Germany might be best known for Oktoberfest and its beer-loving crowds, but for centuries in Bad Durkheim, Germany has played host to the world’s largest wine festival.
During the second and third weekends of September, more than 600,000 people descend on the small wine-making town to sample a selection of about 300 wines at Bad Durkheim’s Wurstmarkt. This year promises to be even bigger as it is the festival’s 600th anniversary.
But in order to enjoy the revelry, there are some necessary tips you will need to survive – and thrive at — the festival.
Take the train or stay in a hotel
Taking the train or staying overnight to a festival centered on alcohol seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at home many people will push the limits and try to drive it. But in addition to the safety concerns, this also frees you up to have a better time at this world-famous festival. Parking can be quite a nightmare and polizei are out in full force watching for drunk drivers. Plus, the live music goes on until the noise restrictions kick in and the party keeps going even for hours beyond that. Being able to keep celebrating makes the festival more fun. Just be sure to bring cash for the train or purchase tickets in advance, most American credit cards are not accepted at the train station kiosks and you want to plan ahead.
Bring cash (and lots of euro coins)
Bringing cash to this festival is just a good idea in general. You will need it for all of the wine stands, food, and for any rides you might want to do. Bringing a host of euro coins is also smart. There will be a small deposit on every wine glass and you don’t want to get caught without enough cash to cover this fee.
Bring Your Own Water
Water will be on sale at the festival, but why not save yourself this added expense and bring yourself a bottle from home? Staying hydrated is crucial at a multi-day wine festival and you can never drink enough water. Often there are even booths that will allow you to fill up your own container with water for just 1 euro.
Many Americans consider it sacrilege to dilute their wine in any way, but German “Weinschorle” is necessary if you are planning to drink all day at the festival. Under some of the big tents, vendors will sell wine in half-liter glasses, as well as regular wine glasses, and Wein Sch orle offers a way to slow down and to hydrate a little bit. At the festival, you will notice that most German visitors will be sipping Schorle during the day and will switch to straight wine as the evening stretches on.
Wurstmarkt is not just for wine lovers. It’s the kind of experience that the entire family can enjoy. There are beer tents for non-wine drinkers and even soda, Apfel Schorle, and water stands. Plus, is there anything better than fair food? Unlike other wine festivals, this one has rides that children can enjoy.
The festival kicks off with a parade at 16:00 on Sept. 9. It runs the 9 through the 13 and then again the weekend of Sept. 16 through 19 in Bad Durkheim. More information on the festival program can be found here: http://www.bad-duerkheim.com/duerkheimer-wurstmarkt.html