Germany is known for its many street markets and festivals throughout the year. Next month I will begin my exploration of the Christmas Markets. I can hardly wait for them to begin on November 30th, but in the summer and fall several beer festivals and of course Oktoberfest celebrations take place starting in August through October. German Unity Day is a national holiday observed on October 3rd which celebrates the Reunification of East and West Germany dating back to October 1990 after the Berlin Wall came down. It is common to hear the sound of celebrations and fireworks all around the city especially near the Brandenburg Gate during that time of year.
Today I am featuring one of my favorite festivals so far, the Hoppengarten, Germany Brandenburg Day Festival 2016 which takes place on or around September 3rd and 4th. If you enjoy watching horse races, perusing stalls in search of authentic craftsmanship, trying out local food, and listening to great music, this is a fine place to indulge.
Hoppengarten is about a 45 minute train ride east of Berlin’s City Center. Upon arrival at the station you hear the sounds of classic Rock-n-Roll and Pop Tunes, accompanied by the delicious aroma of currywurst, sausages, schnitzel, baking pretzels, and fresh bread. Anthony Bordain I am not, but smoked horse meat and jerky are also available for the adventurous eater.
Once you have your fill of browsing among the local vendors you can sit in the shade at the beer garden next to the Windmill for a quick refreshment before moving on to the concert area which is in the middle of the Rennbahn Hoppengarten racetrack.
The Rennbahn Hoppengarten is a 148 year old racetrack larger than Churchill Downs in both size and pageantry. With a 207 Hectares land area, it is the largest and best land-based racetrack and training center in Germany. The racing patrons put on their finest attire for a day at the races with women wearing Gucci and Prada and sporting the popular Fascinator hats. Men dress in the styles of Tom Ford and others to compliment whatever the ladies are wearing. Of course, the typical festival patron is not required to adhere to this dress code, so casual dress is common and acceptable. Races take place throughout the day until concert time with local singing artist and musicians performing on the middle green during racing intervals.
The main concert featured artist such as Rock n Roll entertainer Mongo Jerry who covered many classic hits (German and American) and got the crowd out of their seats dancing to familiar tunes. Another noteworthy artist was Frida Gold, an up and coming German Pop Singer. Last, but not least was Tim Bendzko. Tim is a Hoppengarten local resident, and also a huge Pop star in Germany. The crowd went wild as he sang his greatest hits. Even though I didn’t understand the words very well because I don’t speak fluent German, I had a great time dancing along with my German and Latvian friends.
The evening ended at midnight with a fantastic combination of fireworks and laser light show. You may be wondering about the entry fee to such a delightful and fun-filled day. I am pleased to report that the entry to the festival and concert are both free to the public, so take only enough money for food, refreshments, and the treasures you find at the vendor kiosks.
If you choose to visit Hoppengarten’s Brandenburg Day Celebration in the future, be sure to bring a light jacket since the nights tend to get a little chilly this time of year, and bring a blanket or lawn chair if you would like to be near the stage since seating is limited to the grandstand area.
Large viewing screens are set up on either side of the stage for watching the musicians on video opposed to being up close and personal. Binoculars are also an option if you have a pair. If you get a chance to attend Brandenburg Day 2017 in Hoppengarten, I hope you will enjoy your time there as much as I did.