Archive | April, 2015

Beer festivals for non drinkers (old and young)

26 Apr

So I know a lot of readers of the blog have kids, I’ve had a fair few emails regarding the kid friendliness of beer festivals in Germany. The concerns of suitability for pushchairs, loud music, drunk people, availability of shade and appropriateness of taking your kid to a bier festival have all popped up one way or another. As have the questions from non drinkers (and non beer drinkers), are there non alcoholic drinks available? is it ok NOT to drink beer?

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Festivals in Germany are generally regarded as family friendly, even Oktoberfest! And whilst your little darlings won’t be sampling the beer they can still enjoy a new tradition, it’s kind of like going to a fair. Kids in tracht are adorable, buy them a gingerbread heart, some roasted almonds, some candy floss and they’ll be sugared up for pellet guns, duck hooking and the carousel.

Kids

Most festival will have family days, there will be plenty of people with pushchairs and kids everywhere then. During this time the rides may be discounted and there may be special offers on. The rides themselves can range from pony rides to vintage swings to massive modern theme park type rides. There is usually a ferris wheel, always my favourite and safe, although it may not be as new fangled as some in your home country.

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Both the Bergkirchweih and Annafest are located in wooded areas and so have plenty of available shade, events in towns like Marktplatzfest-Erlangen, will have parasols available but make sure to slap on that suncream because queueing for food can take time!

Most events will have a sound system but most are not so small that you have to be very near it, if you want to be there all day enjoying the music close up maybe ear protection for a little ones might be an idea.

Whilst children are welcome at beer festivals, the atmosphere after 6 or 7pm is different and more adult and can get crowded. Whilst babies or little ones can be carried and entertained, older kids would probably be bored.

Bringing snacks and drinks with you for your kids is not frowned upon, though finding somewhere to heat up baby food may be a challenge.

People get drunk at beer festivals whatever the time of day is, it’s the same the world over. It is fairly easy to find a quieter area at a beer fest where you are more likely to have a family friendly experience.

The legal age for purchasing beer (and wine) in Germany is 16, the legal age for spirits is 18 (though at 14 a child is allowed to with the permission and in the presence of a legal guardian).

Non beer drinkers

Most bier festivals will also have some wine options, don’t expect a wide selection and do be aware that you might get a half litre of wine. A weinschorle (a spritzer) is usually a good option, Suß (sweet) with lemonade or sauer (sour) with sparkling water, although you may not get a choice.

Non drinkers

You can go to a beer festival and not drink beer, it’s not a big deal. Your non alcoholic options will generally be sparkling, so water, Apfelschorle, coke etc non sparkling options can be more limited.

Non alcoholic Weizen (wheat beer) is available more readily than it’s non wheaty non alcoholic rival, you will pay the same for this as you will for the alcoholic version but most brands taste just as good if not better in non alcoholic form, Maisels, Paulaner and Schneider are my personal favourites.

And to the lovely pregnant lady who emailed me concerned that she would look out of place, I’m sure you aren’t the only one who has worried about this. I’ve seen pregnant ladies dancing on tables before now and in my experience there are plenty of heaving busts on view anyway to provide a decent distraction and the atmosphere is generally friendly and relaxed, always have a buddy to help you down off that table, and that’s my advice to anyone at a beer fest it’s just more fun that way.

Also toilets (for pregnant ladies, parents, kids, everyone!) at festivals will usually set you back 50cents a go (kids usually go free), I don’t mind paying for a toilet that is clean, ever, and some beer festivals I’ve been to have had the cleanest toilets, much cleaner than some restaurants. As with every toilet ever, the ladies lines can be long, always go before you’re desperate.

Check out my Insiders guides to Bergkirchweih and Annafest for more event specific pointers.

Insiders guide to Walberlafest

24 Apr

On the first weekend in May the surprisingly positioned and oldest spring festival takes place in the Fränkische Schweiz, combining wonderful beer with some of the best views in the area. Walderlafest is something to be experienced. Walberla is one of the double peaked hills of the the Ehrenbürg (the other is called Rodenstein and whilst similarly lovely doesn’t have it’s own beer festival) which are located in Upper Franconia, about 10km from Forchheim.

