Germany is full of history, culture, fun, arts, sports, excitement and thrill. Their festivals are stunning and spectacular. They love to have fun and celebrate. People from all over the world visit the country to take part all those colorful and fun-filled events.
Oktoberfest, Munich (September 21 – October 6)
In Munich, Germany, the largest folk festival held for 16 to 18 days is named Oktoberfest. Normally, it starts from mid or late September and ends in first weekend of October. The weather is very beautiful and pleasant at this time. Around six million people come to attend the event. In Bavarian culture, this festival is an important part. Oktoberfest beer is an integral part of the event. Almost 7.7 million liters are consumed during the festival. There are side stalls, games, amusement rides, traditional local foods and the most important beer booth to enjoy. From history, it is known that the festival was arranged since 1810. Now other cities, inspired by Munich, also arrange such events. On 12th October, 1810, King Ludwig got married to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The whole Munich city was invited to enjoy the festival for five days. The arrangements were on the fields in front of the city gates. To show honor to the Crown princess, the fields were named as ‘Theresienwiese’. The name has been modified as ‘Wisen’ now. The festival is still held on that field. Horses were arranged on 18th October to honor the couple. From that incident on, every year, horse races were arranged and other numerous attractions were arranged and named as Oktoberfest. Tree climbing, swings and bowling alleys were there in addition. For promoting Bavarian agriculture a show was added since 1811. In 1813 due to Napoleonic Wars, the festival could not be held. Carnival booths were added from 1818. Jewelry, silver and porcelain were given as prizes. From 1819 it was announced as an annual festival. The horse race discontinued after 1960. A parade was held to show honor to the marriage in 1810, for the first time. Till now, the tradition is followed by eight thousand Bavarian wearing traditional costumes, floats and carriages. It starts from Maximillian Streets and ends in Oktoberfest grounds. A sculpture named as Statue of Bavaria was built in 1850. The festival was cancelled many times because of wars and diseases. Finally, from 1950 the festival is celebrated. One special attraction is arranged here, especially for the children, it’s the flea circus. You can taste ‘Wiesn-Hendl’ a traditional Oktoberfest meal from the stall. This place is a heaven for beer lovers. You will get two pints of local delicious beer for 12 euro. You may find cheap beer in the small tents. The beer comes from local brewers. There is no entry fee for this event. Only the ‘Oide Wiesn’ on the south side has an entry fee which costs 3 euro. The place was built in 2010 to celebrate the 200-year Oktoberfest anniversary. Children’s entry is free. Currently there are 14 large tents and 20 small tents on the festival grounds. These are made from temporary wooden structures. Beer and wine are served here. You can find few local snacks as well. Chicken, grilled sausage and giant pretzels are there to fill up your stomach. You can enjoy Bavarian music and their folk dances. You don’t need to pay anything to enter the tents. Try to keep change while visiting the event. This will be helpful while giving tips to the waiter. Volunteers and security personnel are there for safety purpose. If you have a tight budget you may choose to camp. There are also some cheap hotels in the city. But try to confirm your accommodation as early as possible. You can come to the venue from the city by local transports. You can also come from different cities.
