10 July 2009

Erlangen's Festival

Some other priorities have been keeping me busy, but here is one more post to help bring you up-to-date.

The Tuesday after Pentecost (May 31) some friends and I traveled to the city of Erlangen for its famous Bergkirchweih Festival, the third largest in Bavaria (which is truly saying something). Erlangen is located northwest of Nuremberg and by car is about one hour away from Eichstätt. The city is home to about 100,000 residents and one of Germany's largest universities and medical schools. Unfortunately, many of the Germans whom I have spoken with about the city refer to Erlangen as as an ugly place not worth a visit. After my several hours there I wouldn't go quite that far; the city does have its bright and interesting spots. Of course, the festival atmoshphere could have helped.

Before we made it to the festival, we stopped at Erlangen's small yet first-class botanical gardens. Collections of plants from several diverse ecosystems were on display and led us to wonder how they could all survive in the climate of Bavaria. Below is one picture from the gardens.

Many of the streets of Erlangen's old town were a bit desolate as most of the inhabitants must have been attending the festival. Almost all the people we did see were heading in the same direction: toward the festival. As can also be seen in the following photograph, most of the buildings in the city's historic center were no more than three floors, which provided more of a village atmosphere than that of a city.

Finally reaching the festival, we discovered where most of city's residents were hiding. The annual event takes places at Erlangen's former fortress, which rests on the slopes of a forested hill north of the historic city center. From this shady and steep setting one can enjoy the food, music, and other people.

Several bandstands and beer gardens nestled steeply together on the hillside, creating a unique echelon of musicians, partiers, and aromas. Few other foreigners appeared to be in attendance, but that was to be expected as the Bergkirchweih Festival's cousin to the south, Oktoberfest, receives far more international attention (for better or worse). In addition to the beer gardens and bands, several food vendors and carneval rides and games stretched along the hill, providing nurishment and entertainment to the thousands of guests.

Towards the evening we left the festival and Erlangen to return to Eichstätt, with yet another Bavarian festival experienced.

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