The Annafest is Forchheim’s time to shine. Every July for 11 days, thousands of people flock to Forchheim’s Kellerwald to enjoy beer, Fränkisch cooking and live music under the trees. Suddenly the sleepy, cozy Kellerwald is the center of all the activity. During the Annafest many restaurants in the city actually close for a vacation because everyone is at the fest anyway. There is a Franconian saying and that is:
Annafest, alla dooch, Annafest.
It means, Annafest, every day, Annafest. (The Frankisch word Dooch sounds more like dogh and means Day or in German –Tag. If you say Tag (but say it more like tog) then really dull the t at the beginning to make it sound like a d, then really stretch the word out and dull the g at the end, maybe you can imagine how they got to dooch from Tag. Give it a try, you’ll at least crack yourself up.
Lots of people take the Annafest saying very seriously. Young and old alike stop by the fest for a little while each day. This year we made it 8 times-probably the most I’ve ever gone-not everyday, but not bad!
This is my 3rd year of “Annafesting” and I have to say this is the first year I’ve really felt like a local. When I first arrived in Germany in 2014, it was the day before the Annafest opened. Sounds great right? My introduction to living in a new country was a fest! But actually it was during my first Annafest that I realized I had actually moved away from everything familiar. Thorsten’s friends were warm and nice and I could understand that even in another language but being at the fest magnified the fact that I was a stranger. I saw Thorsten meeting up with his life long friends and realized that all my life long friends were thousands of miles away. I didn’t speak German yet and it was really crowded. So there were some lonely moments at my first Annafest. My second year at Annafest time I had a one month old baby. As a result I wasn’t ready to fest it up just yet. I did go a few times and even drank a Maß but my heart was at home with my little mouse.
This year, for the first time I have enjoyed the Annafest like it’s my very own fest. It’s familiar and I feel like I live here, like Forchheim is actually my town. It feels normal now to trek up the hill and enjoy a little nature and culture and socializing. I find it a happy occasion to celebrate the anniversary of my move to Germany each year.
The Annafest always opens on Friday with a celebration called Anstich (in Franconia Ogstochn, in Bavaria Ozapft. I’m not even going to try to disect those words.) Someone important, usually the Mayor, uses a hammer type of thing to open the first keg of beer and officially start the fest.
This year we went on Saturday afternoon to meet some friends and sat together at the Eichhorn Keller near the street to watch as the local bands, clubs, politicians, and beer queens paraded through the Kellerwald, stopping at each Keller for a beer and a song. Little Mouse snacked with us, tried to drink some of my Radler (beer mixed with sprite) and then after a little walk fell asleep in her stroller.
Speaking of Radler, this is something it took me a long time to like, but I have to admit that now I hardly ever order a regular beer at a fest. At fests you most often can only get a Maß (1 Liter) of beer. A Radler is a way to cut the amount of alcohol down and add a little sweetness. I admit I’ve become a bit of a beer lightweight.
That same evening I had a date with a some girlfriends for my first ladies night at Annafest. I was a little nervous because weekends are usually totally crowded and not that fun for a short person, but with my group of ladies and a good spot to drinks some drinks and watch the action, it was no problem and fun to boot! This was exciting for lots of reasons, but mainly because my German is good enough now that I can understand the others– even in a group and even when the music is really loud.
A few years ago I made fun of the 90’s cover bands. I could not understand why the Germans would get so excited about a cover band playing 90’s hits from America. This year was a little different but it wasn’t the music that was different, — they still played 90’s hits– it was me. This time I danced and sang along too. Additionally they played lots of German pop music that I didn’t know. I really enjoyed this however, because it’s nice to hear a group of people singing and dancing and getting excited over their own music. Whether it’s German or English the real truth is that no matter your age, once you are with a group of friends, it’s pretty tough not to have fun dancing and singing and drinking and carrying on in the woods on a Saturday night.
