Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Annafest in true Bavarian style

If there is one thing that Germans do well, it's celebrating heritage through folk festivals. (Ok, Germans do many things well, but this one probably one of our favorites.) All throughout the year there are festivals giving towns and villages a reason to break out the beer, or wine, don their traditional costumes, and drink beer and eat the best food of the region. Annafest is no exception; however, it is easily one of the more awesome fests we have been to.

Annafest is held in Forchheim, which sits just slightly south of us. This Franconian folk fest is celebrated every year at the end of July (around St. Anna's day) and usually lasts about a week. What is special about this fest is that it occurs in a place called the Kellerwald ("cellar woods"). In Franconia (and possibly other parts of Germany, as well), they often store their beer in cellars dug into the hills throughout the region. The Kellerwald is literally a forest with a trail that leads to many different kellers where beer is stored underground to keep it cool. They nearly always put a "beer garden" on top of the Keller, so that everyone can enjoy the beer straight from the source. In fact, if you ever visit this part of Bavaria, you will rarely ever here the locals refer to a "bier garten" but instead will hear and see Keller everywhere.

The Annafest has its roots starting back to the early 1500's when folks would make a pilgrimage to the Church of St. Anna in Forchheim. During these pilgrimages, they would use the Kellerwald to take a much needed break. The tradition grew into a festival a few hundred years later. Now it attracts about half a million people every year. After experiencing this unique folk fest, I can completely understand why so many people flock to Forchheim at the end of July.

Big R decided we needed to hit this festival in true Bavarian style. Much to my surprise, we were both able to find traditional costumes that we liked at the first store we tried, and for a pretty decent deal (traditional dress can get very expensive, so we were happy we found what we wanted and could purchase them without breaking the bank). We had found lederhosen for little r while we were in Austria, so he was set.

The Germans tend to be pretty good with logistics, especially when a large event is underway. This festival was up in the woods, so it wasn't your typical hop on a train to the Allstadt that we were accustomed to. Instead, we took the Autobahn and parked at a Park & Ride where a bus came every half hour to take us to the fest. Before we knew it we were in the middle of festival heaven.

Aside from the liter-only beers (no joke, you could not purchase much of ANYTHING, especially beer, in a smaller size) and traditional Bavarian food...

...and the fun rides that you always find at these festivals...

Yes, little r went on his first roller coaster AND did it with his hands up in the air!
...the festival was really, really neat because it was set inside the woods. Instead of your typical folk fest that is laid out in a city center or in a field, this one climbed the trails up into the hills amongst the trees. It was really freaking cool. (I think the vendors probably hate this fest though because getting all the booths set up along those narrow trail roads and nestled onto the hills must be a real bear.)

Big R and little r climbing steps to another level of the fest
Isn't this neat?
The festival wound its way up a narrow logging road and passed what seemed like at least a dozen Kellers along the way (I'm probably exaggerating, but there were many!). At the top or end of the fest, there was a wider road and easily half a dozen, if not more, Kellers neighboring each other. It was an attraction all unto itself!

Although little r did great for the entire experience, it was far past his bedtime, and the weather hadn't been that great for our excursion. So, we sadly headed back down the hill toward the bus knowing that the party at the top of the hill was likely just getting started. It was too much fun to end that way though, so mid-week Big R convinced several other friends to join him after work. I lived vicariously through him on this one, but I was maybe just a tad bit jealous I couldn't join him.

The nightlife at Annfest took things up several notches, and fun was had by all...

The ferris wheel all lit up
The rides and most of the vendors were at the base of the hill - clearly
Music was playing at every Keller even during the day
Gotta love those 1-liter beers!
So beautiful at night with all the lights
Big R and his friends found a friendly Keller and quickly made new friends. They had so much fun that his friends missed the last train home and crashed on our couch. Now that's a true sign of a good time, right?

The Annafest will definitely be on our list of festivals to see if we are still here in July next year. What an amazing time!

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