One of the best ways to catch a glimpse at everyday German culture is to visit a town festival. Don and I have attended several during our time here in Germany and we thought that Mom and Dad might enjoy the experience too. While beer and wine festivals are very common, there are other interesting festivals (we’ve even heard of a “Fest Fest”- a fest to celebrate fests!).
Take the Pig Burners’ Festival in Wittlich, Germany for example. This fest is held during the third weekend in August and commemorates the time centuries ago when the village was under attack from the Huns. Walls with heavy gates kept out invaders, but on this occasion a guard lost the iron pin that held the gate closed. He substituted the only thing available, a carrot, and he ran away. According to the story, a pig ate the carrot, causing the bar to drop and the gate to swing open. The Huns entered and sacked the town. The angry townspeople took their revenge by gathering all the pigs and burning them! To this day the Pig Burners’ Festival is held in retribution.
It’s true, on any given weekend you can be sure that some village, somewhere in Germany is hosting a town fest. It just so happened that the weekend my parents arrived Wallhalben, a nearby village, was hosting their bi-annual Kartoffel, or potato festival. We didn’t see any pig burning going on at the Kartoffel Fest, but we did find some interesting dishes, like this German potato dumpling:
Here’s a recipe for German Kartoffelknodel if you’d like to try it at home.
Besides eating delicious food, we enjoyed live music and a medieval crafts fair. Just past the center of the village was a large field filled with tents. The town residents were dressed in medieval clothing and seemed to enjoy playing the part. At the fair you could purchase handmade soaps, pottery, furniture, clothing, blankets and food. They also had cooking and weapon demonstrations. Little boys dressed as knights and little girls in medieval style dresses chased each other through the crowds of people. For a moment it really felt like we had stepped back in time.
We had a great time people watching and visiting while we ate. I had a little trouble driving home that evening in the dark when our trusty GPS “Betty” kept circling us back to festival. A 20 minute drive took well over an hour. We learned just how long you can drive a Mercedes (our rental car) when the gas light turns on. It was a relief when we rolled into a gas station (on fumes)!