I am smack dab in the middle of my Best of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France tour. I picked up a group of just four folks a few days ago in Munich and we’ve had a blast getting to know each other and experiencing Germany and Austria. It being the beginning of spring, we’ve run in to several celebrations dedicated to digging out of the gloomy winter and leaping into spring.
In Munich, the massive outdoor Octoberfest site was booming with the Frühlingfest. This, a yearly spring celebration seemed very much like our state or county fairs at home with the addition of lots of lederhosen, dirndls, beer, and sausage. As the opening ceremonies began I enjoyed marching bands, horse-drawn beer wagons, and fifty or more ancient pistols being fired into the air in celebration of spring.
While in Salzburg fellow tour members stumbled upon a celebration of the Lord Mayor’s birthday in the Mirabell Gardens complete with fanfare, song, toasting, and celebration. The Augustiner Bräustübe had just switched over to its standard brew, changing from the special Lenten Bier it had served from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
Driving through Bavaria and the Austria Tirol we encountered lush green fields covered with beautiful wildflowers. Each little village seemed to be trying to outdo the next with its freshly painted and über-Bavaria blue and white maypoles. Even the livestock seem to be extra happy to be out of the barns and into the fields. At times we would encounter field after field of vivid bright yellow rapeseed in full bloom adding to the contrast of the countryside.
On the morning of May 1st, I watched a crew put up a huge tent and install the 90- foot Maypole topped with a tree and dripping with hanging pretzels. Throughout the morning, locals would drop by to check on the progress, looking up and giving the guy hanging from the Maypole advice and encouragement. Young ladies, clad in traditional dirndls, arrived to set up the tent as a makeshift beer hall while local volunteers laid down wooden walkways and carried all sorts of “potluck” food into the tent. I was sure the celebration would be grand and sort of sorry I was going to miss it.
Later we arrived in Vaduz, the capital of the Principality of Liechtenstein. Popping out from the underground parking garage it appeared the city was deserted. As I walked toward the main square it became evident that most of the locals were settling in here under a huge tent. The Liechtenstein fire department had all their trucks and equipment out on display. Some of the firemen were in their “dress blues” while others were manning the hot grills loaded with sausages and bratwurst serving lunch to hundreds of people. There was a pair of strolling troubadours, with an accordion and guitar, willing to serenade a table for just a small donation to help the fire department. Nearby, kids were jumping in the bounce house, playing firemen games with water, climbing all over the fire trucks, and getting a ride in the 60-foot “cherrypicker” bucket on the hook-and-ladder truck.
We are in the heart of Switzerland today. The Lauterbrunnen Valley is my favorite alpine spot in all of Europe. I don’t know what today will bring, but I am sure it will be filled with fresh wildflowers in high alpine meadows, snow-capped glaciers, and the gently clanging of bells as the cows are moved from the winter barns to the spring meadows. Everyday is an adventure on an Exploring Europe tour and stumbling upon local celebrations makes travel even more authentic. Why not consider joining one of my tours in the coming months.