Almost every big city in Germany hosts at least one Volksfest each year. A Volkfest is a large event which combines a beer festival and a traveling funfair. The Germany’s most famous Volksfest is the Oktoberfest that occurs in Munich. But some people, locals and tourists alike, prefer slightly less crowded events such as the Bergkirchweih held in the Bavarian city of Erlangen.

Alongside the Oktoberfest in Munich, the Gäubodenvolksfest in Straubing and the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart, Bergkirchweih is one of the most well-known Volksfests in Germany. Locals have affectionately nicknamed it the Berch. The festival has been held every year since 1755. It takes place in spring or summer, starting on the Thursday before Pentecost and lasting for twelve days. Locals call this time “the fifth season”.

Most of the festival traditions are similar to that of other Volksfests. For example, the opening ceremony is presided over by the Lord Mayor (Oberbürgermeister). The ceremony called “Anstich” is held in a different beer cellar every year and attracts thousands of spectators. The mayor opens the first barrel of beer and everyone in presence gets a free beer from the first barrel.

Like other Bavarian Volksfestivals, the Bergkirchweih features numerous beer tents and beer gardens with hundreds of wooden benches that provide over 11,000 seats, food and merchandise vendors, amusement rides, games and contests, and other entertainment. One of the festival’s main attractions is a huge Ferris wheel.

A common tradition during the Erlanger Bergkirchweih is the so-called Kastenlauf (“crate run”) aka Beerathlon. The idea is to buy a crate of beer and drink it while walking to the festival. Participants meet at a certain location, buy beer and start their walk. All beer must be consumed by the moment they reach the Bergkirchweih fairgrounds. This pre-partying tradition is supposed to lower the cost of attending the festival because beer at the Berch is more expensive.

With its numerous attractions, the Bergkirchweih draws about a million attendees each year which is about 10 times the city’s population. At the end of the event, the last beer barrel is hidden in the cellar where the next opening ceremony will be held a year later.





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