Fall is the time when Germany, from the biggest towns to the smallest villages, abounds with every kind of festival imagined. It is an ideal time to visit. The village where we live recently had their “glocken-kirmes” or “Bell Festival,” and there are wurst festivals, farmer’s markets, autumn markets, and, of course, the ever popular wine fests and Oktoberfests (beer gardens)!
A town on the “Weinstrasse” (wine road) that I like to visit is Bad Durkheim. Now, all the “bad” towns in Germany are thermal bath resort spa –type places, and they are wonderful to visit any time of year (but that’s another article!). Bad Durkheim is home to many fall fest adventures. It’s a beautiful drive on the Weinstrasse to find the town, and when you come over the top of the hill, you are surrounded by the vineyards as you go down in the valley where the town is located. There is a small chapel outlook on the hill that is a great photo opportunity for a view of the valley including the vineyards, the spa setting, and the huge wine barrel (behind the large public parking lot) that greets you when you enter town. Bad Durkheim hosts a German “Wurst” festival (sausage) in September that also includes a large Wine Festival.
Of course, if you want to spend a weekend there, there are some volksmarch (6, 10, 12km) walking trails that start at the Spa Resort Welcome desk. (You would ask for a Permanent Trail start card and brochure and follow the trail around and back to the start. The walks take you onto the wooded trails surrounding Bad Durkheim and give you great views and some history lessons of the region – depending on the trail you choose.) More Information.
Berkastel-Kues on the Mosel River is also the site of a Wine Fest in the Fall. These twin towns sit on the banks of the Mosel River in Germany, and they have quaint medieval flavor. The half-timbered houses from the 1600’s are beautiful, and the crookedest half-timbered house in town is a wine shop! They have a wonderful pedestrian zone (car free cobbled streets), and there is a “ruined” castle on the hill that hosts a restaurant. The Wine fest is in the area close to the bridge across the river between both towns. Crusing the Mosel on a sunny fall afternoon will give you views of many ruined castles and ,of course, the vineyards on the hill.
To go along with the wine fests, it is also possible in the fall in Germany to participate in what is called a “wine probe.” Many local wineries host these events where you get to tour the winery, have lunch, and get your chance to pick grapes in the hillside vineyards and see how the grapes are processed into vine.
This is not an event for the faint-hearted! Climbing those steep slopes and keeping your balance with a big wooden bucket to pick grapes is not an easy task, but the lunch can be a great reward, and for people who return to the same place more than one year in a row, they can take home a bottle of wine from when they helped pick the grapes the year before! More on Wine Probes.
Everyone has heard of the Munich Oktoberfest, and it is an interesting place to visit if you like amusement park rides or sitting in big fest tents and drinking beer, but there are Oktoberfests in many parts of Germany, and some of the smaller city fests can contain more of the fest flavor and aren’t as crowded. For instance, Zweibruecken (a town close to the French border) has an Oktoberfest. For more information about the history of Oktoberfest, you can check out this website. If you go to Munich, don’t forget to buy your beer stein for that year, and the obligatory “German Beer t-shirt” for the event!
Rhine Castles in Flames
Also in Autumn are the fireworks events called “Rhein-in-Flames” where you can travel along the Rhine River and catch fests that culminate in the evenings with fireworks displays. You can even see the events from a “cruise ship” in the middle of the Rhine River! There two sites for checking out these festivals. http://www.loreley-info.com/ and http://www.rhein-in-flammen/
So, if you come to Germany in the fall, you’ll definitely find something interesting to do! (Better yet, come in the fall and stay until the Christmas markets start around Thanksgiving!)
Guest Contributor, Cheryl Patterson, is a teacher for the Department of Defense School System in Germany. During the week she works with Army kids on an American Army Post, and on the weekends she and her husband take advantage of living in Europe, by traveling all over the continent. The Pattersons are avid participants in the walking sport of volksmarching, and incorporate the sport into their world travels.