05 August 2009

Celebrating America and Eichstätt

The first weekend in July pushed on into the festival season with several parties and celebrations. From the third to the fifth days of the month Eichstätt held its annual Altstadt Fest, or Old Town Festival. In this case the use of "old" is a bit of an understatement; Eichstätt celebrated its 1,100th anniversary last year. Rather you would prefer old or geriatric in describing the town, the festival has far less to do with remembering nostalgic times than with throwing a bash for local residents and visitors from the region. The three-day party winds through the squares, lanes, and back alleys of the town center. Dozens of vendors sell a dazzling array of foods and drinks, from sausages and pizza to pork knuckles and pad thai, from ice cream and beer to roasted almonds and frozen daiquiris. Normally calm public squares transform into raucous beer gardens. The relaxing sounds from babbling fountains are lost in the competing cacophony of music, laughter, and lively conversation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is my favorite festival in Eichstätt.

As you likely realized though, the dates of this year's festival coincided with America's birthday. In my first year here I did not want the day to pass without some sort of special recognition, and the same applied to this year. Luckily I was in good company to put together a small celebration for the Fourth of July.

At the end of June my friend Dylan had arrived in town from Salzburg. He had just spent the previous academic year in that Austrian tourist city studying abroad. With his semester at an end, he would stay in Eichstätt until his return to the U.S. in mid-July. In order to celebrate America's holiday we decided to hold a grill out with a few friends, but it was by no means new territory for the two of us.

Invited freinds were asked to bring drinks and meat for the grill, while Dylan and I prepared side items like potato salad, guacamole dip, baked beans, and a Fourth of July cake. For the potato salad I tried to explain to the non-Americans that the reason it looked and tasted unlike the German version was because it was the American style, but I think most of them mistakenly thought this was a joke. However, many did ask for the guacamole recipe.

The previous week had also happened to be America week at the nearby Lidl grocery store. Because of this I was able find American flag napkins, hot dog buns, and other themed items.

One of the friends present was Daniel. Take this coincidence as an example of how small the world has become. Daniel and I actually went to high school together. I didn't know that he would study abroad for the semester in Eichstätt; nor did he know that I was living there. Only until a random encouonter on the university campus, which was likely inevitable to occur in small Eichstätt, did either of us learn that the other was here.

Most of the other friends at the grill out were French. Their presence was fitting in a way; France did help America gain its independence after all.

Here are some pictures from that Saturday.

After grilling and marking the Fourth of July, and like we had done the previous day and would do the next day, we headed to the Altstadt Fest. Saturday was the high point of the festival with the most activities and the largest crowd. In addtion to the rows of vendors, there were four stages dispersed around the town center, each with a different type of music and targeted demographic. The southern most stage catered mostly to teenagers and pre-teens with a DJ playing house, hip-hop, and techno music. North of that, and after a large building to likely shield the noise, came a smaller stage occupied by a live band with wind and string instruments playing traditional Bavarian music. Not unexpectedly, at the tables in front of this stage were mostly elderly individuals. The stage near the cathedral hosted bands that played dancing and drinking songs that appealed to a diverse crowd--the typcial pop music found at Bavarian festivals. From the fourth stage at the north end of the festival one could hear more foreign sounds, like those from a salsa band or even a band from Nashville, Tennessee.

As the following photographs show, by the evening hours the festival had become fairly crowded.

Festivals like these are excellent places to witness Bavarian traditions alive and well. For example, take the image below. Here you see two lederhosen-clad waiters delivering liter-mugs of beer to a table. While the lederhosen was the work uniform for these two men, countless festival-goers from teenagers to senior citizens wore the traditional dress of Bavaria.

Due to strict noise laws in Germany, on Friday and Saturday nights the festival came to a close a little after midnight in the public areas. However, several official after-parties organized alongside the festival in differnt bars and venues assured that the celebrations could continue for those so inclinced.

Pictured from left to right below are Daniel, Eric, Dylan, and I enjoying the festival on Saturday evening.

By Sunday afternoon I believe that most of Eichstätt had had its fill for at least a week, and the festival took on a much more subdued atmosphere. I was already looking forward to Eichstätt's Altstadt Fest when it comes around next year, but the festival season for this year was still rolling on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nicholas / wow / that's alot of people in the town square area / looks like everyone enjoyed themself / I recognized Juliee + Dylan = Daniel who are the others? in the pictures outside your apt?