The delights of autumn in Germany

The delights of autumn in Germany

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

It’s old news by now: for the second year running, Munich’s Oktoberfest will not take place. Nor will the crowds flock to Stuttgart’s Cannstatter Wasen for the world’s second-largest beer bash. Ditto that for the Bad Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt, billed as the biggest wine fest on the planet.

But don’t despair—prepare! Even without these huge fests, autumn in Germany is a most convivial time of year. Here we take a look at Germany’s top seasonal activities destined to go forward compliant with virus containment measures; we also suggest an activity or two that does appear to be taking place in 2021. Do keep in mind how quickly things change in the time of COVID-19. By now, you’re familiar with the drill: register in advance when necessary, bring documentation attesting to your vaccination status or negative test results, have the Luca app at the ready to make sign-ins a breeze and always double-check the dates in the event of last-minute cancellations.

Sample red wines: While the white grapes harvested in the fall of one year are made into wine that’s ready to drink by the following spring, it takes time to produce a good red. Now that last year’s vintage has had the time to come of age, expect your favorite winery to present its newest selection of red wines by means of open cellar days or a “Hoffest,” smaller than a wine fest, but just as fun!

Tip: The Rheingau wine region, the wine-growing area surrounding Wiesbaden, holds its “Tage der Offenen Weinkeller” event in which winemakers open their premises to guests and pour their best drops Sept. 3 through 12. If you travel to one of the villages by public transportation, save your ticket and exchange it for a 0.1 liter pour for free at one of the participating wineries, many of which are found in the towns of Eltville or Oestrich-Winkel.

Heilbronn and Hohenlohe organize an abridged version of their annual “Weindorf Auslese” Sept. 9 to 19. More than 240 individual events have been scheduled across 45 locations.

Hike through autumn foliage: Germany’s fall season is known as Golden Autumn for good reason. While some might miss the vibrant red and orange trees they’re used to back home, here the palette is painted in more golden tones. For splashes of intense colors, a vineyard walk is the order of the day. The shades of the leaves of the vines vary according to the type of grape. Where white wine grows, the leaves are predominantly yellow, but where red varieties are cultivated, often the hues are red too. The leaves of the Pinot Noir take on a reddish tint, the Dornfelder a red of moderate intensity and the Portugieser become orange. The vines of the Lemberger, a variety found mostly in Württemberg, turn a bright red.

Tip: Visit Lembergerland, a wine cellar in Vaihingen-Rosswag, northwest of Stuttgart. A number of fall events have been scheduled in smaller-than-usual formats, including a “Genussmeile” gourmet hike on Oct. 3.

Check out all those pumpkins: The city of Ludwigsburg, a few miles north of Stuttgart, is home to what’s billed as the world’s largest display of pumpkins. Through Dec. 12, the gorgeous castle grounds of Blühendes Barock are the site of this fabulous collection of pumpkins, squash and other gaudy gourds. Each year gets its own theme; in 2021, sea creatures steal the show.

Tip: Within the greater pumpkin exhibition itself lies a variety of fun events such as pumpkin weigh-ins (German championships Oct. 3; European championships Oct. 10) and pumpkin carving for Halloween (Oct. 16 and 17, Oct. 23 and 24 and Oct. 30 and 31), as well as the annual “pumpkin slaughterfest” on Nov. 28.

Go apple picking: The fall fruit that’s perfect for pies, strudels or just plain snacking tastes even sweeter when it’s been harvested by your own hand. Commercial orchards open their doors to those wishing to pick their own apples, pears and plums from the end of August through early November.

Tip: The Appel-Happel orchard in Mainz-Marienborn allows visitors to pick their own apples on Saturdays and Sundays in September, as well as until 10 p.m. in the evening on Sept. 11. Coffee and homemade cakes come as a tasty reward for one’s efforts. The farm hosts its popular annual event, the Mainzer Apfelfest, Sept. 25 and 26.

Watch the cows come home: People aren’t the only ones to enjoy a summer vacation in the Alps. Bavarian cows spend the summer months high in the mountain pastures, snacking away on the sweet, ecologically clean grass and meadow herbs. But all good things must come to an end, and the herd is driven down to its winter quarters in the early weeks of autumn. The Almabtrieb, in which the cows are decked out in fancy headdresses for their alpine descent and traditional celebrations follow, only takes place when no harm has come to any of the animals.

Tip: Although virtually all such events were cancelled in 2020, some communities are hoping to be able to cautiously celebrate this year. For provisional dates, see

Sample seasonal fare: An abundance of seasonal produce makes an autumnal dining-out experience extraordinary. Sample dishes at a traditional restaurant or even better, a Strassenwirtschaft, a winery that offers a limited selection of dishes on several dates throughout the year. Dishes to sample this time of year include Pfifferlinge, what we know as chanterelles; potato soup; or that seasonal favorite, Kürbissuppe, pumpkin soup. For dessert, now’s the time for a large slice of Pflaumenkuchen, a tangy plum cake.

Tip: On the second weekend of October each year, the city of Kirchheimbolanden, roughly between Kaiserslautern and Wiesbaden, hosts its annual October Market. A highlight of the event is the serving up of several types of soup. This year’s COVID-19 rule-conforming edition of the event goes by the name of Suppenlative. Three different seating sessions are offered on the event date of Oct. 11. Tickets for  soup and a drink go for 6 euros; these can be purchased in advance from Modehaus Heck or ART-Hotel Braun from Oct. 1.

Another place to get one’s hands on tasty regional produce is Merzig in Saarland, a small city famous for its Viez, a regional take on apple cider. Its “Markt der Köstlichkeiten,” or Market of Delicacies, takes place on Sept. 18.

Onion cake and fizzy wine: Of Germany’s many seasonal delights, there’s one that travels in a pair. Zweibelkuchen, translates to onion cake, is more of a savory tart and is best enjoyed alongside a glass of Federweißer, the fizzy new wine made of freshly harvested grapes. Due to its high CO2 content, this sweet wine is best enjoyed in moderation, as overindulgence can lead to an upset stomach.

Tip: Landau, a city on the southern stretch of the German Wine Road, hosts its annual “Fest des Federweißen” Oct. 14 through 17. Six wine booths and some 30 food stands will be serving the new wine, still and sparkling wines, chestnuts and other specialties of the Palatinate.

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