Berlin International Film Festival/ Berlinale (February 7 – February 17)
The Berlin Film Festival or Berlinale is one of the biggest film festivals in Europe and also in the whole world. It is held annually for two weeks in the month of February in Berlin, Germany. It was founded in 1951 in West Berlin. Dr. Alfred Bauer was the first director of this festival. The famous movie Rebecca by Alfred Hitchcock was shown in the opening of the first festival. That time the festival was held in the month of June. In 1976, film journalist Wolf Donner became the second director and he changed the festival time and shifted it to February. From that time the event is held in February. There are seven different film sections in this festival. The categories are Competition, Panorama, Forum, Generation, Perspektive Deutsches Kino, Berlinale Shorts and Retrospective. There is a committee of film experts and section director for each section to choose the films. There are also other links and series such as Berlinale Special, Gala Special, Forum 5, the Homage and Culinary Cinema. In the festival the Golden Bear is the highest and most prestigious award for the best film. Silver Bear is given as the second place after the Golden Bear. It is known as the Jury Grand Prix. There are also few other awards given for different sections. It has become a professional trade event. The exhibitions are arranged for showing current projects for the companies. More than 1000 screening of new films are shown in different theatre. It is a place to build network for producing and financing. Many international co-production companies attend the event. From 2003, Berlinale Talents is arranged at the same time with the festival. This is a winter school for new film makers where 250 applicants are accepted by the Talent Campus. It is organized for three days where many well-known professionals from the film making industry come to share knowledge. Workshops, personal tutoring, coaching and training are there as well. It is a great opportunity for those who want to build a career in the film industry. To attend a movie screening you have to purchase tickets online. Normally a ticket costs 7-11 euro. But on the last day you can watch any film for only 6 euro. This is a chance to enjoy different types of films, coming from countries all over the world, with different making. You can also meet the cast and crew of the films or watch your favorite stars from a distance.
The Cologne Carnival is the biggest carnival held every year in Cologne, Germany, and very famous everywhere. It is telecasted in National TV as well. In ancient times the German used to celebrate the winter to drive away the evil demons. Just before the Lent fasting, people used to celebrate grandly. In 18th century the street carnival was expanded more with parades, fancy and masked dress balls and other activities. Cities like Bonn, Dusseldorf, Aachen and Mainz are also popular for the celebration. Each year 11th November at 11:11 am is the magical time when the carnival season is started. On that day The Council of Eleven starts the carnival planning. A huge stage show is arranged for the grand opening on the Alter Markt in the Old Town. All the popular carnival bands are there to perform. You must have a ticket to enter. Then there is a little gap for Christmas. After New Year’s celebration the carnival starts in full swing. There are many sections for the festival. The Women’s Carnival Day, Ghost parade, Rose Monday and Ash Wednesday are the main attractions. Main celebration starts 40 days before the Easter. Every year three persons are titled as maiden, prince and peasant. The carnival prince, who leads the main parade has the highest position. There are parades, balls and stage shows which are arranged by the Carnival Committee. The first big event is Women’s Carnival Day held on Shrove Thursday. Every woman dresses up at their best. Everyone arrives in Alter Markt at 10 am. The maiden, prince and peasant arrive shortly after that and at 11.00 am the event starts. On Friday, the parties are going on and on till one is out of energy. Saturday is for the Ghost Parade almost similar to Halloween. Sunday is for the different schools and city groups to parade in colorful costumes and to enjoy themselves. Rose Monday is a day when a procession with 74 decorated floats, 67 tractors and 50 Ford Trucks gather to finish the 6km long track for 3 hours. Candy, flowers and toys are thrown to the watchers from the parade. Tuesday is to go crazy for the last time before Lent starts. They also burn a life- size straw doll called nubbel. On Ash Wednesday fish dinners are served everywhere.
If you are interested in visiting Germany, after reading about all the festivities this country has to offer, you should check out this German website from Backpackertrail, which will give you more information on what to expect when you travel to Germany and gives you a lot of tips and tricks for your trip!
List of other major festivals
- January –Epiphany, New Year’s Day
- February – Berlin International Film Festival, Karneval
- March – Leipzig Book Fair, Easter
- April – Munich Ballet Week, Walpurgis
- May – International Africa Festival, Rhein in Flammen, Hafengeburtstag, Wurstmarkt
- June – Kieler Woche, Munich Opera Festival
- July – Richard Wagner Festival
- August – Long Night of the Museum
- September–Oktoberfest, Festival-Mediaval, Beethovanfest
- October – Frankfrut Book Fair, Oktoberfest, Unity Day
- November – St. Martin’s Day, Cologne Carnival
- December – Christmas Markets