Germany’s biggest wine fest starts today

Petra Lessoing
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The 588th “Wurstmarkt,” the world’s biggest wine fest, takes place today through Tuesday and Sept. 17 to 20 in Bad Dürkheim on the German Wine Street. Each year, on the second and third weekend in September, the Wurstmarkt lures more than 600,000 visitors from throughout Germany and Europe.

The Wurstmarkt, meaning sausage fair, is more than 500 years old. The main attractions of the wine fest are little wine tents called “Schubkärchler,” wheelbarrows. These tents received their name from vintners who, in the 15th century, rolled wine barrels on wheelbarrows up to Michelsberg hill to quench pilgrims’ thirst.
Each year at the end of September on Michael’s day, pilgrims visited the little chapel on top of the hill, which resulted in market activities with many vendors selling their goods on the hill and along the streets leading up to the chapel.

After church dignitaries did not accept this type of pilgrimage anymore, market activities were relocated to the bottom of Michelsberg. The “sausage fair” was born. It received its name from the fact that early fest goers ate enormous amounts of sausage during the event.

In the year 1910, city officials decided to celebrate the fest earlier in September and not on Michaels’ day anymore, because of better weather.

In 1926, the Wurstmarkt got extended by a day, in 1951 by seven, and finally in 1965, the fest was extended by eight days.

Today the Wurstmarkt also features a big amusement park with a giant ferris wheel, the highest and fastest free-fall tower and many other rides, food and candy booths, two wine halls, a beer hall, a wine village with wine tents and a vintners’ garden.

The fest officially starts at 5:30 p.m. today with an opening parade leading from the Kurhaus to the festival grounds.

The festival grounds are located near the “Dürkheimer Fass,” the biggest wine barrel in the world which houses a restaurant. It could hold 1,7 million liters of wine.

The “Schubkärchler” will open at 10 a.m. each day and vintners expect visitors to consume more than 300,000 liters of wine during the nine days of celebration.

***image2***The Wurstmarkt is celebrated in two parts. The first part is today through Tuesday and the second part is from Sept. 17 through Sept. 20. There will be two fireworks displays, an Italian one at 9 p.m. Tuesday and a Japanese one at 9 p.m. Sept. 22.

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