14 August 2009

And the Festivals Go On

Eichstätt was able to rest for a few days until the next big event on July 16. This time it was the Hofgarten Fest, a festival held on the campus of the university. More specifically the food stalls, music stage, and revelers spread themselves over the central gardens that long ago were part of the bishop's summer residence. Where the bishop and his staff once strolled, students and townsfolk partied until the late hours of the night, though not too wildly of course. Several of the vendors who had set up shop at the Altstadt Fest on the previous weekend had simply moved their belongings east through town. The Hofgarten Fest was actually supposed to take place on the Thursday before that other festival, but rain forced a last-minute rescheduling. Here's a view of the dance floor at the festival.

On the following Sunday a couple friends and I traveled to Landshut in order to join another festival. The city of 60,000 inhabitants, seen below, rises along the banks of the Isar River in southeast Bavaria. Lying a short distance northeast of Munich's rurally-exiled international airport, Landshut heavily relies on this facility as its modern economic engine. For a few summer weeks every four years the citizens of the city take a break from their work and reward themselves with Europe's largest medieval festival: the Lanshuter Hochzeit.

Translated, the festival's appropriate name is the Landshut Wedding. The celebration commemorates the wedding of a Polish king's daughter and the son of the Duke of Landshut in the year 1475. The pair married in the Curch of St. Martin, which you can see in the following picture, and then paraded through the city. Though the honoring festival has only taken place since the beginning of the 20th century Landshuters take great pride in it. Thousands from the city participate in the reenactments of the original newly weds' parade held on every Sunday of the festival and the other continuous medieval pageantry. Landshut's old town is thrown back a few centuries or so with extensive period decorations. Men from the city are known to start letting their beards grow out months before the festival begins in order to more accurately represent the historical period.

Unfortunately we arrived a little too late on that Sunday and missed the parade reenactment. By the time we arrived the main street of the old town and the parade route was already being cleaned. The festive atmoshphere still hung in the air though as we sought the rest of the party.

After nearly half an hour of walking through the old town we had started to doubt the tales of the Landshuter Hochzeit. This was supposed to be Europe's largest medieval festival, and yet not a food both or festival beer garden was in sight. Landshut's old town offered an attractive face, but the streets and squares were empty of emotion. Eichstätt's Altstadt Fest had apparently surpassed the entertainment quality of this festival. Where were the bearded and costumed men from Landshut? Where were the jousting tournaments? Where was the festival itself?

As it was the last day of the festival, we decided that the parade must have been the final and closing event. Dissapointed, we had started to leave the old town in route back to Eichstätt when I spotted a geography professor from the university. Some of his first words to us were, "Isn't this festival great?" I responded with a polite lie. He next asked if we intended to watch the jousting tournament. Now intrigued, we asked for and followed his directions to the event.

Just beyond the old town we came to an expansive parking lot seemingly filled to capacity and to a set of gates. A tall and solid wooden fence next to the lot blocked any views to see the other side, though we assumed we would find the jousting tournament. While discussing if buying the entrance tickets was worth it, as if on cue, a German family approached us and presented their unused tickets to us. Better yet, they wanted nothing in return. With no excuses left we passed through the gates and realized that we had arrived--here was the festival.

Suddenly the tales were proven true. There were the throngs of people at what could indeed be Europe's largest medieval festival. There was the jousting tournament. There were the food and drink stands. Costumed individuals were all around, nevermind that only a few appear in the photograph below.

We stayed at the festival for a while before eventually returning to Eichstätt. On the next day I would start my last week of classes for the semester. We had found the festival, but missed the parade; maybe I'll be able to catch it in four years when the Landshuter Hochzeit comes again.


Natalie said...

Those buildings in Landshut (that name is funny) are ridiculously colorful!!

I'm getting excited about your visit! but not so much about the toxic tunnels. We need to talk about this, hahaha.


Nick O. said...

Natalie: Yes, it was a very colorful town. And the details of my visit aren't certain yet, so there is of course still time to discuss our options. I'm looking forward to my visit too.

b said...

toxic tunnels?