First holidays in a new home are difficult. Sometimes you need to adjust your traditions to fit a new circumstance. Sometimes change seems the most consistent thing about our holidays. While this was our fourth German Easter, it was our first in Bavaria. We weren’t sure exactly how to celebrate. It was a good time to try out a new Easter tradition. When I read about the Nürnberg Frühlingsfest over at Erlangen Expat’s blog, it seemed like the perfect way to spend our Easter Sunday. My family is always up for a fest, and it was an opportunity to break out our Dirndl and Lederhosen. We’ll take any excuse to get our Trachten (traditional costumes) on.
German Festivals come in all sizes, and the large German festivals are like fairs in the US, if you eliminate everything but the midway. They are all about the rides, the games, and the foods. What better way is there to spend a holiday far from home? We really couldn’t think of any, so as soon as the kids had their fill of Easter Haribo candies (the company that makes gummy bears, or in this case gummy rabbits), we were off.
The festival opens at 10:30 on weekends and holidays, it was nearing 11:00 when we arrived, and the park was still relatively empty. There was plenty of cheap parking by the Große Straße entrance, we paid three Euros to park for the day. Like most German fests, and unlike the American Fair, there is no entrance fee to the festival itself.
The festplatz skyline is dominated by two structures, the Congress Hall, and the Ferris wheel. These are the first things that you would probably notice, unless you first notice that you are the only family wearing your Dirndl and Lederhosen, which we were. This then becomes your sole focus as you realize you’re a bit overdressed, and search in vain for a way to make yourself slightly less conspicuous. Apparently nothing screams AMERICAN more than being the only people, other than the wait staff in the Biergartens, wearing Trachten. What all of the Germans were sporting this fine Easter Sunday was red and black team paraphernalia for FCN (Fussball Club Nürnberg). At least none of us were wearing anything supporting FC Bayern.
It was my first visit to this part of the city, so I was curious about the history of the Festplatz. The Congress Hall was built by the National Socialists on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. According to the website, it was built to accommodate 50,000 spectators. It dominates the skyline and creates a surreal backdrop to the fest. Today, the Congress Hall is home to the Dokucentrum (Documentation Center), a museum housing a permanent exhibit, Fascination and Terror, which examines the history of the Nazi party and its links to Nürnberg. An interesting visit for another day. You can find out more here.
With the fest before us, and two children anxious to try everything at once, this wasn’t a day for history lessons. Today, we were more focused on the second large structure, the Ferris wheel. As it was the first thing we saw when we parked, we decided to make it our first stop. The giant slide created a minor detour, but we soon made it to the Ferris wheel. Twenty Euros bought us a family ticket, there was a short wait, and then we were off. Some of the carriages had fully enclosed doors, ours did not. The wind whipping through the carriage would have been refreshing on a hot day, unfortunately it wasn’t a hot day. Of course our Dirndl and Lederhosen look much cuter without jackets, so we weren’t wearing any. We were also the only people who seemed to think it was at least 20 degrees warmer than it was!
The kids were excited about the rides, but for me, the food is what makes the event. I still dream about the tamales I ate at a fair in Pueblo, Colorado. The food choices at the Frühlingsfest are endless. Everywhere you turn, there is another scent fighting for recognition, it is an aromatic smorgasbord. Alas, there are no tamales, but you will find several Biergartens, and vendors selling everything from sweet corn to crepes, gebrent mandeln (coated almonds), lebkuchen (gingerbread) hearts and giant pretzels, fish sandwiches, wursts and more. We ate at the first Biergarten we came across, Liebermann’s Biergarten, mainly due to its proximity to the Ferris wheel. The kids had a plate of Nürnberg wursts, the finger sized sausages special to the area, and French fries. I had the homemade potato soup, it was very good, but a little heavy on the celery. My husband had the giant radish, which came with a pretzel and the half a chicken. The food was decent, the service was excellent and the atmosphere was festive.
It didn’t take long for us to forget about our manner of dress. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful Bavarian Sunday, and we were too busy taking in all of the sights, sounds and smells to give it a second thought. My husband and son even managed to win a couple of little trinkets at one of the shooting games. It may not have been a traditional Easter Sunday, but it will be one of our most memorable. That is until next year, when we head back to the Frühlingsfest.
These were our favorites from the day:
The giant pickle from Heine’s Gherkins was a winner for me. I got the Knoblauch Gherkin (garlic pickle), and it was amazing. They had several other varieties, including dill and curry if garlic isn’t your thing.
For the kids the rides made the day. They didn’t agree on a favorite ride this time. The boy liked the giant slide, and the girl liked the Ferris wheel.
My husband liked the giant radish.
The Nürnberg Frühlingsfest runs from Easter weekend through 11 May. You can find more information on the folksfest on their website.