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The site has some serious history behind it and there has been archaeological evidence of settlement as far back as the Bronze Age with celtic fortifications still visible today. The festival itself can be dated back to the 9th century and is celebrated yearly on the first weekend in May and it is now a pilgrimage made by both locals and tourists alike. You’ll be surprised with what you find on the top of the hill, I promise. Check out my pictures here.

How to get there

By train – Head for the small village of Kirchehrenbach, if you are travelling from Erlangen/Nürnberg you will most likely have to change trains in Forchheim, from other directions you may change in Ebermannstadt, both trains will take around 10 minutes. These trains generally only run once an hour so be prepared for crowded trains from Forchheim/Ebermannstadt if you are travelling later in the day or travel earlier to avoid the crowds.

By bike – Places to park a bike are easier to find than for a car, just do us all a favour and leave you bike at the bottom of the hill.

By car – There is no official parking for the event so go early to find a legal space. Kirchehrenbach is a small village and doesn’t have very much parking.

Important – However you travel to Walberlafest you can’t get away from the walk to the top (don’t worry that’s where they keep the beer). The walk itself is only about 3km some of it is quite steep (particularly the last 500 metres or so) and whilst most of the paths are in good condition, depending on the weather some parts can be a little rough (that last 500 metres or so again).

What to wear

The event is on a hill in the countryside, there is limited shelter so you are very much at the mercy of the elements, plan accordingly.

Take suncream and a waterproof, hey a coat doubles as something to sit on and it’s a long way down in the rain without one.

Sensible footwear, you can’t get out of the walk up there (it’s totally worth it) but to ensure your feet are happy wear some practical comfortable flats, you don’t have to have hiking boots, a decent pair of trainers or pumps will be just as good.

Whilst I’ve seen tracht at Walberlafest it’s not hugely popular, maybe a day to leave it at home.

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Useful to know

The location is a protected natural landscape, always keep to the marked trails and dogs must be kept on leads at all times.

Pfand still applies, even on the top of a hill, return your mug to get your Pfand (deposit) back

Take money, there is a Sparkasse in Kirchehrenbach but not on the hill (and it’s a long way down), get your cash before you set off.

As with most beer festivals it is family friendly but some of the ground can be uneven and rocky, plan accordingly.

Recommendations

Take a picnic, food is your regular festival stuff, lots of chips and sausages, take your own if you want something different.

Take a blanket to sit on, festival seating is limited so go prepared.

IMGP1624_2Try the Schwarze Anna from the Neder Brauerei, it’s a Schwarz beer (obviously) and looks like Guinness but tastes much much lighter, it’s one of my all time favourites.

If Schwarz beer isn’t your thing head on over to the Eichhorn Brauerei or the Brauerei Greif because they both do wonderful Hell beers, which also make delicious Radlers.

Take a bottle of water for the walk up, a lot of it is in direct sun and if it’s hot you’ll be glad of a drink half way up.

There are two paths up, a steeper incline and a gentler path, both merge near the top anyway but the gentler path is wider and more suitable for pushchairs and has better views for photographers. Both are marked and/or obvious.

The details

The fest begins with the raising of the May tree at 5pm Friday 1st May 2015 and the first barrel is tapped later at 6pm.

Officially the fest opening hours are 10am-11pm Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd May 2015.

There is a church service held at the chapel on Walberla 9am Sunday 3rd May 2015.

Whilst Kirchehrenbach is the closest station many people choose to park in nearby villages and walk the additional distance, the surrounding area is pretty flat so on a nice day that’s definitely an option, the choice is yours.

Have you heard of Walberla?

24 Apr

Walberla has the history, all of it. They’ve dug up Bronze Age artefacts there, the work of the Celts is still very visible and the May celebration (that we now call Walberlafest) dates back to the 9th century. Add to that the amazing natural beauty of the place, stunning views and the marvellous cardio workout you get making your way to the top and you should be able to understand why this place is one of my happy places.

