8 tips for fun at the Wurstmarkt wine fest
My favorite annual event, the Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt, opening Sept. 8. In its 600th year, the “sausage market” is the world’s largest wine fest, held in the spa town of Bad Dürkheim on the German Wine Route (Deutsches Weinstrasse).
After seven autumns in Germany, I still count the days down to this harvest celebration, which conveniently takes place around the same time as my birthday. This year’s Wurstmarkt is Sept. 8-12 and 15-18.
To ensure you love this fest as much as I do, bring plenty of euros, print the fest flyer and remember these tips:
1. Take the train, stay overnight, or find a designated driver. The point of attending this fest is to drink the region’s famous wines. More than 300 varieties are available, poured in the traditional Pfälzisch Dubbeglas — every serving is a pint of wine!
It takes 1.5 hours by train or 50 minutes by car to reach the Wurstmarkt from Kaiserslautern. We usually take the train for the afternoon, which is plenty of time for rides, food and beverages.
2. Go straight to the Wine Village. The Weindorf sets the Wurstmarkt apart from the hundreds of beer and wine celebrations in Germany. This area is less crowded, with a laid-back, quieter atmosphere. Twelve small wine tents provide cover from rain and sun, with small fest tables for groups and families. Most wineries have staff providing table service. There is no need to hold on to a table all day for a couple of people, but large groups should claim spots and take turns wandering off for food, games and rides.
3. Choose a Weinschorle. It’s a spritzer of sparkling water and wine. Stay hydrated and pace yourself by sticking to these.
4. Enjoy rides before you eat. There are some crazy theme-park-worthy attractions for fellow daredevils. I’ve done the reverse bungee jump only once because it is terrifying … I mean, awesome! It is a giant slingshot, and you’re inside the ball being flung toward the sky. I didn’t see the Transformer on this year’s docket, but it involves being spun upside down several stories above the ground. And the King is a pendulum that swings and spins simultaneously. Have just one glass of wine and strap in before you eat, or you’ll regret it afterward.
5. Dine at the gourmet tents. It’s easy to get distracted by the creperies, candy vendors and sizzling bratwursts. However, the best food is at the fine dining tents in the Wine Village, where local chefs prepare restaurant-quality dishes in tiny makeshift kitchens. Watch the bustle of culinary magic as you wait for your grilled shrimp skewers and salad, mason jar tiramisu, dessert platter with two chocolate mousses and crème brûlée, rumpsteak in mushroom sauce, pumpkin cream soup … you get the picture.
Note that menu prices do not include the deposit (pfand) that you must pay for using real cutlery and china. You will receive this deposit back (a couple of euros) when you return the dishes, so make sure you bus your table.
6. Get a photo in front of the Dürkheimer Riesenfaß. Built in the 1930s as a tribute to the area’s vineyards, this wine barrel is one of the largest in the world. It could hold 1.7 million liters of delicious wine but houses a unique restaurant instead.
7. Arrive and depart early. No matter how you’re getting there, arrive before 3 p.m., spend a few hours and depart no later than 9:30 p.m. Around then, the fairgrounds become a wall of people, and the fest is suddenly less enjoyable. Do not end up on one of the last trains (11 or 11:30 p.m.) because you will be standing. If traveling by car, leave before 11 p.m. to avoid the mass exodus.
8. Skip the fireworks. Displays are scheduled Sept. 12 and 18 at 9 p.m. The fireworks are nice but no different from typical city shows — not worth the hassle of the accompanying crowds and traffic those evenings.