Street Festivals in Germany

America certainly has a culture of summer festivals: every summer at home, my town puts on a big 3-day summer festival with food stalls, cultural displays, carnivals rides, fireworks, and more. But in Germany, there’s an entirely different culture built up around it. Not all the festivals happen during the summer, either. Even in winter, Christmas festivals brighten up dark evenings and fill the air with the smell of spices and cakes.

The Christmas markets brighten up German town squares during the darkest weeks of the year. (Dresden)

Even when I first arrived in Freiburg in February, the weekly market that takes place in the main square of Freiburg every day except Sunday way selling bratwursts, spices, and even flowers! Freiburg has had a market in the square around the Munster for about 700 years, and this traditional is still thriving today- on sunny summer Saturdays, the market is thick with tourists and locals.

Now that it’s summer, though, there’s even more festivals and markets than ever! On any given evening, you can expect to stumble across a festival if you wander around long enough.

While trying to go for a quiet evening stroll along the river, I came across a festival with rollercoasters! (Trier)

These festivals pop up all over town — in squares, along streets, on the banks of the city river. I’ve even been to one festival along a street in Freiburg where every few minutes everyone had to clear a path through the crowd for the street cars to pass through!

The long summer evenings are best spent hanging out at festivals until the sun sets — you can see that the street car tracks run right through the middle of this festival. Every once in a while, a street car would have to cautiously crawl through the crowd. The famous Munster spire can be seen rising over the city. (Freiburg)

One thing that surprised me was just how centrally alcoholic beverages figure into some of the festivals. Freiburg has a wine fest that’s one of the largest festivals in town, because Freiburg sits in the wine region of Germany. In Trier, I stumbled across a festival where every other stall was serving the regional beer, and the stage was covered in ads for the beer company.

This beer cap celebrates that this producer — Andech’s Monastery — has been selling beer since 1455. (Munich)

The oldest continuously operating companies in Germany date back to the 11th century, and all of them are breweries. The oldest effective law is the Beer Purity Regulations, instated 500 years ago, and Germans are very excited to share this fun fact with foreigners. The culture and tradition of brewing and vinting are important to Germans, and each region has its own take on fermented drinks to celebrate.

This stage — on the banks of the Mosul River — is decorated with ads for the regional beer producer, including massive cardboard cutouts of beer bottles. The band was also very regional — their ensemble included an accordion, and their outfits were polka-dotted vests. Most of their songs were crooning about the beautiful locality and its history. (Trier)
These large, heart-shaped cookies are everywhere at German street fairs. I believe they’re the German version of Gingerbread (Lebkuchen), which has citrus in addition to spice.

 

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