The next morning we went early to the Annafest for a lunch at the Schloessla Keller with a couple that also have a baby. This is a nice keller for day time visits, the music is always good and there is plenty of space. They play some country, classic rock and I don’t know how you classify John Denver but they played his hit, Country Road, as we were leaving. Everybody sang along, especially me, and I felt 1000 percent nostalgic for home even though I don’t come from West Virginia.
A few days later I went with some other mommies to Family Day. Food and tickets to the rides are discounted on family days. We spent a few hours walking around, looking at the children’s rides and eating bratwurst. Little Mouse is now a big fan of bratwurst (no surprise I guess) so it’s pretty easy to keep her happy in her stroller at the Annafest. It rained a little that day but not enough to dampen our spirits.
Later in the week Thorsten and I got to have a date night while Heinz and Jola watched Little Mouse. Another couple joined us and we found a seat over looking one of the main drag right next to the band we like, the Kuhboys (Cowboys). They put a creative, Johnny Cash like spin on a lot of American rock. It’s pretty great. We took our annual ride on the Ferris wheel, which I love. You can see the twinkling lights of the whole fest from the top and there is always a wonderful breeze. Later we walked to watch some other bands and dance and sing along in the street. This is something that would’ve been tough for me before because standing around in the street is usually crowded and I often get bumped and pushed and nearly stepped on. But for some reason this year was not as full as usual. We think it is likely because of the recent onslaught of not so nice terrorist activities. Whatever it was–for me, a little less crowded wasn’t so bad. What’s funny is that it seems like every cover band at the Annafest plays Journey’s Don’t Stop Believe’in sometime during the set but usually as their last song. Every night ends with it and no matter how often people go to the fest–Everybody loves it every time.
The last Friday of the Annafest we sat with some family friends in a great seat, overlooking the street at the Staeffala Keller. The music was nice and not too loud. We had a large wooden table and bench with a back, so Little Mouse could move herself around a little bit. She ate her fill of bread and bratwurst and even had some sauerkraut. Some of Thorsten’s old friends met us that evening. Little Mouse and I walked home early, leaving them behind to party it up like old times.
Saturday we had friend come from out of town and we all wore the traditional Bavarian clothes (Tracht.) Wearing traditional clothes is getting more and more popular every year. The traditional clothes for ladies (dirndl) create a very beautiful decote and the traditional clothes for men (lederhosen) are supposed to be very comfortable. What’s ironic to note is that these are not the traditional Franconian clothes at all– but it doesn’t matter. It’s fun and because the clothes are not the cheapest we are always looking for excuses to get more wear out of the them. Incidentally the traditional Franconian clothes for ladies usually have a high neck and a kind of funny hat-so it’s not that surprising that we haven’t seen a rise in the popularity of wearing them. Check out the photo below for an example.
Since we were all dressed up, we started our evening with a little sparkle. We stopped by the one hut that sells very good German Sekt (J.Oppmann) and prosted together. Little Mouse enjoyed a pretzel–The first time she has pointed to a food that she wanted –very Bavarian baby, I guess. Then we sat at the Schindler Keller for dinner directly across from the Reisenrad. Very pretty view.
Our last family visit to the Annafest 2016 was Sunday for an early dinner. Little Mouse seemed relatively tuckered out and I have to admit I was too. Still we found a seat at our favorite Keller (The Glockenkeller) and had the most traditional food possible (Schäuferla, i.e pork shoulder, cooked til it’s falling off the bone. Fränkisch cooking at its absolute best.) So far, Little mouse hasn’t taken a liking to Schäuferla or Klöße but based on her other very German tastes, I think it won’t be long. We found a seat just in time to miss a big rain shower. Luckily it didn’t last long.
The last day of the Annafest Little Mouse and I took a walk through to eat a Bratwurst and look around before the fest closed.
The point of all of this is to say, it takes some time for a place to feel like home. It takes time to cultivate friendships and really know your way around. It takes time to feel comfortable, to not be scared to enjoy the little things, to be spontaneous.
The third time is the charm, they say, and this year it certainly was.