If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, then I believe the way to understand a culture, in addition to learning the language, is to go to as many local festivals as possible. I recently went to the Markgrönigen Schäferlauf, which is a shepherd-themed festival and definitely the best German one that I've been to so far. Since then, I've been on the hunt for more like it. Well, about two weeks or so ago, my roommate told me about a local Krautfest. What? A festival about kraut, as in sauerkraut? That would rock for sure.
The Filderkrautfest happens every October and celebrates the area's agricultural heritage and as well as the Filderkraut (Filder = the large agricultural plateau south of Stuttgart city and kraut = cabbage). Before this, I always thought that "kraut" meant "sauerkraut" and didn't know that that sauerkraut is just one way to prepare a "Kraut", or cabbage. The pointy cabbage that's in all the photos is called a Spitzkohl, which means, yes, "pointy cabbage". The two-day festival happens in the twin-villages of Leinfelden and Echterdingen, which are cute little towns about a 1/2 hour south of the center of Stuttgart near the airport.
As with the Schäferlauf, there were a bunch of different activities planned during the weekend including the celebration of the festival king and queen. Below is the Krautkönigin (kraut queen), the Krautkönig (kraut king), and a local Bierkönigin (or beer queen). I'm not sure why, but the Krautkönigin and König remind me a little of my friends from Oceanside - Chuck and Gail. Maybe it's the beard but, in spite of their not-overly-excited looks in this photo, seemed to be a pretty rockin' choice. Oh, and I'm guessing that the Bierkönigin was chosen as a way to celebrate her recently-completed M.I.T. PhD.
Oh, you might notice that the photo above is leaps and bounds better in quality than my normal photos. That's because it's not mine but rather my friend Armando's, who's actually a pro. More about that in a bit.
As opposed to the disappointing Pretzelfest from earlier this year, the Krautfest had plenty of its namesake items available. Every other booth seemed to be selling at least one kraut-related food item. These folks are cooking up Krautschupfnudeln, a local kraut-and-pasta combo in giant woks. I love the pasta that they use in the dish and think it's a great combo.
Berat talked about Krautkuchen (kraut cake) during the two weeks leading up to the fest so the four of us stopped and picked up a piece to split. It was surprisingly good and way better IMO than the similar onion cake that they make here but that could be just because I HATE onions!
I think that the surprise of the day was seeing this booth for the York Pennsylvania Leinfelden Echterdingen Club. How random and crazy is it that there's a club for folks from York, which is not too far from where I grew up in Philadelphia, and folks from the Stuttgart area? Oh, and by the way, they were selling doughnuts for some reason.
There were two events the day we were there that I wanted to see. The first was a kraut weigh in of some local politicians. They assembled a large balance in the plaza in front of the Rathaus (city hall) and had the mayor, the governor of Baden Würtemberg and another guy who I didn't know on one side. Firemen then loaded the other side with Filderkräuter. It took 67 cabbages to equal the weight of three politicians. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. It did remind me of the scene in Monty Python's The Holy Grail where they compared a woman's weight to a duck and, when she was the same, decided to burn her for being a witch. These guys seemed to get off easy by just signing some of the cabbages, which were then sold off auction style to people in the crowd to raise money for a local school.
The next big event of the day was billed as the The World Kraut Pentathlon. This Olympic-style event pits teams of three against each other in five kraut-themed events including the kraut (running) relay race and the kraut sled race:
The final event was involved holding a Filderkraut at arms length for as long as possible. It took about three or four minutes for the last contestant (far left in the photo below) to put down his arm but only after he took a big swallow of beer from the glass of one of his teammates.
Yes, that's another of Armando's photos. I need him to show me a thing or two for sure!
Diana and I recreated the challenge. Next year we're hoping to compete against Stuttgart's finest.
So, by now, you're probably familiar with our roommate Berat but who's this Armando guy? Believe it or not, I met him through this blog. During the summer, Armando decided that he wanted to leave his native Guatemala and study German in Stuttgart. Being the modern fellow he is, he googled for German schools in the area and my post about my German classes was the first result (who'd have known?). He told me that he read my stories for a couple of hours and then wrote to me. We quickly became friends and planned on meeting once he got here, which we've done a few times. I've met others through the blog but Armando's the first that I've ended up hanging out for more than a short time and it's been great. As I mentioned above, Armando's quite the photographer. You should check out his site as well as his travel photos (under "Viajes"). Probably my favorites are his recent visit to Dachau.
Family photo from the Leinfelden-Echterdingen Filderkrautfest:
...and, of course, the mandatory self portrait:
Thanks to Berat for telling us about the festival and to both him and Armando for coming along and making it such a fun-filled, culturally-interesting day!