While travelling through Germany we were introduced by our friends and Couchsurfing hosts to the concept of the stadtfest and the volksfest. These local celebrations are a way for people to celebrate their heritage while eating great food, drinking good beer and spending time with friends and neighbors.
A city will usually hold a stadtfest, or village fair, once a year. For a few days, usually a long weekend, vendors will take to the streets to sell German delicacies and knick-knacks. The fair may feature carnival rides like Ferris wheels while performers and bands play on stages around the city.
We were invited to the stadtfest in Lüneburg, Germany: the hometown of Simon, one of Lav’s friends. We listened to local bands and tried German sweets with our friend from school Max. A country-western band performed while wearing cowboy hats and boots while several people line-danced. It felt like we were back in Texas.
We also went to a volksfest in Ulm, Germany. The world ‘Volksfest’ translates as people’s festival, and it usually combines a beer or wine festival with a travelling funfair. It can be massive or small depending on where it’s being held. The infamous Oktoberfest in Munich is an example of a volksfest. Volksfests usually last one to three weeks, and people wear traditional clothing like Lederhosen for men and dirndl for women.
My favourite volksfest we went to was Kieler Woche in Kiel. It’s the largest sailing festival in the world and hosts some 3 million people every year. The week-long celebration includes a ship racing championship, a huge music festival on various stages across the city, fireworks and a parade of sailing vessels. We got to reunite with our friend, Lea, who studied as an exchange student with us in high school. She took us to the beach to watch the parade, and we went to some outdoor concerts during the evening. We spent the day relaxing and catching up as the ships passed by on their way to the harbor. Families with children played along the waterside, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves despite the rain.