Lists! > Ten Autumn Festivals
10 Autumn Festivals
October is Festival Season in much of Europe (especially Germany). Beer festivals, wine festivals, food festivals, town fests big and small. The following list is a sampling from the many fall festivals I've encountered in my travels -- but don't consider this list definitive by any means. There are literally thousands of such festivals taking place across Europe each year, and I've touched a mere handful of them. Here are ten that I personally have visited over the past several years. The ordering is more by size than quality -- all of them are equally fun and worthwhile.
This one is near and dear to my heart because I live only a few hundred yards away from the scene here, and have visited the town's autumn fest every year. A big and popular festival for the size of the town, people from all over the Heidelberg area come to listen to music, eat locally made foods, and donate to numerous local charities and volunteer organizations. It is essentially what town festivals are all about.
The Koblenz autumn festival snakes its way around the Old Town, following the many windy and narrow cobblestone streets in the banks above the Deutsches Eck. One of the more colorful and crowded festivals I've visited.
Aarhus' city festival was marked when they dyed the water in the town hall fountain red (the city's color). The picture here is of the Aboulevarden on the canal, where a number of cafés and restaurants normally operate. The festival filled the city blocks around this area, offering liter-mugs of Danish lager at the equivalent of a dollar (well... that was when the dollar was stronger).
The autumn festival in Freiburg that I attended had a much greater rock-n-roll quality. When I arrived just after the opening, hundreds of youths were filling the city parks watching rock bands wailing away on makeshift stages. Other forms of music were also present -- the Rathaus square (shown) hosted another stage act of Turkish belly dancers while I was there, for example.
The autumn festival in Linz brightens the Danube with its massive array of amusement rides, the largest such array I saw outside of Germany. Surrounding this area were a number of festival tents (each about the size of a soccer field) that served as convention centers, and various exhibitions cycled through during the festival.
I'm cheating a bit here, because I took only one photo of the Liege festival and it came out badly (this is not it, this is the Sunday market). Liege's festival was remarkable to me because of the large array of animal displays -- particularly horse rides for the kids. The festival covered the town park that wrapped around the Old Town, where festival activities took place among the shopping malls and meeting points. The Liege festival was also significant to me for the large quantity of Veterans' reunions taking place (this was in early November), where hundreds of veterans and WWII survivors have continued to congregate these many decades.
The largest town festival that I visited with a maritime theme was held in the northern Germany city of Lübeck, and small wonder. This city was where the Hanseatic League was founded, a loose alliance of maritime cities stretching from Bruges, Belgium to Novgorod, Russia. Shown here is a huge display of old wooden boats, where traditional crews put on demonstrations of the raising of sails to old-fashioned sailor tunes.
The largest wine festival in Europe (so its claimed) takes place on the northern end of the German Wine Road in Bad Dürkheim, yet it is not even called a wine festival -- Wurstfest means "sausage festival". But make no mistake, it is a big wine fest, where wine is served to you in half-liter glasses! The famous Riesenfass, the largest barrel structure in the world, marks the end of the festival grounds -- and there are plenty of amusement rides and activities to amuse those not interested in such big glasses of wine.
This is the second-largest beer festival in Germany, but nowhere near as world-reknowned -- which is a good thing as this Volksfest has been more successful at retaining its local flavor. Stuttgart's four major breweries (Dinkel Acker, Stuttgarter Hofbräu, Schwaben Bräu, and Furstenburg) put on this affair, but the beer tents are only a small part of the event. There are several companion events as well, such as the Baden-Württemberger Agriculture exhibition that dominated the opposite half of the festival grounds. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.
#1. Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany
I would be kidding if I didn't include the Oktoberfest as #1. The sheer size and notoriety of this festival are unparalleled among any that I've seen. Put on by over a half-dozen of Munich's largest breweries, this festival attracts tens of thousands each day over its seventeen-day duration, and the quantities of beer consumed (including the one-liter mug I am holding here) are astonishing. In addition, some of the brew houses within Munich's Old Town (such as the famous Hofbrauhaus) have their own little celebrations. No wonder some of my colleagues make their pilgrimages to Munich an annual requirement!
(c) 2003 Tom Galvin