Friday, 1 June 2012

Festival Time!

Oficially it's called the Bergkirchweih. English speakers may know it better as the Erlangen Beer Festival and according to quasi-believable sources it's the second largest beer festival in Europe. At it's best it's a Travel Section-worthy celebration of food, music, dancing, amusement park rides, fellowship and - of course - beer. At it's worst it's an example of some major binge drinking and public drunkenness. Perhaps I've been living a more sheltered life than I thought. I've had the opportunity to see both sides this week and I prefer to dwell on the positive.

Erlangen is a smaller city about 25km from Nuremberg. It's a university town that looks like it would be a really nice place to live. The Bergkirchweih has been an annual event since 1755. It takes place on the Berg (hill) at the north end of town in a large green space with lots of big elm, chestnut and oak trees. It's a terriffic setting, much more interesting than Munich's Oktoberfest (according to my local colleagues) which sets up its tents in a big flat open area. Over the course of the festival over a million people visit it. This in a city of 100,000.

We went last night immediately after work. Here are a few observations:
  • My colleague wasn't drinking so we drove in his car. It's far more common to take the train if you're coming from Nuremberg. On another night I observed that the party starts on the train and in some cases much earlier.
  • The beer which is specially brewed for the festival is ausgezeichnet - outstanding! Three or four of the local breweries are represented.
  • Generally speaking the beer is served by slim, young, friendly, attractive, attentive waitresses. Ours was none of the above.
  • The array of food on offer is staggering. Dieters and vegans may want to bring your own (which is totally permissible provided you buy their beer). There are roasted chickens, pork legs and shoulders, the ubiquitous sausages and they do an entire ox on a spit every day. When I walked past the still revolving carcass on my way out around 10pm there wasn't enough meat left on it to feed my two sons. I opted for half a roasted duck with red cabbage and Kloss (dumpling). I arrived hungry and needed every bit of available space to fit it all in. Best duck I can remember having. I think the fat helps to absorb the beer too.
  • I find it odd that there is one vegetable and we consider it red cabbage but the Germans consider it blue (Blaukraut). Why can't we all get along, agree it's purple and move on?
  • My capacity is three liters. That's it, that's all, no more. I have made my peace with it and I consider myself old enough that I no longer view it as a contest. Take that all of you who think I'm too competitive.
  • Every beer "cellar" has its own band and I think the demographics dictate which crowd gravitates to which cellar (why they are called cellars I have no idea, it's all in the open air).I had my back to the band and remarked that every song they played can be found on my mp3 player. At one point I turned around and noted that all of the band members appeared to be "of a certain age". I found my people!
  • I did not witness the quintessential dancing on the tables. But I did observe that when we started most people were seated. Later many were standing. Later still people were standing on the benches and swaying. If I draw a curve through all of those points I could see it intersecting "On the tables" shortly before closing time.
 Today I moved from Dr Koenig's flat near the ice cream factory to my new place downtown and I am loving the new digs. Pictures and some thoughts and observations next time. This time next week I will be winging my way back home for our very own Triple Threat Triathlon Club event at Birds Hill Park and I look forward to seeing a lot of you there.

Thanks for reading,

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