Every year on the third weekend in September the entire old town of Gernsbach in the Murg valley transforms into a fairground. The festival is opened on Friday night. On Saturday it begins in the afternoon and has its climax with illuminations and the musical fireworks in the evening. On Sunday it runs all day. The streets and lanes are full of stalls selling arts and crafts, fashion accessoires and stuff, and food and drink of all varieties including local specialities. Many of the food and drink stalls are operated by the clubs of the town. Bands are playing at every corner. Gernsbach's twin towns of Baccarat (France) and Pergola (Italy) have their corners with music, information and specialities. One alley along Zehntscheuer and other old houses hosts a "medieval" market which charges an entrance fee of 1 €; it is not big but very atmospheric. A knights camp takes place on the Murg island. On the Murg river raft rides are offered. The churches and Storchenturm were open so I could include some sightseeing.
Unfortunately I could not go on Saturday due to health problems so I missed the illuminations. I went on Sunday instead. I had expected the little town to be horribly crowded but I was pleasantly surprised - the festival was buzzing but everyone had enough space to move and to see the stalls, lines for food and drink were not too long. All in all it was an enjoyable experience and I would happily go again.
For those of you who read German, all details about the current festival, the schedule, town map and list of participants can be found some weeks in advance on the website of the town: http://www.gernsbach.de
Drink: Fresh Apple Juice
September is apple time. What to do with them, especially from those in the orchard meadows? Press them and make Most. Gernsbach has a club of Süßmost makers who take care of the orchards and operate the press. They have a big stall on the Altstadtfest where they show how juice is made. Very easy: wash the apples, put them through a shredder, fill the mash into the press and, well, press.
The fresh juice runs through a sieve to catch seeds and bits and can then either be drunk fresh or left to fermentation to make apple wine, named Most (pronounced "Mosht" in Baden and Swabia). On the Altstadtfest they only have the fresh Süßmost. A couple of weeks later the real Most will be available. The fresh juice can have accelerating effects on the digestive system, so if yours is sensitive, don't drink too much of it;-)
Süßmost = fresh juice right from the press, non-alcoholic, very sweet
Rauscher = half-fermented, yummy, still sweet but already alcoholic, be careful
Most = apple or pear wine, fully fermented, alcoholic.
Food: Bubespitzle aka Schupfnudeln
These are a local kind of pasta which is prepared in a big pan together with sauerkraut and bacon. Much tastier than it sounds! They are my favourite festival food hereabouts. On festivals like the Altstadtfest and also on Christmas markets it is available as takeaway. Local pubs and rural restaurants also have it on their menu.
In Swabia this type of pasta is known as Schupfnudeln while in Baden it is called Bubespitzle ("little boys' tips") because that's what it looks like - use your imagination;-)
The Murg Rafters
Fancy a little cruise on an unusual vessel? Raft rides on Murg river are one of the main attractions during Altstadtfest.
Rafting and timber trade was the base of the economy in many of those towns along the rivers in the Black Forest. Gernsbach earned a modest wealth with this business. The timbers that were cut up in the forests had to be transported to the cities along the Rhine where they were sold and used for construction. The waterway was easiest. The logs were tied to long rafts and drifted down the rivers. The rafters lived in a hut on their floating merchandise until they reached the markets where they untied and sold the logs. Then they marched back home or hitched a ride on a cart to start a new raft.
Nowadays timbers are transported by truck or train. Rafting is only revived as a historical tradition. A club in Gernsbach who name themselves the Murgflößer (Murg rafters) have rebuilt such a raft. Unlike the historical ones it has a motor and can travel upstream. It is more a party vehicle, though...
The raft is made from long logs but well covered like a boardwalk. There is a long table in the middle and a counter where passengers can buy wine and non-alcoholic drinks.
The uniform the rafters invented was probably inspired by carpenters and does not resemble real work clothes of former times that much, but they look handsome in it. It consists of black pants and vest, a white shirt, a black hat and a yellow necktie. The women wear some kind of Dirndl dresses.
During Altstadtfest the Murgflößer club invites to ride the raft (2 € charge). The Murg is a shallow river, blocked by a dam downstream and the Murg island upstream. The navigable distance is hardly more than 200 m. So this has nothing to do with thrilling whitewater rafting, it is a quiet affair. Enjoy a glass of wine and the view of the river banks.
I could not resist the temptation to go for an adventurous raft ride on the Murg river. Adventurous, LOL - in fact it was not too spectacular. With a glass of Spätburgunder from the nearby Ortenau in hand it was fun, though - and something one simply has to do when there is the chance.
The green dinosaur that appears in the photos is a balloon that a child brought on board.