Fruehlingsanfang, the beginning of Spring in Germany, evenings are lighter, days warmer, if only by a few degrees, and travelling by road, rail or river through Germany can be a ‘Aha-Erlebnis’, a wonderful experience.
Wild flowers cover meadows and skirt bases of still snow capped mountains, pink and white almond, cherry and apple blossoms line the historic German road, river and canal scenic routes with their castles, palaces, half timbered buildings, old fashioned windmills and medieval towns.
Spring in Germany: seats and tables appear outside cafe’s, bistros and ice cream parlours, and the traditional beer gardens begin to open, although it is advisable not to give up wearing those layers. Nevertheless regardless of any cold breezes, or spring showers, the warm weather culture has now officially considered to have begun, and ‘spring tiredness’, Fruehjahrsmuedigkeit, is banned.
Celebrating springs means there will be a festival or event in almost every town, offering everything from music to cheese and wine, in addition to Easter traditions, the dressing of ancient wells and fountains with colored eggs and evergreens, and Ostermaerkte, Easter Markets, with their handcrafts and seasonal foods which take place throughout the country.
One trend has spread throughout Germany’s cities and towns and begins each spring, continuing until autumn, Long Night’s, when for a cut rate fee including transportation, culture in one or all of its forms is on offer for a whole evening, until the early hours of next morning, and the streets throng with people taking advantage of the opportunity as well enjoying the sense of occasion.
For a ‘Long Night of Museums’, museums, galleries and cultural institutes covering everything from more conventional themes, like a Long Night of Sciences when teaching and research facilities are open, to traditional wood carving and the care of a forest’s wildlife, and ‘beekeeper’s open nights’ which are fascinating even for someone with no intention of keeping bees.
Berlin holds an annual spring ‘Night of Theatres and Operas’ in April, with back to back 30 minute productions on sixty stages, and in May a ‘Long Night of the Families’, where 101 activities include treasure hunts, torch lit tours, robber’s feasts and an invitation to the world of chocolate.
Bavaria’s capital Munich offers a live and diverse ‘Long Night of Music’, on over one hundred stages ranging from concerts halls and city bars to ballet schools and museums.
Hamburg also has an April Long Night of Museums, where amongst others the Beatlemania centre, a Children’s ‘hands on’ Museum, and an Astronomical Observatory are open, but for three days in May the harbour is the background to a Water Spectacle, the The Hamburg Port Festival. The three and half kilometer promenade becomes a huge fairground, with music, food, shows and museum exhibitions, while simultaneously there is non-stop activity on land, water and in the air.
For the largest port festival in the world this includes a Tug Boat Ballet, with eight tugboats, normally used to guide large ships into harbor, performing choreographed movements to waltzes and other dance music, as well as parades of some of the world’s most beautiful and historic sailing ships, frigates, steam boats and cruise ships from all over the world. In the evening extravagant late night waterside firework displays silhouette everything anchored in and around Hamburg’s harbour.
Another spectacular firework show begins in May, on the River Rhine, just south of former capital Bonn, the annual ‘Rhine in Flames’ festival. A pyrotechnics show, boat and street ‘party’ which continues to travel down the river during the summer and early autumn months.
The spring opening display is known as the ‘Night of the Bengal Lights’ and more than 2000 Bengal lights are used to lead the way for the 60 ships, festooned with coloured lights and filled with spectators, which sail by historic illuminated castles and medieval towns, each with their own individual firework displays and celebrations.
Medieval Heidelberg with its famous castle ruins and beautiful gardens holds an International Music Festival, Heidelberger Fruehling, which lasts for a month not just one night, filled with world renown orchestras and international soloists.
Stuttgart in Baden-Wuerttenberg is the centre of both Europe’s leading high-tech region and a wine growing area but during April and May it also becomes the middle point of end of the winter festivities, the largest, and most popular, Spring Festival in Europe, the Stuttgarter Fruehlingsfest. For three weeks it is an eleven acre fairground where one and a half million guests from far and wide come to celebrate the arrival of Fruehling, Spring.
Still partly in Baden Wuerttenberg is Lake Constance, which shares its shoreline not only with that State but also Bavaria as well as parts of Austria and Switzerland, and one of the islands on the lake is Mainau, close to Baden Wuerttenberg’s city of Konstanz.
Called the Flowering island it consists entirely of beautiful flower filled parks, gardens and pergolas, with waterfalls, sculptures,fountains and a historic castle. In springtime the scent and colors of millions of spring flowers, starting with snowdrops followed by crocus, narcissi, tulips, hyacinths and ending with peonies, together with thousands of different multicolored butterflies, all against a backdrop of the lake’s clear blue waters and snow covered peaks of the Alps, are a glorious experience for the sight and the senses.
Germany has its lively cities with their wonderful architecture, shopping and nightlife, the country is dotted with fairy tale castles, romantic palaces, abbeys, medieval villages and stunning countryside, but tourism in Germany is constantly increasing, and it is thanks to the German people who hold dear and keep to their traditional seasonal festivals, events and traditions. Inventing new ones when they feel like it and all of them something for we as visitors to also enjoy.
Fruehjahrsmuedigkeit? No chance of that during a Spring in Germany.
Top photo © Ela Brun