A couple of months ago I was looking for information about festivals in and around Stuttgart. I tend to love festivals and regional events because they're usually a great look at local culture. One of the ones that jumped out at me was the annual Bretzelfest that takes place in Speyer. If you know me, you know that I have a few things, including butter cakes and pretzels, that I'm obsessed with. It sounded like heaven - A PRETZEL FESTIVAL!!! I put it on the calendar and waited for the day like Christmas was coming.
Speyer's about two hours away via train (or an hour via car) and is right near the Hockenheim Ring that I went to about a month ago. It's a cool little town with a bunch of "classic", southern-German architecture. This clock tower is the gate to the old part of the town:
Speyer almost looks like it was created by Disney because it's so similar to what I have in my mind for what a southern-German village "should" look like.
This is the main street that leads from the clock tower to the Romantic church at the other end. We were lucky on the day we went because the weather was nice and not too hot or rainy.
There were little hints all through the town of what was to come at the Bretzelfest (in case you didn't guess, Bretzel is pretzel in German). With each Bretzelfest banner and random art, I was getting even more impatient. These are kids pretzel drawings that are hanging in the window of an eyeglass shop:
Speaking of food obsession, I found a really good butter cake at a bakery in Speyer. Even though it had a great, buttery flavor, it wasn't runny.
Some more pretzel and Bretzelfest-related things: each white square has the logo of a past Bretzelfest. They've been holding this classic for over 100 years!
The town of Speyer was scenic and fun to walk through. You get to see a lot of the town of it as you walk from the train station at one end to the fair grounds at the other. We arrived at the fairgrounds right around 2:30pm and I was almost giddy...until...we went inside.
Bretzelfest...is...a...CARNIVAL!!! Complete with people yelling at you to try your luck on some game of skill. Yep, bumper cars, giant swing thing, and a bunch of other carnival attractions.
What was lacking at this pretzel festival was, however, any trace of pretzels or pretzel-related things. It reminded me a lot of the National Coffee Park in Colombia. When I went there, I expected to learn, you know, about coffee and have a chance to see coffee and coffee-related culture. Nope. It's an amusement park. Well, Speyer's Bretzelfest is pretty much "just" a carnival. No pretzel culture, no crazy pretzel-based foods to try. Like, for example, if this event was taking place in the United States, they'd have deep-fried pretzels, pretzel casserole, cheese pretzels, chocolate-covered pretzels, pretzel mascots, pretzel-themed gifts -- you get the idea. The only pretzel-related thing that I could find in the entire place was this one small booth selling pretzels:
Oh well, kind of a bust. We did go on Saturday and it seems like there was a parade and some other events scheduled for Sunday that might have made it better. Who knows.
We decided to go check out more of Speyer, which was definitely not a bust. On the way, we walked through a park that had a particularly-cool kids' jungle gym. I should put together a post with photos of the amazing variety of playground installations here. They all seem to be highly-engineered and interesting designs that have great potential for broken bones. This one is a spider-themed one that includes a "spider-web" climbing area that leads up the back of a giant spider. I'm sure they're safe though. In the four minutes we were there playing, only one kid walked away crying.
I couldn't leave Speyer without buying at least one pretzel so I got one from this woman who was clearly taking advantage of Bretzelfest to sell some of her carb-loaded wares. She had melted-cheese pretzel "knots" (as we call them in Philadelphia) as well as the trad heart-shaped ones that are sold everywhere in Germany. It was a decent consolation prize for the day's activities.
So, Speyer's Bretzelfest wasn't the quite the cultural experience that I had hoped for but...wait...I think I'll google Butterkuchenfest. That'd be good, right?
Funny. I just googled the term and looked at the first result. About 25 photos of a festival and, guess what, I found just one lonely piece of cake in all of the photos. If I went to a beerfest, I think that I'd expect to find beer. Maybe it's just my German???