. Today it’s a forested park filled with huge rock formations, a natural theater (above), and wandering paths, but in the 1700s it was a pleasure garden.

Katie, my old Prague friend, visited from the States over BV’s birthday weekend. We took a big group beer hike, and Katie made friends with some locals.

June:

May ended with us on a plane bound for San Francisco. We had a great time visiting my college friend Aaron, before we hopped another plane to spend a few days in Las Vegas with my friend Courtney. We wrapped up the trip with a week in Wisconsin. We did some hiking, visited German history at Old World Wisconsin (above), and I stood up in my friend Angie’s wedding. I even managed to not completely botch my Maid of Honor toast, thank goodness. At the end of June, my great-aunt and great-uncle stopped in Nürnberg on their European river cruise, and we gave them the local tour.

July: 

In July we visited my friends in the village and their ever-growing menagerie. The goats always provide some entertainment if the kids, rabbits, and cats are too boring for you. We took an accidentally long hike and found this crazy purple field, before we spent the evening at a local wine fest which could give Oktoberfest a run for its money in the crazy department.

Another weekend was spent hiking in the Allgäu, where I found one of my happy places. With marmots!

August:

I turned 30 in August, and decided the only possible way to deal with that number was to run away from civilization for a few days. We drove to Berchtesgaden, spent a day at the Königsee, and then the next few days hiking up and down the Watzmann. We also hosted a small barbeque with friends to celebrate, lest anyone think I’m an anti-social weirdo. 

September

Of course, September means Oktoberfest, and this year I even made it there on opening day with the ladies. It was such fun that I even went back a few days later when my buddy Karl was visiting us for a week. He charmed our table mates and pledged to come back as soon as possible. We might even get him to buy some Lederhosen before the next visit…

BV and I also celebrated our first anniversary, and prepared for moving in together. Somehow I seem to have acquired a lot of stuff for a person who moved abroad with two suitcases…. 

October:

I officially moved out of my apartment in October, and in with BV. We also took a trip up to Gladbeck for a family party, I got to meet a bunch of his extended family, and learned that dance parties can go all night even if I can’t.

November:

 BV and I took an impromptu trip to Brussels and I absolutely loved the city! We will definitely be going back, because we didn’t get a chance to do all the museums and touristy things we had planned on. 

One thing we did manage to do was drink a lot of tasty Belgian beer, including this one for the pretty price of €15 per bottle. Thankfully it was delicious, and got us bonus bar snacks. They were very necessary as the beer has an insane 10.2% alcohol content.

The reason for the Brussels trip was a concert, and it was great show! I’ve loved Jimmy Eat World for years, but never got a chance to see them live until now. It was well worth the drive to Belgium, so thanks guys for the excuse!

December:

December was spent buried in a sea of paperwork, and hunting for additional work for 2014. I came up for air a few times though. My village friends visited Nürnberg for an afternoon at the Christmas market, and a week later I visited them (and goats) at their new place outside Regensburg, so we could do a little cookie-baking.

BV and I got our Christmas tree and the tree man even remembered us from last year.

Work finally ended and I got to spend some time enjoying the city. Christmastime in Nürnberg is really nice, but I’d advise against coming on the weekends….

BV and I spent our second Christmas together with three days of family celebrations. We hosted his dad and brother on the second day and I introduced them to some exotic American specialties… or, biscuits (thanks for the recipe Allie!). 

We ended the year at our favorite Greek restaurant in the city, eating and drinking far too much. Clearly far too much, as I’ve spent most of today horizontal. Ouch.

Looking back at all this, 2013 was a pretty darn good year. Here’s hoping 2014 is the same… and best wishes to all of you reading! 

Happy New Year…. any favorite moments from 2013 to share?