The world’s biggest wine fest, the Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt, starts today. For the 595th time, Bad Dürkheim along the German Wine Street will host this traditional fest and lure about 600,000 visitors from all over the world.
About 300 vendors and ride owners will be available in an amusement park setup on the 500-square-foot festival grounds, next to the “Dürkheimer Fass,” the world’s biggest wine barrel. This barrel actually houses a restaurant and if it was used as a barrel, it could hold 1.7 million liters of wine.
The annual wine fest will be celebrated in two parts: from today through Tuesday, and from Sept. 16 to 19.
The Wurstmarkt, meaning sausage fair, is almost 600 years old. It received its name from the festival goers of the 19th century who ate enormous amounts of sausage during the event.
However, the main attractions of the fest are the 36 little wine tents called “Schubkärchler,” or wheelbarrows. The tents are named Schubkärchler because vintners rolled wine barrels on wheelbarrows up to “Monte Sancti Michaeli,” Michelsberg hill, to quench pilgrims’ thirst in the 15th century.
Each year at the end of September on Michael’s Day, pilgrims visited the little chapel on top of the hill. During the ascent, vendors sold their goods. Then, church dignitaries no longer accepted this kind of pilgrimage. Market activities were relocated to the bottom of Michelsberg, and the “sausage fair” was born.
In 1910, city officials decided to celebrate the fest earlier in September and no longer on Michaels’ Day 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. The fest is now nine days long, and has been so since 1985.
The historical wine tents (Schubkärchler) will open at 10 a.m. and the rides at noon each day.
Rides will include merry-go-rounds, auto scooters, a giant Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and fast rides such as Taiga-Jet, Top Scan, Take Off and Hot Shot. There will be food and candy booths, fest tents with live bands, and a wine village with wine tents.
The Wurstmarkt will begin at 5 p.m. today with a concert in front of the Kurhaus (official spa building). At 5:30 p.m., a parade with musicians, vintners and officials will lead from the Kurhaus to the festival grounds, where the Wurstmarkt will officially be opened at 6.
The event’s first fireworks display, called “Colored Fire Dance,” will be lit by the current world champion of pyrotechnicians at 9 p.m. Tuesday, and the second one under the motto “Dreams on Fire” will close out the fest at 9 p.m. Sept. 19.
The German railroad company, Deutsche Bahn, offer rides from Kaiserslautern to Bad Dürkheim about every 30 minutes until 6 p.m. Then, trains travel every hour. Passenger must change trains in Neustadt. Festival goers can travel by train from Bad Dürkheim to Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl every 30 minutes until 1:38 a.m.
Festival goers who take the 1:38 a.m. train on the evening between Saturday and Sunday must board a bus parked in front of the train station to return to Kaiserslautern. The rails will be closed during this time for repairs.
DB offers the VRN Ticket 24 for individual travelers for €14 or the Ticket 24+ for two to five passengers for €20. Just click “Wurstmarktticket” on the touch screen ticket machines at train stations.
For details on train times, visit www.vrn.de or www.der-takt.de, or get the train schedule at the Window to Rheinland-Pfalz counter in the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center.
For more information on the Wurstmarkt, visit www.duerkheimer-wurstmarkt.de.