Walberlafest has all that, and beer. Possibly my most happy of happy places. And since I’m not able to go this year I thought I’d share my photos with you, and maybe convince a few of you to go in my place. Walberla is easily spottable from the train station in Kirchehrenbach, follow everyone else and head for the hill.

When you actually get to the top it’s a little confusing. Oh it’s just a beer festival, like any other. There is beer and food, tents and seating, arcade games and gingerbread hearts, but then it all becomes clear when you see those views. There is actually a lot of space up there on the hill for everyone to enjoy the festivities.

I hope that you get chance to go and experience it for yourself, if you want the lowdown then check out my Insider’s guide. I’ll be there next year rain or shine!

Dates for your (Franconia) diary 2015

24 Apr

I have a static page of what’s coming up in the surrounding area and I’ve just realised that it hasn’t got ANY 2015 dates on and it’s already spring! Sincere apologies! To make up for it I’m giving you my personal rundown of the highlights of the outdoor season.

Blaue Nacht – 2nd May 2015

– The night when Nürnberg turns blue and celebrates art and culture. It really has to be experienced and a lot can be enjoyed without having to buy a ticket.

Walberlafest – May 3rd-4th 2015

– Combining exercise and alcohol since, well, it’s roots can be dated back to pagan times. One of my absolute favourite days out, check out my Insiders guide.

20140426-144632.jpgSchlossgartenkonzerte, Erlangen 10th May – 2nd August 2015

– FREE concerts on selected Sunday mornings in the Schlossgarten (Castle garden) Erlangen. The programme has not yet been released, look out for details here soon.

Sternen Nacht, Erlangen – 15th May 2015

– Shopping under the stars (until 11pm anyway) and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying to do any shopping, it gets pretty packed, most shops and restaurants have special discounts and offers for one night only.

Bergkirchweih – May 21st – June 1st 2015

– The local bierfest on your doorstep. An experience that you won’t forget, get that tracht on and get out with your family and friends to enjoy the bier, food and atmosphere.

IMGP5076Berggraben, Nürnberg – June 3rd-7th 2015

A bierfest held in a castle moat, I mean how many times do  you get the opportunity to say you’ve done that? Besides it being held in the moat it also has fab biers and food.

Zollhausfest, Erlangen – 26th-28th June 2015

– So local if you don’t live around this area of Erlangen you might not know that it is even on. Local foods, beers and roads stopped to traffic

Sommerkirchweih Herzogenaurach – 3rd-12th July 2015

– 10 days of celebrations at the festival ground. A lovely local festival, if you work in the area you might even score some biertickets for free biers! The town website has specifics like when the first keg is cracked, when family day is and the musical lineup.

Annafest – 24th July – 3rd August 2015

– Held in Forchheims’ Kellerwald (where the kellers are open now and will be until September time) Annafest is a bierfest with plenty of choices, food, bier, atmosphere, there really is something for everyone.

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Klassik Open Air, Nürnberg – 26th July 2015

– Free concerts performed by the city Philharmonic orchestra. At 11am a family friendly concert and at 8pm a different programme (of course children are welcome to stay for the evening too). Bring your picnic and get there early to stake a claim on a good plot.

Klassik Open Air, Nürnberg – 8th August 2015

– Free evening concert performed by the city Symphony orchestra. 8pm start but arrive early to get a good plot and enjoy the sunshine, stay for the fireworks!

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Marktplatzfest Erlangen – 22nd-23rd August 2015

– A traditional fest that sees the whole square taken up by market stalls, food and drinks and local bands keeping everyone entertained, it’s a great place to meet and while away a few hours.

Look out for some more updates soon!

Easter time

3 Apr

Wondering what to do over the Easter break? My absolute favourite Easter pastime is heading up to the Fränkische Schweiz and checking out Osterbrunnen or Easter fountains. In addition to eating chocolate bunnies that is!

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I wrote an Easter post this time last year with some suggestions about what to expect and look out for, here.

And if that wasn’t enough encouragement for you to get out there and find an Osterbrunnen I just posted some pictures from last year and more tips on where to go, here.

Enjoy the long weekend and let me know if you get to see an Osterbrunnen or three!

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