Establishing home in a new country and ‘settling in’ takes time. Regardless of how long you find yourself away from where you once called home, there will always be times where you find yourself yearning for specific moments, people, routines and everyday scenes that ultimately typified ‘home’. Although it is slowly creeping towards the three year (!!!!!) mark since I lugged more than 30kg of cookbooks across the seas, I often dream of the small things that were my Sydney; my local barista remembering my coffee order, the daily chin-wag with commuter friends who’d catch the same train en route to work, and the city landmarks that were the highlight of memorable evenings…
For me, ‘settling in’ to german life has meant finding things, events, routines and people that create personal meaning. As I walked home last week I noticed the auburn tinge starting to develop on the leaves of the chestnut trees – while it shows autumn is well on its way, for me it exemplifies one thing I have learnt to appreciate whilst living in Germany; the beauty and poignancy of the changing seasons. Creating new traditions has also definitely helped me tackle the ever-pervasive feeling of fernweh.
Shortly before deciding to make the big move to Germany, my main man took me on a whirlwind tour of his motherland. After covering a solid 3,000km and many cities too hard for me to pronounce at the time, our final stop was his hometown – Wertheim – and a visit to the annual town festival, the Altstadtfest. Since this maiden voyage we’ve put this annual town festival on our calendar, establishing a new tradition for me, and extending a long-held family tradition.
Wertheim – the most notherly city of the state of Baden-Wurttemburg, rests alongside the delta of the Main and Tauber rivers, is blessed with hillside vineyards, fruitful agriculture and safeguarded by its medieval castle, the Wertheimer Burg.
Every year in the last week of July, the town of Wertheim puts on a summer street party in celebration of its historic town, the Altstadt. The party extends from the marktplatz, weaves itself through the gasse (laneways) towards the Stiftskirche (protestant church) and makes its away to the sandy banks of the Stadtstrand, the man-made city beach.
This annual tradition involves old-fashioned, simple fun – friends and acquaintances, even those that spread their wings and live in other German cities, catch up after a year of being ‘busy’, enjoy a few-too-many drinks together and embrace the warm sunny evenings under the golden lights of the Wertheimer Burg.
This year marked the 47th Altstadtfest and my third visit. While I may not recognise or be recognised by as many locals that shout a hearty “Servus” to Alex as he passes through the crowds, each year I meet a few more friendly faces, making this tradition a little more meaningful.
Combined with the opportunity to meet some familiar faces, the following elements make the town festival such a crowd pleaser:
The festival slows down on Sunday and while the streets would have significantly emptied, there will always be two types of festival-goers left; those having one last dance to some live tunes and those with a creeping headache who decide that the best way to recover is to enjoy one, last relaxed drink on the sandy banks of the Stadtstrand and recount the memories made (or forgotten) over the weekend.
Until next year…