It’s an untranslatable German word for the state of warmth, friendliness and good cheer. And that’s exactly what you get when visiting the many regions of Germany – from Bavaria to the Rhine, the Black Forest (schwartzwald) or the northern seaside, a German welcome is always present.
I have to confess, I went to high school as a military brat in Wiesbaden in what was then, West Germany. For starters, we all fall back on our formative high school years and, thanks to the internet, many of us who were disconnected for a while, have managed to reconnect and stay in touch in a peculiarly brat manner. So, I have a real sense of coming home when I am in the country. My vocabulary stumbles when challenged outside the borders but quickly pulls right to the frontal lobes when needed.
For the many who haven’t visited, frankly, you should. Blah, blah, blah all the tourist stuff – google it. What they rarely convey is the true sense of gemutlichkeit – the communal mood in every gasthaus and festival, pedestrian street and train station. Don’t get me wrong, you still have rude people who won’t help a tourist or cheap beer and questionable brats at a roadside stand just like in any other country.
Go for a festival, find a gathering of any type. Intentionally ask (we’d be happy to advise) folks who live there what their favorite restaurant is to visit. Germans are friendly. They love to showcase their hometowns and share their good times.
Here’s a shortlist of suggestions you should consider. There’s no lack of possibilities all year round and I’ll be writing about the Christmas markets soon.
Volksmarches – everywhere and every weekend the Germans are enjoying nature with family walks including organized ones for the people, hence the term volks (folks) march (walks). And you don’t need a pair of lederhosen or a feathered hat to participate!
Wine festivals – especially up and down the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Oh my goodness, many, many fond memories of small towns in the wine regions that celebrate their harvest with music and laughter and great local foods.
Kristkindle and Weihnachtsmarkts – that’s Christ Child and Christmas markets. From late November until Christmas Eve you can find every hamlet, large and small, hosts some version of these joyous markets.
Biergartens – yep, from the crazy huge one in Munich to every town in the country, the harvest is celebrated with beer. You might want to google the chicken dance in advance cause the good cheer will have you participating sooner or later.
Seasonal Celebrations – a favorite is Schwetzingen’s asparagus market (spargelmarkt) where you can sample a million ways to eat asparagus, especially the regionally unique white asparagus which is thicker, shorter and sweeter than the standard. You don’t even know what asparagus tastes like until you try it in Germany.
Another is Fasching – especially the world-famous Mainz parades celebrating the beginning of lent. They are comparable to New Orleans Mardi Gras and often include Fasching balls for the weekend leading up to the parade Tuesday. Cologne is right in there as well with the giant parade in the square in front of the massive medieval cathedral.
Hamburg hosts a bar festival, Berlin a sports extravaganza. Heidelberg’s Walpurgisnacht – historic burning of the demons – is an evening spectacular as are the summertime castle illuminations.
Medieval castles to beach resorts – they ALL have festivals for most of the year. Fireworks, concerts, fairs and plenty of schnitzel and beer or wurst and wine, you will definitely understand gemutlichkeit by the time you’ve spent an hour or two away from the tourist sites.
Willkommen! Stay tuned for much more about the Christmas markets.
By all means, contact us for tips and details if you’re planning a trip to the region. We’re always happy to share our travel knowledge. www.facebook.com/SueHendersonPhotography/